The only time I ever had a fake Christmas tree was during college, when it would’ve been just slightly impractical (and possibly illegal) to have a Fraser fir in my 100-square-foot dorm room. I loved the glow of the lights on that little fake tree, but it was still just a little fake tree. I have no idea what happened to it after I graduated.
In my mind, there was only one “right” tree, and that was a real one. I was a Christmas tree snob, passing judgment on the artificial ones without a second thought. IMPOSTER! You should be ashamed of yourself, you don’t even smell like pine. You’re too perfect looking. No tree is that perfect. Where are your flaws? Your bald spots? Your uneven branches? You look exactly the same year after year. What’s the fun in that?!
My opinion shifted after college, when my friend Amanda told me that she’s allergic to real trees (it took many years of her being sick around the holidays before her parents connected the dots). What? Allergic to Christmas trees? I had no idea that was even a thing. And then a single family member was talking about how much she loved real trees, but how physically difficult it would be to deal with dragging a real tree to her car, securing it for the ride, then dragging it into the house, then getting it in the tree stand, and that gave me another perspective. Since then, I’ve heard many arguments in favor of artificial trees.
Advantages of artificial trees:
- They don’t affect your allergies.
- They’re not messy. Or, more accurately, not as messy (because let’s be real, even the fake trees can shed fake needles).
- They’re convenient. You can put them up with very little hassle—this is especially key for those who aren’t physically willing or able to go out and get a big, heavy tree then crawl underneath that tree every day to make sure its watered. Also landing in the convenience category? You can purchase artificial trees that are pre-lit! You just put the pieces together and wala! You have a tree with lights! I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time untangling lights, nearly slicing my fingers on razor-sharp needles while adjusting the lights, stringing the lights too high or too low (#$@*! Re-do!), or winding up with that big ugly plug-in part of the cord front and center (#$@*! Re-do!). I understand the allure of putting up your tree and having the lights perfectly spaced and ready to go, minimal swearing required. I should point out, thought, that some pre-lit trees make it nearly impossible to “fix” sections of lights that burn out. This is worth noting, because a partially lit tree would just about drive me crazy, and not everyone has the time or money to buy a new tree. If you don’t want to risk that happening, you might want to opt for a non pre-lit tree and string the lights every year.
- There’s no annual fee. You don’t have to spend a considerable chunk of change (anywhere from $40 to $100) every year for a real tree. You’re upfront investment, though, might be substantially bigger, depending on the type of tree you buy, and the time of year you buy the tree.
- There’s variety. Want a pink tree? You’re in luck! Want a rainbow tree? You’re in luck! Want a pretty flocked tree? You’re in luck! Want a matchy-matchy “designer” tree? You’re in luck!
- There’s virtually no upkeep. You don’t have to water your tree, you don’t have to trim branches, you don’t have to worry about the tree going up in flames. If you go out of town, your tree won’t shrivel up and die before you return (unless it really misses you).
- You don’t have to worry (as much) about your pets peeing on a fake tree.
- You can leave the tree up for as long as your little heart desires. Christmas in July!
Advantages of real trees
- The scent. And yes, I know there are pine-scented candles that try to replicate this, but it’s just not the same.
- They don’t collect dust.
- You don’t have to store them. This might seem like a silly advantage, but not everyone has storage space readily available.
- They’re flawed. There’s something beautiful about the slight irregularities (I’ve heard people complain that fake trees are just TOO perfect, whereas real trees are authentic).
- It’s a fun tradition. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like the experience of going out and cutting down your own tree. “I think I found the perfect one!” “No, come over here, look at this one!” “What about this one here?” “Hey, over here! This one’s gotta be the winner!” Most tree farms offer cocoa or hot apple cider to guests, some have big bonfire pits, others have Santa on-site. Yes, it can be cold, windy, snowy, or muddy, but we live in Minnesota! We can handle it! If you dress for the elements, it’s all a grand adventure.
- You’re supporting local farmers. If you buy a tree grown on a tree farm, you’re supporting the local industry. (Most artificial trees are made in China.) According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, on average, 25-30 million real trees are sold each year, helping employ over 100,000 U.S. workers.
- Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead, and when you’re done with them, they can’t be recycled—they wind up in a landfill. No bueno. Real trees, on the other hand, suppress soil erosion, provide oxygen, store carbon, and provide a nesting place for wildlife. Once a tree is chopped down, seedlings are planted to replace it (like any farming crop). At the end of the holiday season, some cities will pick up your tree for a small fee, then recycle them into mulch or wood chips for broilers. **For the best type of environmental impact, buy trees from farms that use minimal pesticides.
So there you go, both sides of the Great Christmas Tree Debate. No matter which type of tree is best for you and your family, I hope just the sight of it brings a little bit of magic and a whole lot of cheer to you this holiday season.
By Chrissy Sarinske