The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

The Crew: Ready to deliver the neighborhood trees

I struggle with this question every year: Is it better to have a freshly cut tree or an artificial one?  I think the answer is neither. Or both.

Aren’t you glad we got that settled?!

As a nature-lover, I’m not fond of the idea of cutting down a tree each year, only to throw it away (or at the very least compost it) after a few weeks. People float the idea of a live tree that you bring indoors each year, but given the size of the average pine or fir, the tree would outgrow your home in a few years. Further, the tree would do poorly in a dry, heated home, preferring the outdoors instead.

Clearly, artificial trees are the way to go.

Or are they?

Fluffy Under the Tree

Fluffy Under the Tree

Artificial trees last a long time. You can use them year after year, they never dry out, they’re less likely to catch fire and they’re sized for the average home. They are, however, made from synthetic materials, that will one day end up in a landfill. Styles change, the frame of the tree might break or you may buy a bigger (or smaller) house that dictates the size of the tree.

In our neighborhood, we have a coordinated effort to display cut trees on our lawn each year.  The trees go up the first week of December and come down New Year’s day. I’m block captain for our street, and we make it a family affair. We borrow a neighbor’s truck, load up the trees, and delivery them up and down the block.  The neighborhood coordinator purchases over 300 trees.  Each block captain collects the order forms, deposits the checks and then delivers the trees.  It’s fun and festive.

Indoors we have an artificial tree that we store and use year after year. We made that choice for all the reasons I mentioned above. So…I feel like a fraud at times, supporting different choices on either side of the door.

One choice isn’t really a choice at all: simply giving up the long-held and delightful tradition of a Christmas tree.

If you celebrate Christmas, do you put up a tree each year?  Real or fake?

Here is what others have to say:

20 thoughts on “The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake?

  1. I agree with the (self-serving) comments from the Christmas Tree Farm Network link. I’d add that the tree farmers rotate their crops and re-plant as many trees (or more) than they cut, so there is zero net loss of trees. They’re just crops on a five or six year harvest cycle. The farmers make a living and hurt no one. With so many real battles to fight, and so many awful things to worry about, I don’t see why people keep chewing on this one. BTW, we no longer put up either type of tree in our home, but if we did, we’d drive out to the local ex-hippy tree farm and snag a fresh one.


    • That was quite the self-serving article, but the points they made were valid. So, what does one do when they already have an artificial tree?

      When did you stop putting up a tree? Have I spotted a plant in your home with glass bulbs???

      I love that idea.

      Thanks for commenting, Bob.


  2. I’m living in an apartment and as courtesy to my neighbors, I have decided to minimalized the threat of fire. I love a live tree but at my age and single, they get a bit cumbersome. and heavy. For several years when I had a home and husband, we tried the living tree and planted it in the spring. I think there is no right or wrong. Just different as the need arises. Variety is the spice of life and we are all different and have different needs at different time. Sure glad we don’t all have to drive the same make and model car. Enjoy it any way you decide to do it. Oh, I got my tree from the thrift store so someone elses didn’t go to the landfill. 🙂 I’ll get off the soap box now and have my coffee.


    • I just assisted one of my organizing clients with a drop off of artificial trees to a local thrift store. Glad to hear you could pick one up there as well.

      Variety is the spice of life. Hurray for that! Thanks for commenting, Marlene.


  3. We always do a real tree, but in recent years we’ve been buying small, live trees in pots that we then plant in the spring. It’s a nice tradition for my family, no trees are killed in the process and lots are gained out in the yard!


    • That’s a lovely tradition, Sherri. We have such a small lot, that it wouldn’t be practical. I envy you the ability to plant them over and over again. Each one must have a wonderful set of memories to go with it, too. Nice!


  4. As with most things, you can always make a case for one side or the other, depending on specific circumstance. In general though, I’m a sucker for the real deal and many of my fondest Christmas memories are picking out the perfect tree at the farm. That being said, I have not so fond memories of my brother and I nearly resorting to a fistfight as we argued about the best way to get the trees inside without knocking everything over.


    • Sounds like my two boys (just substitute bringing groceries into the house). Ah siblings. My sister and I fought constantly, but as adults we’re great friends.

      How nice to have that memory from the farm. Our family never did that, but I’ve always envied the tradition.


  5. We have always had real trees as I love the smell of the pine indoors and the way they change over the weeks. However I too don’t like the idea of cutting down trees unnecessarily so we get a rooted live tree then plant it afterwards in the garden.


  6. Oh man, those tree guys really know how to sell their product. I really never thought of it that way. I’m feeling a little guilty. We have a giant artificial tree in storage, so negative that. It does take up a lot of room. This is our second artificial tree in 25 years, hopefully the first one got scooped up at Goodwill. I would love to have a real one, but they sure don’t last long with central heating. Maybe I need to rethink this whole thing. Great post Alys, great question. PS, your handy men take a good photo. I have pictures of all our previous kitties under the tree too, what a nice keepsake. You’re a great neighbour to organize the tree tradition, sounds like quite the task. Didn’t you also do July 4th? Well, I guess they depend on you because you’re so organized and NICE. 🙂


    • I know, right? I thought that was hilarious. I considered not including it, but I wanted to share a variety of perspectives, and boy do they make their point.

      Thanks for the kudos. I used to have a husband and two boys; now I have three manly men! Crazy.

      I love that you have photos of all of your cats under the tree. I wonder if they just find it cozy, or if they think they are outdoors in nature?

      July 4th is coordinated by a different neighbor, but everyone pitches in with food, tables and chairs, time and effort.


      • I think at our old house, the cats liked the heated floors and probably seemed like a good hiding spot. I’ve never really had a true tree skirt, I used to just wrap a vintage chenille round the bottom…so they would just snuggle right in there. What a nice neighbourhood you’re in. We went to the Coronado Christmas parade tonight. There’s a real small town feel on the island here. Everyone is very friendly. I’ve manage to catch a wicked cold and people constantly said “bless you” whenever I sneezed. Leave it to me to get sick….urg.


  7. Another thought. When we did put up Christmas trees, back before we became all Eastern, and Enlightened, and Buddhist and Stuff, our family ritual was to go out to the ex-hippy tree farm, stomp around, getting filthy, usually, finding the right tree, and sawing in down, then dragging it back to the car, usually uphill. If you’ve done this before, you know the rule: Saw it high and new trees will grow right from the stump. Presto. Magic. Cool. But the really satisfying part of the exercise was the respect and honor of the source. The earth. Christmas trees don’t come from the store, or the lot, or Oregon, or China. They come from the ground, the muddy, lumpy, piney-smelling dirt. Yeah, baby, THAT’s where to get your Christmas trees.


    • It’s sound idyllic. It was often something I dreamed of doing. My boys cut down a tree with their Montessori classroom during the pre-school years. The field trips were fun (once I got past the car-sickness on the mountain road. Not everyone can afford to cut down a tree every year, though. We sure could not. So for those that are strapped for cash, disabled, don’t drive or want to celebrate on a smaller scale (one of my clients has an artificial table-top tree) I think there is a place for both.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Bob, and all the fun you had pre-enlightenment. 😉


  8. When I lived at home we had an artificial tree (there wasn’t enough money to “waste” on a real one each year). When I was newly married I decided that Christmas was enough reason to buy a fresh one and I would happily forgo presents to be able to afford one. The smell alone is enough to make me happy and the tree gets recycled through the shredder. Like most things, there are fors and againsts for each type of tree, but I suppose it comes down to personal choice and circumstances…. even without a tree the spirit of Christmas should be there!


  9. Pingback: The Christmas Tree Dilemma: Real or Fake? « Green-ish Life

  10. Pingback: Lawn Tree Traditions: Greening up the Neighborhood | gardeningnirvana

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