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Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Christmas Debate

          One again it is debate day.  With the Christmas season coming, I want to face some of the big questions that face the world at this time of year. And honestly I cannot absolutely make up my mind on this one since there are some good arguments on either side.  So perhaps some of you can settle the debate once and for all.

Which is the better route to go-- Real tree or artificial tree?

         An article in the Los Angeles Times Business section on November 27, 2009 stated that major chains such as Lowe's and Home Depot are cutting back inventory on artificial trees this year as buyers in these difficult economic times trend toward lower cost options in everything they are buying.  The stores are expecting that consumers will bypass the long-term cost benefit of a reusable fake tree in favor of a lesser priced real tree.

         The traditionalist will certainly opt in favor of the real tree.  The smell of the pine is refreshing and Christmasy. The look and feel of a real tree harkens back to old-fashioned Christmas values. Many celebrants will even go so far as to go to a Christmas tree farm to buy and cut down their own tree.  Indeed some may even go out into the countryside and cut down a tree that they don't have to pay for, a move that is ill-advised unless you are doing this on land that is your own.

       Buying a real tree supports farmers here in our own country which is a boost to the U.S. economy. Christmas tree farming in the Los Angeles area is often done under high tension power lines which is land that is deemed undesirable for many other purposes, therefore this farming uses land areas that might otherwise have been wasted. The real trees are recyclable.

        On the downside, a real tree can be messy as it sheds its needles over your floors and carpets. It requires watering to prevent it from drying out too quickly.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration there are an average of 200 fires yearly caused by Christmas tree fires, which is not a high number, still the threat can be very real if a tree is not well maintained. If the trees aren't recycled properly they can be problematic to a community's waste disposal program.  Also there is the problem with pesticides and chemicals used in growing the trees.

       There is a real tree alternative of using a live tree to be replanted after the holiday.  This may work fine in areas where there is room to plant the trees, but is not very practical in many urban areas or for people in large complex dwellings.  The live tree must be carefully maintained so that it does not die.

      Cost-wise, depending on the type and size of the tree, one may be looking at an average of $25 to $150 for a real live or cut tree.  Keep in mind that is how much one would be paying on a yearly basis.  Compare that to an articial tree which may average between $40 to $250 but with a lifespan of 5 or more years.

     The tree that my wife and I have is at least 12 years old and probably actually 15 to 20 years old.  It's been so long since we purchased it that I can't remember the cost, but I believe we got it at K-Mart for about $80.  So far that means we've paid $7 or less per year and it gets virtually no wear and tear so that it will probably last another 10 to 20 years.  This tree has been highly cost-effective for us.

        The fake tree we have looks pretty real.  Spray a can of pine scented air freshener or keep some pine potpourri and you get basically the same effect as having a real tree in the house. One has to check the tree pretty closely to realize that it's fake.  Some of the higher end trees look almost indistinguishable from the real ones.  When Christmas is done, you pack it up and don't have to worry about disposal.

      However if you do have to dispose of it then it's more problematic. The fake trees do not break down in the landfill.  They may contain lead, PVCs, carcinogens, and other hazardous materials. They are often made in China in factories with substandard working conditions, but a lot of what we have is made in China and who do we blame for that?

      For ease and economy I lean toward the artificial tree.  It'll probably be years before I would ever throw ours away and it works fine in our house.  We have saved a bundle of money over the years.

       What do you think--real or fake?   Or do you have an alternative that you opt for?  Or maybe you think Christmas trees are absurd and don't even have one?  Let's have your opinion.


  1. When I was young, I was staunchly pro-real. In fact, only my Pa argued for a fake tree every year - and he lost the argument "traditionally." There's just no substitute for that Douglas Fir Tree (not Pine) scent that a real Christmas tree brings into the house.

    However, a few years after my Pa passed away, my going out alone every year to find a tree, bundle it up, and tote it home got to be a drag. I finally gave in and got a fake one (made in Mexico). I could almost hear my Pa turning over in his grave and shouting, "Oh, so NOW it's a different story, eh?!" (I say "almost" only because he ain't got no grave. His ashes were mixed into The Winner's Circle at 'Turf Paradise' horse racing track here in Phoenix.)

    I think one way to answer the "Real Or Fake?" question may be to first ask a different, preliminary question: "HOW OLD AM I?" For a lot of folks, this might determine whether or not the individual has enough energy and tolerance for hassle to go "Real."

    I'll confess, I still have a slightly guilty conscience about this phony tree (and I sure do miss the wonderful Fir scent at Christmastime), but the conscience is not so guilty that I can foresee myself driving to a Christmas tree lot again anytime soon.

    Well, I'd better run - still haven't put this fake tree up yet. Hmmm... Maybe I'll just skip the whole tree thing altogether this year.

    ~ Stephen, the pooped Doggtor Christmasboy

  2. Stephen-
    Maybe that's how it is with me -- I'm at the age of soft convenience. It's a hassle to get the real tree, tie in on my vehicle, take it home and battle with pine needles sticking me in the eye while I set it up.

    Don't worry about the scent-- I'm sure you can go over to Fry's or Basha's or whatever store close to you and get some of those industrial strength scented pine cones. They smell pretty good.

    And actually we're not putting our fake tree up this year. Didn't do it last year either. Now we'll really make it last a long time. Pass it down to one of our kids to use for when they get old.

    Merry Christmas and a Tip-toe thru the tulips to you,

  3. We've been using fake for a long time now, Saves killing a live tree and we don't have to worry about the real tree getting too dry and etc. We also have some pine scent that smells like a real tree, but in my case, I no longer can smell it anyway. LOL First year we lived here we got a live tree so we could plant it later, It is still in our backyard, drops pine cones like crazy, but it's been way too tall for anyone to decorate it any longer. When kids were small we use to string popcorn and cranberries for the birds to eat.

  4. I love having a real one. Fake doesn't feel the same to me. :-)

  5. Arlee,
    I haven't read your post (yet) as my carpets are being cleaned tomorrow and I'm in a mad frenzy moving things....

    So cool...we are 60th followers for each. Thanks for pointing it out. I wouldn't have made it to your blog until much later this evening and I might have missed the momment. :)

    Thanks for checking me out!

  6. We have a fake one for practical purposes. Still miss the real one - especially the smell. Hmmm, nothing better :)

  7. I don't know why your blog is still showing 59. I show that I'm a follower. :)

  8. I have a fake tree, mostly for convenience. Living alone one tends to go for the easy. I love the real tree though, except at clean up time when I have to sweep up the needles, and still find them throughout the year!

  9. I'm very surprised -- looks like the fake trees are winning, but we all love the real thing.

    Sharon-- Maybe your "follower" add-on got lost in Blogspace somewhere and will show up later. I just loved the serendipity of us both being #60 on each other blogs.


  10. We really don't get a choice here in Australia. It is too hot for a real tree to survive (unles it was planted in your backyard! But then it wouldn't be apine tree, it would be a gum tree of some sort or a native bottle brush or something. Not a pine. A palm maybe. Especially in Queensland. But no, still not a pine. So we go fake. At least fake does not wilt in the heat.

  11. We always went with a real tree until retiring in Florida. Since moving here, we have a fake Christmas palm tree. I love it. We decorate with ornaments that we have collected from the many places we lived and visited so it becomes a 'good memories' tree.

  12. When our children were little we would travel to a tree farm and hunt and cut down a tree. That was fun.

    But, I opt for an artifical tree. I've had both. To me it's not the tree, it's how I feel about the tree. No, I'm not into tree hugging. It just sounds like it.

  13. I love the real one for the same reasons as you. Each year, the tree has a differnet personality. But they are getting expensive.

    Last year we did not do a tree at all. Just decorated the house. Even though I came from a traditional (Lutheran) family, my own belief systems see christmas as something else anyways. I have always found it ironic that Christians participate in a Pagan rite (bringing a tree indoors) on one of Christianty's Holy days....but then...iChristmas was built around the soltice anyhow....

    This year, we have a fake tree.

    Also, I think how much someone decorates might be dependent on if children will visit too.

  14. I still have kids at home, so I think we'll be going with the real tree at least until they're out on their own. I do love the smell and the look, but the watering and the mess I could do without. My parents have a small potted "tree" that they decorate and use as a Christmas tree, but it's a potted plant the rest of the year. I'm not sure what kind it is, but it's a pine of some sort.

    Thanks for checking out my blog! I love yours - going to become a follower. Hopefully I won't get lost in blogspace like Sharon!


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