Christmas Trees: Genuine or Artificial? Speak Up!

OldXmasBigHouseMy mother was telling me about her earliest Christmases: a genuine “live” tree arrived sometime after she went to be on Christmas Eve, presumably delivered and erected by Santa in the dead of night.  In my own childhood, we bought a tree sometime in the middle of December and kept the tree for a few weeks.  Like many people, I’ve pushed the envelope further–we make “deer day,” the first Monday after Thanksgiving when schools are traditionally closed to allow or predominantly rural population to cull the herd and fill their freezers with venison–but I noticed a lot of people driving around with baled trees on top of their cars, and a lot of shadowy forms in picture windows around town, hanging lights, as early as the day after Thanksgiving.

Folks have their traditions, and their preferences, greatest among them (in terms of Christmas trees) is the old debate of genuine (some say live, or “real”) versus artificial.  It’s a pretty lively discussion I’ve heard again and again, although most of my friends are families ChristmasTreeCountySignwho still have children in the house and go for the traditional genuine tree.  It’s important to point out the place I live, Indiana County, Pennsylvania (we were a county before “Indiana” was a state, for the record) bills itself as “The Christmas Tree Capital of The World,” home to numerous wholesale and retail nurseries.  Interestingly, when my wife and I lived in Oregon, we rented a house in the quaint little working class town of Monroe–when we arrived we were shocked to find ourselves greeted by a sign that read: Monroe, Oregon: Christmas Tree Capital of the World.

Wait a minute!  I would soon learn, with the advent of the internet, that there are quite a few Christmas Tree Capitals, including several in Oregon–but a Google search today is dominated by links to Indiana, PA sites, which settles it as far as I’m concerned.

What isn’t settled is the debate between genuine and artificial trees preferences.  Both sides claim to be more popular, and having admitted my bias I’m not buying the plastic tree argument.  As I said, I don’t see the evidence–I know four households with artificial trees: my inlaws, because they’re retired and not really into it any more, one family with an allergy problem, one family who travel every year and don’t want to leave a try to dry out in their living room, and a couple who are into the whole kitschy “because it’s ironic” thing.  All the dozens of others I know go authentic.

I suppose that there must be an army of plastic tree people in strange, foreign places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and maybe even in Manhattan, and those numbers must be bolstered by millions of elderly people in nursing homes around the country, but I’m dubious.

What kind of tree do you have?  And why?  I’d like to hear your reasoning–especially if you’ve gone artificial.

My genuine tree fetish is pretty standard: they look better, smell good, and it’s fun to go pick them out at the grower or retailer.  They’re better environmentally; often growing in locations that traditional agricultural crops won’t thrive, they are renewable while artificial trees are made from plastic and other petroleum by-products.  A used authentic tree can be composted, used for habitat, or–as we do–ground up and used as wood chips for trails and public areas in local parks. Also, an authentic tree supports hard working farmers and laborers, while the plastic tree likely came from an Asian sweatshop.

If I was rich and had a big house, I’d have a bunch of trees with different themes–and one of those would be a big, pink aluminum tree from the 1950s–but until I win the lottery, no plastic tree will cross my threshold unchallenged.

What about you?  Lets’ hear it in the comments.


By JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels, growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.

7 replies on “Christmas Trees: Genuine or Artificial? Speak Up!”

The foil tree lived well into the ’90’s at my grandmother’s home. It was a beautiful sight, but I never developed an emotional connection with it perhaps because it appears so cold and pokey, both inaccurate theories when tested, and especially when compared to a dried out short needle pine which can cause some serious stabbing injuries! If one is going to make room for an entire tree in one’s home, I am all for real. They do smell lovely. The dark limbs contrast with the lights. The dogs can get a drink of water from the stand at ANYTIME! But mostly, when we pick them out, it’s the gentle argument about straight trunks and holes in the back which can be hidden by walls or the simple shape of the season– we’ve had very fat, tall and slender, Charlie-Brownie– and this year a Scotch Pine– Blue! Then there’s the conversation with the farmer and the story of the land we are walking on and the history and tradition of the tie-down method employed by the purchaser. I’ve seen trees leave on the roof, thrown in the back of a mini-van, stashed in the open trunk, flung into the back of a pick up truck and once, nestled neatly into the back seat of a convertible with its top down! So, mark me down for Real. But now, you have me wondering– tinsel or none, white lights or colored, small bulb or vintage large bulb? hmmm?


I love having a real tree. The fragrance is the main reason. One of my best Christmas memories from childhood is going to a Christmas tree lot and standing in the crowd of fir, cypress, and pine trees lined up, waiting for some lucky kid to cover it with paper snowflakes and strands of popcorn. The smell was intoxicating. Kinda like new car smell without the carcinogens.
Now here is something to think about when the live vs artificial debate begins. Unless the tree is what is called ball and burlap, meaning it still has its roots attached and could be planted, it isn’t live. That’s right. “Real” Christmas trees are dead, on life support sure, but dead. That sucker ain’t gonna grow no more. Happy holidays.


Notice that I carefully avoided the word “live”–I actually know someone who uses a plastic tree because she’s against cutting down live trees, which is silly, and I’ve told her so. She doesn’t have any problem “killing” plants in her food or flower gardens, and eats more than her share of soy, for which so many plants must die. But you’re right about the fragrance. Nothing like it.


When I was a kid, we had the same artificial tree throughout my child. After the kids moved out, my mom got rid of it and started having natural trees!!!!! I’m still upset that we never got to have a real tree when I was a kid. Then, a few years ago, she rescued a small living tree that somebody had put out on the curb for trash pickup. That’s her tree now. It’s very much like the Charlie Brown christmas tree — scraggly and neglected looking.

At my own home, I married a Jewish woman and we’re raising our kids Jewish, so there is no tree. No matter how much the kids ask each year for a Hanukah bush.


I married a Catholic girl and we are raising our kids entirely without religion. I always say, “if god intended us to go to church, he wouldn’t have invented Sunday Brunch.”

Condolences on the childhood tree–after my dad left when I was 14, my mom sort of gave up. One year she refused to buy a tree entirely. Well, we had about a dozen 14+ foot blue spruce trees on the property, and a girl I liked helped me saw off the top eight feet of it and drag it inside. I had a small party and a bunch of my friends came over and we decorated the tree and the house while my mom sulked upstairs. It was a beautiful evening, and one of the the countless ways a childhood that looked shitty on the surface was ultimately pretty good–people just kept going beyond the call of duty, you know. I may have to write about this before the fat guy squeezes down the chimney this year.

You could always get your kids a “solstice shrub.”


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