Real or Fake: The Great Christmas Tree Debate

By Kathryn M. D’Imperio

If you feel split on the decision of a real tree versus a fake tree for Christmas, you are not alone. Each type of Christmas tree comes with its own set of plusses and minuses, and each family may see these pros and cons differently from the next. Things that matter to one family may be irrelevant to another, making the great Christmas tree debate an ongoing argument that will likely last far into the future.

In actuality, choosing a Christmas tree is a very personal decision. It is as much a matter of preference as how you take your coffee or how you like your eggs cooked. And, thinking beyond that, what you like now for a Christmas tree, in this moment, may not be the same thing you want 5, 10, or 25 years down the road. A lot of things go into consideration when trying to decide what type of tree to get – not only real versus artificial, but short and squat versus tall and trim, or tall and full, pine versus blue spruce or balsam fir, pre-lit versus do-it-yourself, colored or realistic branches, fiber optics, feel-real tips and the list goes on. The options are nearly as extensive as our imaginations. So, it seems, the best we can do is weigh those options and make the best choice for us.

Reasons to Love (and Hate) Real Christmas Trees… and Fake Ones

One of the most memorable holiday traditions often happens to be picking out a live Christmas tree with your family, possibly cutting it down, and driving your tree home on top of the car (or in the bed of your pickup, if you are lucky). Choosing a fake tree in the store doesn’t hold a candle to this popular holiday tradition. Some of the best holiday memories may involve dark, snowy evenings outside with the family, trudging around in boots, looking at tree after tree from top to bottom, possibly dropping a mitten along the way as snowflakes filter down from the sky, and finally, finding the perfect tree.

If your search for an artificial tree goes something like that, you are definitely doing it wrong. Finding a fake tree is often a much quicker and easier process, or, at least a warmer and brighter one. (The best way to find an artificial tree, arguably, is to wait until a week or two after Christmas when you can score one for 50 to 75% off the sticker price. That is, unless of course, you need a tree before the holidays because your old one bit the dust or you decided not to get a real tree this year.)

Another sentimental reason to love a real tree for Christmas is the wonderful aroma of pine that wafts through your home, making it clear to all who enter that it really is the season of cheer. You can try gel candles and hand-poured candles and potpourri burners with your artificial tree, but the comparison is a far cry from the real thing. If you choose a Christmas tree with a root ball instead of a chopped tree, you can also plant the tree in your yard after the holiday, keeping a piece of the holiday alive year after year and adding to the backdrop of your home.

Of course, for every positive reason to get a real tree, you can probably expect one or two reasons in favor of an artificial tree. First, there’s the mess. With a real tree, you can expect to sweep up pine needles for weeks. If you think you’ll find them all when you take down the tree, you’re dreaming – especially if you have pets. Which brings us to the next point; there’s the water needed to keep your tree alive. Whether it’s a cut tree or even if it has its roots, you need to be sure to water your tree regularly to keep it alive. And don’t forget to remind Fido that the Christmas tree base isn’t his new water bowl.

Artificial trees don’t have these issues. They are no-mess, no-fuss… except for the fact that you have to assemble them every year, which is definitely a chore in and of itself. And then there’s the storage issue with a fake tree, so hopefully you have an attic, a storage area in the basement, or some rafters in your garage.

With fake Christmas trees, you can usually expect to save a bit of money over the years. Expect to pay $100 to $300 for an artificial tree or anywhere from $20 to $80 and up for a real one, depending on the species, size, when you buy, and so forth. Getting a fake tree on clearance after the holidays can save you quite a bit of money if you plan to use it for a number of years.

Artificial trees also tend to be better for folks with allergies to pine or other evergreens. This may not be a concern for some families, but if your child is always sick with the sniffles around the holidays and you have a live tree, it might be time for a checkup with an allergist.

Making the Decision – Real or Fake

When it all comes down to it, every family and every household are different. The bottom line is that each person or family will have to make their own decision. Considering the pros and cons of both types of Christmas trees can make it easier to arrive at a decision that makes the most sense for the family and your home. That’s not to say some sacrifices or compromises won’t come into play. Make choosing a Christmas tree a family activity if you can. Ask your spouse and kids for their opinions on which way to go. You probably can’t please everyone, but at least you can try.

Some homes, and especially apartments or condos, may be better suited for fake trees, which are available in many different sizes and shapes and styles, including even the commercial version of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Some families, meanwhile, may cling tightly to their family traditions around the holidays, namely, going out on a cold, dark night to pick out the perfect live Christmas tree. Hey, traditions are traditions. After all, what is Christmas without a plate of cookies for Santa and stockings hung over the fireplace with care?

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