To Tree or Not To Tree…

Every year, I’m faced with a dilemma. A kid inside when it comes to all things Christmas, I find my adult self more Scrooge-like when it comes to the mess associated with the focal point of decorations: the Christmas tree. The question that comes up every December: do we pull up the artificial tree from the basement or get a real one?


We’ve had both kinds. The first artificial tree we had years ago was, well, ugly. So ugly, in fact, it suffered an unfortunate accident. Strangely enough, it jumped behind my husband’s car. After a loud crash from the garage, my husband came in to report that he ‘accidentally’ ran it over and we needed to get a real one.

I haven’t been a fan of real trees for awhile. There’s the trail of needles leading from the door to the tree. Branches aren’t always strong enough for heavy ornaments. Cats want to climb it and dogs…you know. There’s the fire hazard and chance of a beloved ornament stuck in the branches when you throw it out.

Our last real tree left me scarred. We picked out what looked like a fine tree at a reputable store. It’s first strike was the sap left on my carpet. But it smelled amazing!  I watered it faithfully. However, soon it was no longer ‘Holiday Green’, but more of a sickly yellow.  We could hear the ‘ping’ of dried needles floating down past ornaments, as it shed. Christmas Day, it was dead. Afraid to turn on the lights, we held our breath as we walked past, lest the droopy branches drop the ornaments.  It was the year of a blizzard, with snow piled high and deep.  After removing the decorations, my husband put the tree on the front porch, promising he would move it out back to the woods as soon as the snow stopped.  The tree froze, and stayed there until almost Easter.

Artificial trees aren’t without issue, either. There’s the assembly, and the fluffing of the branches since they’re so rumpled after storage for a year.  Pre-lit trees are great, until a bulb goes out and the whole tree goes dark. Once decorated, the tree looks the same, year after year. In Christmas photos, we change each year, but our tree doesn’t.  I could just recycle the tree photo…no one would know.

My childhood memories of fresh trees are wonderful. We’d pick our tree out in the country and by Christmas it would be perfect. I want my daughter to have that same memory. She’s been asking for a real one for awhile. Now that we are devoted to going green and organic, it’s important that a real tree is biodegradable, while a fake one is just that: fake, and going to take forever to decompose. We decided this is the year we’d cut our own tree from our neighbor’s tree farm down the road.

Off we went to get our tree on a beautiful, sunny day. The farm behind us is breathtaking with it’s postcard-worthy scenery. After walking a bit, there was our ideal specimen.

My husband cut the bottom while my daughter and I looked on. I wished for a video camera when the tree fell in a direction we didn’t expect and landed on my daughter. (She was fine). Not exactly a Norman Rockwell moment, but very funny.

We brought the tree back and onto the car, and shared a hot cider with the farmer.  It was the perfect memorable family moment I wanted to create. My daughter was beaming.

Getting the tree inside was not the horrible chore I remembered. It was great fun decorating our beauty.  The next morning, it looked like it was leaning some.  By afternoon, it resembled the Tower of Pisa.  That evening, it crashed!  With my husband at work, I realized we needed backup.  I called a dear neighbor, who put her husband’s dinner on a warming tray, sending him right over.  What we thought would take a minute, took two hours.  I began thinking the tree was a mistake.  Needles and ornaments went everywhere!  We couldn’t get it to balance.  In the midst of holding it up, I smelled smoke from the kitchen.  Dinner was burning!  Running to the stove, I stepped in my dog’s bowl she had placed in the middle of the floor (a reminder to feed her), and slid, airborne, hitting the tile.  Nothing broke, but it wasn’t much fun.  I felt like the Three Stooges rolled up into one!

After much drama, the tree was upright.  We fixed the ornaments, hit the lights, and stood in awe of our beautiful, fresh tree.  It was then that I knew it was not a mistake, but a new, annual family tradition.

  1. TJ says:

    Not to laugh "at" your misfortunes, but many parts of this blog were funny enough to read out loud to my family!  Only because of the painful ability to relate…

    Re-using an old (as in "we already own it") artificial tree is still green, right? The "reuse" part of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? We went through this very same agonizing decision and decided to go with the artificial this year… our kids are 3 and 4 and drying live trees are a horrific example of piles of needles by Christmas day. We live in Montana but the weather precluded our being able to go cut our own tree in the wilderness this year. BUT… it’s not the tree, it’s the LOVE right???

    *sigh* I miss the smell…

    The last artificial tree I bought was back when my daughter was a baby, her first Christmas.  Back then, I couldn’t imagine a real tree with my new baby, four dogs, three cats, and a reptile!  In the end, we all have to do what’s best for our families at the time.  I missed the smell of the real tree, too, so I would purchase a "real" wreath for the door.  Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed my post!


  2. Melanie says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, mishaps included!  Sometimes we get so caught up in making the perfect memory that we don’t realize the funny parts are just as good if not better than the ‘Norman Rockwell’ moments of our lives.

    My trees are often tied up to the wall or ceiling to stay straight with the weight of 4 cats in them at any time! LOL!  All ornaments are unbreakable types.  Breakable ornaments go on stands around the house in protected shelves!

  3. Peggy says:

    I once wondered about real vs. artifical, but probably only once! We wouldn’t have one if it wasn’t real. I think the deal is you have a tree for 1 of 2 reasons — it’s either about the ornaments or about the tree. For us, it’s the tree first, then the ornaments. Neither way is wrong!

    There’s tree preservative you know. I wouldn’t go without it. Some years I make it, some years I buy it, depending on time.

    Thanks, fun post!

  4. Cindy says:

    Congratulations on cutting your Christmas tree with you daughter. We always cut our trees when the kids were still at home and those are memories that will last a lifetime.

    Thanks so much, Cindy!  Picking and cutting our first tree together has definitely made this Christmas special. 


  5. Janice K. says:

    Just an idea!  Whenever I put up a real tree for Christmas, I purchase TREE BAGS. They are large plastic bags that you place under the tree stand when you bring the tree into the house. Then, you pull the bag down around the stand and cover it with your Christmas tree skirt.  After the holidays, you simply take off the ornaments and pull up the bag for an easier removal.  Once outside, I remove the tree stand.
    Hey! I just thought of something! You could use a couple of old sheets to make your own ‘bag’ and bypass the plastic bag.
    Good luck!



    That’s a great idea.  Thanks for sharing, and Happy Holidays! 


  6. Shery Jespersen says:

    Hi Nicole, I vote real, however, there are a handful of valid points made that favor "faux". Allergies are also on the list.

    I had a faux tree for about 5 years. I never bonded with it. The difference between real and not real is the same as a bouquet of synthetic flowers and a bouquet of REAL wildflowers. The comparison isn’t even a fair comparison. I have the opportunity to make an easy trip to the country to cut a tree, but not everyone has that option. When that is the case and you have to buy a real one, there is a reason why they dry up so fast … they’re often cut in October. Mine never dries up because it is so fresh and they will STAY fresh and supple all through the Christmas season if they’re harvested in December and watered properly. Water conditioning additives for florals help too.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely tree. The faux trees are so much prettier and realistic looking nowadays. My friend has a 6 foot faux spruce, complete with cones. Gorgeous. It was expensive, but it will last for years.

    I don’t use real evergreen boughs for decorating elsewhere in the house. One area to tidy up is enough. I get my evergreen fix from the tree. Happy HolYdays, Shery J

  7. Joy says:

    This is so funny. Our live tree fell over three years in a row! So now I take fishing wire and tie it to a stationary object.  Problem solved.  I am a live tree girl all the way.

  8. April says:

    Love it!!!  I never thought about our tree always looking the "same" with the artificial tree, but you are so right! We didn’t always have an artificial tree and I was quite adamant about NOT having one for years!  Then my inlaws gave us their "old" pre-lit tree for us to use. We decided to use it only when we would be out of town visiting my folks for the holidays and we have since never gone back to a real one! UGH! However, the lights are starting to go on the prelit tree and it’s starting to show it’s wear and tear…the kids are begging for a real tree and campaigning…maybe next year we’ll enjoy the fun of hunting down the perfect tree in the snow @ a tree farm! I’m dreaming of a "real" tree Christmas! 🙂

  9. Reba says:

    My vote is always go with what the child/children want. It may sound corny but Christmas is for kids. You can’t go wrong with making memories just by looking at their face/s. It’s worth it all. When they are small, they are amazed by the lights, artificial and green.

    We have done both, depending on the heat and where the tree is positioned. Great revelation for determining what type of tree, right?  No matter which one, the work is worth it in the long run!

    A Merry Christmas to all and a Blessed New Year!

  10. Bridget says:

    I always tell my family I would rather have a tree much like an unbrella fully decorated that you could pull out of the closet every year and then shove back in when finished. Unfortunately, my kids like to decorate a tree and they like the hunt. To be honest, I like the smell and look of a real tree eventhough I have allergies. We get a Charlie Brown tree every year. We pick one that is growing too close to another tree. It’s flat on one side, but who cares? That side goes toward the wall. Decorate it and it’s beautiful.

  11. Karen says:

    I must admit I have never cut a Christmas tree. I am an artificial tree person because I could put the tree up at Thanksgiving and enjoy it until Epiphany. A real tree would never survive that. Beside the "kids", at 22 and 25, don’t seem to care. Though if I ever live in the country and can put a stop to the constant rushing I would love a natural tree.

  12. Mary Ann says:

    I’m in the same boat as the previous comment, grown kids (25 & 28), and I put my tree up at Thanksgiving, just lit with fall leaves on it. But as soon as I get my first grandbaby, I can’t wait to make Christmas special again with a live tree. It may be a few years away, but I’m looking forward to it. Only problem, we have three dogs, oh well, I’m sure they’ll be many funny moments. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Jackie says:

    If you cut your own tree, and water it diligently, it will last from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany. One year, I noticed this light green color at the ends of the branches. Upon closer inspection,the green turned out to be new needles growing!! I called the farm we got it from, after asking all the relatives, the great uncle finally told us that this could happen but it won’t continue for long. I had no needles that year! Your tree is lovely Nicole, may you continue this wonderful tradition!

  14. Sheree Norman says:

    You are so real! Sometimes we get so wrapped up with trying to have things so perfect that we have a meltdown instead of enjoying life. I’m glad you can laugh and keep on going! After years in the desert with an artificial tree I am so looking forward to next Christmas on a small farm in the Midwest. We desperately need a windbreak along the property line & what better way to do it than to add a new live tree every year!

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