O Christmas Tree

by DaniGirl on November 23, 2010 · 35 comments

in Consumer culture, Happy holidays

Okay bloggy peeps, here’s another debate that started on Twitter but simply needs more than 140 characters to be fully explored.

I am in the market for a new Christmas tree. I have an ‘artificial’ tree that is one of the last surviving remnants from the practice marriage. It’s nearly 20 years old (holy crap, is that true? OMG, it is. Oh my sweet lord, I am getting older faster with each passing year!) and it is a gorgeous tree. It’s just over seven feet tall, full and bushy and lovely. Every year I looked forward to putting it up — it was truly one of my most treasured holiday heirlooms. And, if you’ll remember, last autumn it was infested by rodents. And by infested I mean I found small amounts of mouse turds in the bottom of the Christmas tree bag that the mice had chewed their way through, and shredded bits of the festive red bag woven into some of the branches.

It’s a tainted tree now, even though I put it up and decorated it last Christmas and it was indeed lovely. After I shook the (literal) shit out of it. But ever since the mousecapade, I’ve just lost that lovin’ feeling for my beautiful tree.

I’ve been perusing trees in stores, online and in flyers, but none of them are as lovely as mine once was. I’d actually intended to sanitize our tree by leaving it out in the blazing sun for a couple of days this summer (did you know UV rays neutralize hantavirus?) but alas, I never got around to it. Sigh.

And then this week, it occurred to me that there was another option entirely — a (formerly) live tree.

You can see that I struggle with nomenclature here. Some people call formerly live trees “real” trees, but I can assure you that my plastic and metal tree is entirely real. And I can’t bring myself to call them live trees because, well, they’re well on their way to dead the moment you hack through their trunks. Hmmm, let’s go with “natural” and “artificial” for the distinction. Does that work?

I have never had a natural tree at Christmas. In fact, my father (never to be confused with an environmentalist at the best of times) used to say “In the spirit of Christmas, let’s kill a tree!” I have no idea how to care for a natural tree, and really know nothing about them except that people seem to complain a lot about the mess of getting them out of the house.

I asked the Twitterverse for their opinions on natural versus artificial trees, and got nine responses. Six were enthusiastic promoters of natural trees, one considered switching to a natural tree until she saw the amount of accessories that would have to be acquired, one happily switched from natural to artificial and never looked back, and one lamented the year when the natural tree was knocked over four times, spilling water over the hardwood each time.

Water to be spilled? Oh dear. Three rambunctious and curious boys and we’ve never yet knocked down a tree — but then, we’ve never had gorgeous new hardwood floors, either. You just know that those floors will be a magnet for water to be spilled.

So I’m making a list (and checking it twice) of the pros and cons of each kind of tree.

Natural trees:

Pro : lovely scent of evergreen in house
Pro : can make a family expedition out of acquiring one (insert romantic visions of red-cheeked boys, sleigh rides and Rockwell-esque winter scenes here)
Pro : don’t have to store it in the garage where mice can poop in it
Pro : apparently eco-friendlier than I would have thought, as they’re grown particularly for harvest. Nobody laments the harvesting of carrots, right?
Con : must buy a new one each year
Con : you can’t predict what you’ll get with a natural tree (I like sameness, remember)
Con : have to get (potentially wet, snowy, dirty) tree onto the car (insert comical vision of Beloved, several meters of rope, and the roof rack of the Mazda here) and then into the house
Con : natural trees require maintenance and must be watered regularly
Con : gigantic PITA to get it out of the house without a forest of dropped needles everywhere
Con : sad to see discarded trees at the curb, waiting for garbage pickup
Con : have to take down tree according to garbage-day pick-up schedule

Artificial trees:

Pro : flexible schedule – can put up in October and take down in April if I am so inclined
Pro : one investment now should last 20 years or more
Pro : having the same tree year after year has strong nostalgia factor
Pro : no need to be at the mercy of capricious weather for acquisition of the tree
Pro : artificial trees come packed in tidy boxes that fit handily in the back of my car
Pro : no open containers of water waiting to be spewed onto the hardwood
Pro : less needly mess
Con : needs rodent-free off-season storage space

What say ye, bloggy peeps? Natural or artificial and why?

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joy November 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

I’m having the same debate myself. I’ve never had a real tree, but I’m not really feeling the love for my plastic tree this year (fortunately mouse free). I think all in all, I just want a fuller bigger tree and am not sure I can justify the cost of a new plastic one while I have a perfectly fine plastic one at home. That said, if I donate the other plastic tree, it might offset the karmic price of the new one and I’ll feel much better about my purchase. *G* It will be interesting to see the answers on your blog and twitter.

2 Rebecca November 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

Based on your list and reasons, I’d say you’re an artificial tree girl all the way. Sounds like it’s what works for you.

We do natural every year, and for me, I can’t imagine going the artificial route. I love choosing a new, “perfect” tree each year, love the smell, don’t mind the watering, and always buy a tree disposal bag (sits under the base when you put the tree up so you can just wrap it before removal) so mess isn’t really an issue.

It all comes down to your likes and preferences, and in your case I’d say stick with what you know/like. Seems to work just fine!!

3 Marla (remember me?) November 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

We’re going for the happy medium, I think: http://www.giftofgreen.ca/home/
It’s for the Toronto area only, sadly – but perhaps there’s something similar near to you?

4 Leanne November 23, 2010 at 10:42 am

When I moved out on my own at 18 I decided to become a natural tree girl. I love the ritual of choosing a tree. When I got married many, many years later, my husband was not very into Christmas, so procuring the tree became a series of tedious fights and bitter resentment until I forced a tree hunt at the last moment – there were bad feelings from start to finish.

When we had our first son, we decided to just get a decent-ish artificial tree f and change the ritual: first day of December is tree-putting-up day.

Now we have a kitten who is a fantastic mouser and after watching her spend 4 weeks climbing up and down our livingroom curtains (and completely destroying them with hundreds of snags – thank goodness they are super cheap IKEA curtains!), we are thinking of making a flat tree out of cardboard to mount on the wall so we don’t have to deal with the climbing cat. Or, maybe we’ll put the tree up and just make a few handfuls of handmade ornaments and see if kitty will relax a little.

But, there is no way I’m sacrificing my collection of 60 year old glass balls inherited from my grandmother!

5 Jody November 23, 2010 at 10:44 am

We do natural trees, for the scent and the ‘real’ factor and because the summer before my senior year in high school, I spent a MONTH in one of those soulless corporate “office parks” stringing lights onto artificial trees while the crafts store for whom I worked underwent a massive renovation before reopening as a crafts and “lifestyle” store. And even though NOW, you can buy those lovely pre-lit trees and they are gorgeous, I was scarred for life.

Almost literally. My hands would be bleeding by the end of the day.

Anyway, as much as I love my natural tree, I think there are arguments in favor of both kinds of trees. Personally I am not a huge fan of the “all lights everywhere” look of the high-end pre-lit artificial trees, and I worry about what happens when the lights burn out, but of course you don’t have to buy a pre-lit tree and also it’s a totally personal preference. My mom loves her pre-lit tree, and loves not having to deal with lights.

One other danger of a pre-lit artificial tree: one year/years, my MIL got too busy and left hers up through two entire Christmases. I am not kidding you. And that’s just sad. Also, dusty. It’s a warning against retirees taking advantage of the convenience factor when there are limited people around to say, dude, take down the tree already. (She has step-children and grandchildren locally, but apparently they lack moxie.)

In your shoes, not having FOUND the perfect artificial tree yet, and also not having bought the perfect artificial tree on sale LAST year, I might lean toward buying a natural tree this year, with plans to shop the sales after December 25th, or to air out the tree you already own next summer, when you are not post-move and possibly more organized about doing so.

6 Mary November 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

Well, you could always try out a natural tree this year and get an artificial one on sale after the holidays….
While I prefer a natural tree, I can see the practicality of small children and an artificial tree. My husband, on the other hand, is most definitely in the Pro natural camp, which means that we will probably be getting a natural tree. Honestly, they’re not that much more work. We put down a plastic table cloth under the tree skirt and use one of those tree holders with a wide bottom that hold lots of water and help with balancing the tree. I don’t know that a natural tree would last from October – April, but we often put up our tree the first weekend of December and it doesn’t come down until after Little Christmas in January. We have one of those bags you’re supposed to put under the tree when you put it up so that you lift it up over the tree to take it out of the house to minimize needles, but we keep forgetting to use it until I find it some time around New Year’s Eve. Sometimes we have a lot of needles and other trees barely drop one. I think the year the tree dropped all its needles, we had a small issue with water (the reservoir on the side of the holder was always full so the tree never got watered. It turns out the water wasn’t being pulled into the part with the tree and we each assumed the other person was watering the tree). Other than filling an entire vacuum bag with needles that year, clean-up wasn’t that big of a deal (it sure made finding the decorations easy!). We don’t have any carpets so there wasn’t a whole lot of places for the needles to get stuck. I have a hard time getting excited over finding the odd needle under the china cabinet. Really, who can see them under all the dog hair that seems to get trapped under there anyway?

7 Windex November 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

The husband is in the pro natural camp and there is no changing that. 4 young kids and we have never had an upset of the tree but if you can – place the tree in the corner and run a cord down the back and tie it around a nail at the bottom.
I admit I was an artificial tree girl before the hubby and I miss putting my tree up at the start of December that is the biggest Con of natural…..and well the price of a nice artificial also deters me from convincing my hubby to go artificial.

8 alison November 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

I’m a natural tree girl all the way.

Artificial trees are mostly made in China, not exactly known for its great environmental record for industries, then the trees are shipped all the way across the world (using fossil fuels) and set up in houses, where they might de-gas all kinds of horrible chemicals into your house (depending what they’re made from). In the U.S. the average lifespan for an artificial tree is 3 to 5 years, so landfills are full of them, and they don’t decompose.

I have a Christmas tree bag from Lee Valley Tools (http://www.leevalley.com/en/gifts/page.aspx?p=66391&cat=4,104,53211&ap=1) that you put on your tree like a giant cardigan once you’ve taken all the decorations off. Then I drag the tree out to the curb and take the bag off there, leaving all the needles outside the house. My girls love the real tree, the smell in the house, and picking the perfect tree. As for the water problem, I have an automatic waterer that uses a 2 litre pop bottle to water the tree (http://www.amazon.com/Get-Organized-AUTOMATIC-CHRISTMAS-WATERER/dp/B000MIT204) I bought mine at Canadian Tire, and it sits against the wall where it won’t get tipped over, and stops me from having to crawl under the tree every day to water it.

Good luck making your decision, Dani!

9 karen November 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

I’ve had both and would have to say that I’m still not sure which one I prefer.

The last few years we’ve put up an artificial tree. Mostly because you can get it up and leave it up longer.

The smell of a natural tree is wonderful though.

10 Coco November 23, 2010 at 11:58 am

Artificial…cleaner, long lasting,cleaner, economical, cleaner…need I say more! Captcha says ” properly suffices”.

11 kate November 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I’ve only ever done natural trees – as a child and an adult. The watering and the needle clean-up really don’t even merit being full cons. The watering is easy because you think of the tree every time you’re in the room thanks to the lovely smell. I don’t know what your floors are from door to tree location, but hardwood is super easy — just a quick vaccuum or sweep. Last year our tree tipped over – maybe even twice – but it happened overnight, so could have been the cat but definitely wasn’t the boy. Could just have been poorly balanced and when the tray got emptier of water it tipped.

You’ve also missed a few cons on the artificial tree: the petroleum products and manufacturing process it requires and also the transportation to get here. That can also be an issue if you buy a tree from Canadian Tire’s parking lot (our tree last year came from Quebec), but still that’s closer than Asia.

Why don’t you try a natural tree this year, then you’ll know for sure? I always pro and con lists inherently limited because you need some kind of matrix by which to weight each pro and con… and then it just gets too complicated.

12 andrea from the fishbowl November 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Sounds like you’ve already decided. πŸ™‚
Personally I subscribe to the belief that The Best Things Are Worth a Bit of Work. That’s why we get a real tree every year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

13 Lara November 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

All my life we’ve had artificial trees. When I lived with roommates they always insisted on “natural”
I don’t get the appeal. They drop needles, they’re hard to get to stand up straight in those holders and they fall over. They’re a PITA to go and pick up, they’re a PITA to get rid of. You’re SO much more limited time wise with the putting up and taking down. It’s more expensive in the long run.

We have a lovely tree we got at Michaels. It is pre-lit. I sit and gaze at it’s beauty every year and never regret having an artificial tree.

Obviously, I’m pretty strongly on the artificial side of the debate huh? πŸ™‚

14 Alicia November 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I am having the same debate this year. Last year, with a little one just learning to crawl we switched from natural to artificial. I grew up with natural trees and love them, but love the convience of the artificial tree now too. I would love to start a tradition of finding the perfect tree with our little one but I can’t justify buying a natural tree this year when we spent the money on the artificial one last year!

15 Sara November 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

We have allergies. I hate needles. And we have two cats who believe, down the tips of their dexterous paws, that they have been reincarnated as lynx. Possibly squirrels. I’m not sure. Either way: they feel the strong urge to lovingly accost all things that smell like nature.

16 Dani's Mom November 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Ahem – that would be a quote from WKRP (old but great TV show) “In the spirit of Christmas, I killed a tree”

Wonder what Katie would think – having a real live tree in the living room??
Something she’s never experienced before!!!


17 Marianne November 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I love natural trees, but my husband and I are both allergic, so we bought a very nice pre-lit artificial tree a few years ago and we’ve been quite happy with it. And I have to say, it’s also nice not worrying so much about the potential fire hazard a real tree poses (although with the advent of LED lights, the risk is lessened since they don’t generate heat the way the old lights did).

I grew up with natural Christmas trees every year in my parents home until about the time I started university, when my parents switched to an artificial tree. But we really missed the scent of the real tree. The second year my mom ended up the day before Christmas going out into the garden and cutting a few small branches off of the sprice tree to bring into the house and lay across the mantle, and it made a big difference. Now she does it every year, but just brings them in for a few days. Because it’s not a whole tree, it doesn’t make any mess, and doesn’t trigger allergies the same way. She’s used sprigs to decorate the table, across the mantel, or tied together into a little bough and tacked/hung above a doorframe, changing it up from year to year. This year my family will be in our own home for Christmas for the first time in several years (we’ve been at my in-laws the past few years), and so I plan to do the same.

18 Batman November 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I liked having a real tree but I only did it one year after I moved out. I spent January and February trying to clean the sap off the hardwood floors. I was probably doing something wrong with the tree to cause that but it was more trouble than it was worth for subsequent years.

19 Ingrid November 23, 2010 at 8:18 pm

REAL ALL THE WAY!!! I have never had anything but and as Kate said, the cleanup isnt that big a deal – a broom every couple of days and then one big cleanup at the end. Our ex-dog and cat have never noticed it, so I dont think pets are a factor. The smell is beautiful as is the imperfect look of the branches and trunk. We have had it fall down a couple of years, but that adds to the tradition.
I think you’d love the family aspect of going to cut it down. We go to Ian’s Tree Farm where you can go for a sleigh ride, see reindeer, bonfire and hot chocolate for free, a small playground and toboggan hill. We drive almost an hour to get there from where we live now because it is the best tree farm and my children are traditionalists.

20 Neeroc November 23, 2010 at 8:49 pm

You know I already voted for real, I’ve always had a real one, even during my ‘meh Christmas’ years I went out and bought a potted tree, that I was then able to plant the following spring….hey maybe that’s an idea, have the artificial big tree and have a smaller one for the smell and needle factor *g*

21 Amber November 24, 2010 at 1:12 am

This has been a hot topic in my marriage. I am all in favour of natural trees. I always had them when I was a kid. I like the smell, I like the look and feel, I like the ritual of picking one out. I haven’t found the mess to be insurmountable.

My husband did not grow up with natural trees. And he is very much not in favour of anything that drops needles or requires him to use bungee cords.

The result is that a few years ago, when I had a small infant and I wasn’t up to handling the tree, we purchased an artificial tree. I’m not sure exactly what’s the most environmentally friendly choice, but I know this much for sure – using the existing tree is friendlier than buying a new one, regardless of where it comes from. So now we use the artificial tree. And I feel sad about it. But I will use it until I can use it no more.

Here’s my thought – the actual investment of a natural tree is low. You could try it for a year, and see what you think. If you don’t like it, you can buy an artificial one next year. Or on deep discount at a Boxing Day sale. Then at least you will be able to compare for yourself. That’s the upside of a natural tree – you’re not committing to much beyond a few weeks of having it.

22 Nat November 24, 2010 at 7:39 am

I love natural tress but too, am really rather allergic. It’s just not worth it. (You’ll also have to wait a day or two for the tree to thaw before you decorate.)

The price range for artificial trees really varies. We bought on that was pre-lit, yes, it has LED lights already installed. (Which really I didn’t enjoy much. This way you can go right to the fun part which is decorating it.) It’s really cute. You really need to shop around but you can find some decent artificial trees.

23 barbi D. November 24, 2010 at 8:58 am

Has to be natural for our family. We put it out into the back yard for the deer and what left ends up in a marshmallow roasting bonfire at some future date. Of course, I am in the country a bit so this makes disposable this way a easier. But I have to admit our last year’s tree was a pain as it was not as fresh as it should have been and the needles fell off from the time we put it up. I was glad to get that one out of the house. The deer didn’t like that one so much either. This year, I am considering a potted tree that we can plant in spring. This is (to me) the very best option.

24 One of Ottawa's Real Foodies November 24, 2010 at 9:28 am

I believe David Suzuki’s stand on this issue is to get a real tree. The whole carbon footprint thing. Likely can read all about it on his website. Don’t know how much the planet legacy plays with your decision.

I have had a fake tree for 10 years now before hearing David S’s stand on being ‘green’. I am committed to it now I guess until it dies (which I didn’t think it could but I never thought about rodent destruction). I do like that I can put it up right after Remembrance Day and take it down the day before Valentine’s Day, maximizing my favourite holiday. (I have skipped right past Epiphany on more than one occasion.) My house looks sharp decorated in red and green.

If I was going to do it all over again, and if David S is right, I would find the strength go real. And hope like heck that as I got older, that there were people in the business of getting it for me, putting it up and taking it away.

25 Trixie November 24, 2010 at 10:23 am

Oh, Dani! You have to go real this year β€” a trial run! For the all the reasons the pro-life commenters have said already. For us, choosing and decorating a fragrant real tree feels like bringing the Spirit of Christmas itself into the house. It may have only a few short weeks left to shine, but that tree was born to make us happy. Artificial trees have no anima β€” they are plastic triangles by comparison, and they’ll be in landfills for generations. With the big watering resevoirs and the disposal bag for clean-up, lots of the muss and fuss issues of the real tree are over. And the City collects them for chipping, tendering out the compost to soil-blending companies. So your own unqiue and lovely real tree goes back to the earth immediately. Perfect! Can you hear me about to break into song? O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum – how lovely are your branches… πŸ™‚

26 Theresa November 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm

If you go for real make sure you have a nice wide base tree stand…with room for at least two cups of water when full to the top. We used a watering can with a really narrow curved spout to water it. Also make sure you cut a small piece of the trunk off the bottom first, just like cutting flowers. If this seems daunting see if the people at the tree lot can do that for you.

I am a fan of artificial trees cuz of the mess factor…but the one year we broke down and got a natural tree the results were quite impressive. It wont be perfectly shaped though….you might have to get creative to camoflage any bare patches…but the mess and fuss was way less than I had expected. Good luck, and happy tree picking!!

27 Elise November 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Just giving my 2-cents of foreign experience here.
In my childhood, in France, I was leaving in the ‘hoods. My father, my brother and I used to go on a hike, in the meadows and forests owned by my farmer grandparents, and would hunt for the perfect tree. After my brother and I had made our choice, my Dad would cut it and we would all bring it home. We never had a giant tree, I like the small, cozy ones. We used to go with our hiking boots or, if we were lucky, on our skis.
As an adult, wiothout children and living in a big city, I never put up a tree. Didn’t like not having the full experience. Some years, I went back to my parents’ place a few weeks before Christmas to go and choose the tree with my Dad.
Then I moved to Toronto and had a little boy. A Christmas tree was in order. The natural for me was to go to natural trees – I had actually never ever known anyone who had an artificial tree. So I was astounded when I realised that here, it was the rule rather than the exception.
However, I am still going natural. Just because I can’t imagine that something artificial could look as beautiful as a real thing from nature.

But it is a hassle. To get it, bring it home, put it up, put it straight. I am lucky enough (or not) that our house is cold enough for needles not to fall all over the place…

All in all, that was just my little story. And if I had an “advice” to give, I would say Jody seems really wise πŸ™‚

28 Jen Hughes November 24, 2010 at 11:59 pm

I’m definitely in the natural camp, and have never had an artificial tree, ever.

I must take issue with the last two cons in your natural tree list. They are too silly to count. πŸ™‚ We just fling our tree to the curb when we’re done with it, and it sits there for a couple of days if it must. No biggie.

The mess isn’t really that big a deal. We don’t even have one of the fancy tree bags various people have mentioned. We drag it out and then just use the Shop-Vac to clean up all the needles. Takes five minutes. Oh, and we’ve never had a tree fall over. Our stand is a really heavy old-fashioned-looking cast iron one from Canadian Tire, and we usually tether the trunk to a small eye-hook on the wall just in case. Never had an issue with water spillage or sap dripping either. No fancy watering system, just me with a pitcher of water each morning and evening.

If you decide to go natural, you’re better off cutting your own for the freshest tree. Pre-cut ones sold in parking lots are usually at least a week old and from somewhere farther afield (though this is by far the “easier” option since it’s not an entire day’s commitment). I like the ritual and tradition of the tree-cutting day.

We usually go to Ian’s Evergreens (www.iansevergreen.on.ca) as well. As a previous commenter mentioned, they have wagon rides, real reindeer, hot chocolate, hot dogs, play structures, etc. Good fun! If you have a vehicle with a roof rack, it’s easy-peasy. The farm even bundles it into a mesh condom-like thing that we usually leave on until it’s in its stand in the house. Then we cut the mesh and ta-da!

I agree with others who’ve suggested you try the natural route this year and see what you think. If you hate it, you can always pick out a nice artificial one on sale after the holidays.

OK, I think I’ve said my bit (and then some). I’ll be eager to hear what you decide and how it goes if you go with a natural beauty.

29 DaniGirl November 25, 2010 at 8:47 am

Okay, Jen, you swayed me when 27 other comments did not. Or maybe it was just cumulative, and you were the straw that tipped the bale. Regardless, you provided the URL for Ian’s Evergreens and THEY swayed me with their real vs fake page: http://www.iansevergreen.on.ca/realvsfake.php

And! They properly named their reindeer. If they’d had a reindeer named Donner, no way would they get my business! πŸ˜‰

Hmmm, I can get one this weekend, and decorate it on Wednesday. Hmmm. Maybe…

So, if I do this, what do I need to buy? A stand with a big reservoir — anything else?

30 Sue Fisher November 25, 2010 at 9:07 am

I meant to comment the other day but couldn’t at the time.

We go natural and it’s a no-brainer for us.

1. We live in NB which means our provincial economy kinda depends on people buying natural trees. Keep in mind, a natural tree is not made in China with all the potential hot button triggers that “made in China” (or elsewhere) has come to mean. The Christmas tree industry out here is responsible and sustainable.

2. We get our tree at the Farmer’s market which is 3 blocks from our house. We walk it home with the heavy end nestled in the running stroller, ergo no need for roof racks or pine-needly car trunks.

3. The market trees are sold by the growers themselves, were cut the day before and usually end up costing us anywhere from $15-$35. It’s one of the cheapest parts of Christmas, really.

4. They smell heavenly.

5. We have no special equipment other than a Christmas tree stand. Cleanup and watering are as easy as pie. Just remember to take your tree in and out the door bottom first. It’s only logical but it merits saying.

6. Where I live, the trees do not get picked up with the trash. There are Christmas tree disposal sites scattered around the city’s parks. The closest one to us is right outside our front door. Ta-da! Living so close to the disposal site means that we know exactly what happens to those trees. A big machine comes along and mulches them. The mulch is then saved and re-used in the city’s parks come summer. You couldn’t ask for a cleaner industry. For those who don’t live across the street from a park, there’s always the Boy Scouts. Out here, the Scouts make a good deal of money by picking up Christmas trees and delivering them to the mulchers. You might want to see if this is the case in your community. That way you’re doing right by a kids’ organization as well.

Really and truly, if you want to be a rosy-cheeked environmentalist and local enthusiast, the natural tree is the only way to go. BTW, I’ve had a natural tree now for all 45 years of my life. Only once did one fall over and that was b/c of my negligence. And you know what? That story still makes for great conversational fodder at Christmas parties. See? Even the experience of having a natural tree can be recycled.

Please let us know after Christmas if you have been well and truly won over.

31 Denise Nielsen November 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

Too late to weigh in but fun to read all the comments. We always have had a real one – partly because I have a big solstice “greening” party where we go out into the surrounding countryside to find boughs and pinecones and bring them home to decorate with lights on the longest night of the year. We get a big tree and the hardest thing is making sure it stands up securely – so get a good tree stand. I remember my dad used to tie our tree to a hook on the ceiling – and then one year, the hook came out and the tree and ceiling came down.What a mess! But we have never had any issues other than that. For clean up, a shop vac works well, though I have always wanted to try the Lee Valley bag suggested above. Enjoy!

32 Jen Hughes November 25, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Woot! Glad to have helped tip the scales to au naturel. I did try to hit on all the points. πŸ™‚

All you need, really: a good stand, a water pitcher, a sturdy cup hook and some twine. Everything else falls into the nice-to-have category, not the must-have.

I should also have mentioned (your reply reminded me) that one of your cons is right – you just can’t have it up as long. I would wait until at least the first weekend of December. There is a risk of having a very dry, needleless tree by Christmas if you get one too early. That being said, waiting has never bothered me. I consider it something worth anticipating. The ritual, the fun day out, the fresh smell that signals that it really, truly is almost Christmas.

We’ve already picked our date based on our own busy schedule and the timing of the freshness vs. “too late” factor. We’ll be at Ian’s on December 11th! If you need a bit of hand-holding and guidance through the whole thing, you could always opt to meet us there. πŸ˜‰ Bring a saw, some cash, and dress warmly.

Happy tree hunting!

33 Migg November 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

See, look what you’ve done!
I’ll say this. I live in Australia now where real trees can’t exisit.
I say you should go for the real tree because you can–and because deep down you want to.
Christmas is a magical time of year full of splendor and wonder–get the real christmas tree, bundle yourselves in the snow, find the tree and make some new traditions with your family. Voila! Tradition =sameness.
Merry Christmas

34 Annika November 30, 2010 at 10:00 am

Please, please, please get rid of the rodent tree…you work hard and have a beautiful new home that deserves a beautiful new tree.

If you’re stuck between real and artificial, do both. We put up an artificial tree in our formal living room every November, and then venture to a tree farm just a week or so before the 25th for a “real” tree, which we present in our family room. We decorate one in a more traditional way, and the other is our “Charlie Brown”/homemade ornament/whatever we feel like” theme. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and the grown ups too.

Enjoy the new traditions you will establish, whatever they may be, in your new home.

35 Jody November 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Back to see what you decided, and have to add: We’ve never had a tree fall down, and we’ve never had it anchored to the wall, and we had toddler triplets.

If you get your tree fresh cut, you can easily leave it up until after New Year’s, even if you live in North Carolina, even if you buy it the last weekend in November (was going to write Thanksgiving, then remembered not to be accidentally ridiculous while communicating cross-culturally, no tree will last from October until January).

The pre-cut trees may have been cut several weeks before sale — North Carolina ships them all over the USA. This means that in the States, pre-cut trees dry out faster, but it also means there’s no real bonus to buying later, because they were all cut at the same time regardless. The drying-out will happen if you run your central heat at a high level.

It’s too late now, probably, but every year I wish I’d bought one of the fancy stands with the watering well in the side (because it’s hard to tip water into the normal well once the tree’s standing inside it), and every year, I leave it too late and they’re sold out.

Hmmmm. Maybe I need to get off the computer and out the door. We’re buying our tree on Sunday.

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