Watch: COVID-19 fails to dampen festive cheer as sale of real Christmas trees in Dubai soars

Lolita Buniaeva and Peter Ivantsov buy their Christmas tree in Satwa.
Image Credit: Angel Tesorero/Gulf News

Dubai: Egyptian expat Ghattas Loutfi Hanna, 45, has been selling real Christmas trees in Satwa for over a decade now but he has never experienced quite a surge in demand like this year, when the world is celebrating the holidays under the shadow of a pandemic.

With Christmas just a week away, Ghattas is down to fewer than 50 Christmas trees at his shop. “I’ve been selling around 30 Christmas trees daily and I was totally surprised the demand has increased this year. As Christmas day draws near, I’m afraid I may not have enough real Christmas trees to sell to my customers,” he told Gulf News.

Ghattas also noted supply from sources — particularly from US and Canada — has dwindled. Orders for Christmas trees are usually placed as early as October and the items arrive in last week of November. But suppliers from North America said sales were up by as much as 30 per cent and distributors have sold out earlier than they have in the past. This has resulted in the increase in price of Christmas trees sold in Dubai. Ghattas said, on the average, trees are now Dh200 higher than last year. A five-foot Christmas tree at his shop starts at Dh550 while a 10-foot tree could go as much as Dh3,500.

How to keep the tree last beyond Christmas?

Ghattas Loutfi Hanna from National Flowers LLC in Satwa has the following tips:
> First, trim the trunk.
> You’re bringing home a live plant so put the tree in water as soon as possible.
> Make sure your Christmas tree always has enough water. You can add sugar or some additives in the water, including soft drinks, because of their high sugar content.
> Keep the Christmas tree away from heat sources. Make sure to switch off the Christmas lights when you go out.
> After the holidays, take your tree down before it dries out. Recycle the tree — you can mulch it or use it to make a compost pile

Real Christmas trees are also usually 50 per cent more expensive than artificial ones available at hypermarkets. But still, many people prefer to have real Christmas trees, especially at this time of pandemic, noted Ghattas. “Maybe because it’s the feeling of celebrating something real. Having a real tree and decorating it for the holidays add more joy to celebrating Christmas in a year confounded by COVID,” he explained.

Christmas rush

Buying a real Christmas tree is an annual holiday tradition for Russian expats Lolita Buniaeva and Peter Ivantsov. As the couple rushed to choose from the last pieces of Christmas trees in Satwa, they told Gulf News: “There are things that are constant and we hold dear — like buying a real Christmas tree every year.”

Know your Christmas tree. Here are three types of Christmas trees commonly sold in Dubai:

> Nordmann Fir: The Nordmann Fir is the so-called king of Christmas trees because its needles stay attached throughout the festive season. The trees sold in Satwa are usually sourced from Denmark.
> Noble Fir: This tree is perfect for making Christmas wreaths and garlands because its branches are stiff enough to hold heavy ornaments, and flat enough to hang strings of lights. Noble firs are fragrant and colourful. They come from Canada.
> Fraser Fir: Fraser firs are shipped all over the world and they are known as one of the longest-lasting species of Christmas trees. They usually come from the US and Canada.

Peter packed an eight-foot tree in his car and Lolita said she would decorate it with stars and lights plus there would be gifts underneath the tree. “The Christmas tree would surely bring joy and happiness to our home. Yes, it’s definitely been a different and difficult year, but we can always choose to be happy,” she added.

Reminder of home

As many expats are unable to travel back home to see their relatives and families because of the pandemic, having a real Christmas tree is already a good consolation and a reminder of home. French national Kader Tounsi, 39, said: “I want to get a real Christmas because it reminds me home. The freshness of the tree is a reminder of winter and Christmas itself.”

Decorating the tree is a family affair, with Kader’s two-year old Ella putting the traditional star on top of the tree and his father-in-law, Jan, helping in putting up the tree as everyone will greet each other Joyeux Noël.

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