COVID-19 has changed a lot of our beloved traditions, including choosing a Christmas tree.
Usually, many Haligonians will head to farms outside of the city to pick out the perfect tree for their decorations, but health officials are asking Nova Scotians to avoid all non-essential travel at this time.
The province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, has specifically asked those living in and around Halifax to stay in the area to avoid spreading an outbreak of the virus to other parts of Nova Scotia.
The affected area is considered to be the western half of HRM, along with Elmsdale, Enfield and Mount Uniacke in Hants County.
Executive director of the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia, Angus Bonnyman, said the industry supports the actions being taken to contain COVID, but the restrictions will have an impact on growers.
"Many folks have a tradition of going out to Lunenburg County and other areas to find a real tree for Christmas, and unfortunately this year those growers won't be seeing as many people," he explained.
"Growing Christmas trees is a year-round occupation and it's just a very short season when folks have an opportunity to sell the trees they've been working all year to produce."
In addition, the industry is still recovering from the devastating 2018 freeze that had a significant impact on agriculture in the province.
Bonnyman said a lot of the seedlings didn't survive and the effects of that will be felt for years to come.
"It takes eight to ten years for a Christmas tree to grow to a size that would be marketable, and if folks are looking for a bigger tree it takes longer," he explained.
Despite those challenges, demand is likely to be high, so local growers are still hoping for a strong sales year.
This is generally the busiest week for Christmas tree sales and Bonnyman suggests shopping early for the best selection.
"We're pretty confident there's a beautiful Christmas tree out there for everyone," he said.
He recommends checking with your favourite choose-and-cut location or retail lot to find out their hours of operation, along with any COVID protocols they might have in place.
In addition to physical distancing, those could include making an appointment, following directional flow or limiting how many members of your households show up to choose the tree.
And it's likely other aspects of the annual tradition may not be possible, like sleigh rides or serving food and drinks.
Bonnyman said roughly one million Christmas trees are harvested in Nova Scotia every year and around 90 per cent of those are exported to other parts of the world.
"It's about a $30-million industry when you include the greenery as well," he said. "It's not just the Christmas trees, but also the wreaths, garland and various other products."
Advice on picking and maintaining your perfect Christmas tree
If you haven't picked out your tree yet, Bonnyman recommends measuring the spot where it's going before you head out to buy it.
"You don't want to be buying a 10-foot tree and have eight-foot ceilings," he said.
You also might want to ask staff to make a fresh cut off the trunk's base, which will help the tree pull in water.
Make sure you've brought what you need to properly secure the tree to your vehicle, and if it's not going to be put up right away, keep it outside.
"And then when you do put it up, just make sure you're putting a lot of water into it in the beginning, then monitor it while it's up in your home," Bonnyman suggested.
More advice, along with a list of choose-and-cut and retail lots, can be found on iloverealtrees.com.