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The Christmas Tree Debate – Real vs Artificial

Christmas tree in snowy night

The Christmas holiday season is here again and the time has come to put up a Christmas tree.  One question that is raised each year is whether to get a real Christmas tree or use an artificial version. The ultimate goal is to have a beautiful Christmas tree for everyone to enjoy, but deciding which type to use usually comes down to personal preference. It is an important decision that has to be made, yet it can be a difficult one.  It is debatable on whether a real or artificial tree makes the best Christmas tree; there are pros and cons of each type.  Let’s look at the positives and negatives of each type and then you can make an informative decision.

Artificial Christmas trees have been around for many years and are now more common than ever.  The major advantage of using a fake tree is convenience.  It can be used year after year, doesn’t create much of a mess, and doesn’t have to be watered and maintained.  Many of the newer artificial trees look very realistic, now come with built in lights, come in array of seasonal colors, and are partly decorated.  Once the holiday season is over, you can just pack it up and store it until next year.

One disadvantage of artificial Christmas trees is that they can be sort of expensive, although in the long run they do pay for themselves.  The biggest flaw of artificial trees is they are indeed fake – some are cheap, look pathetic, and are an embarrassment.  Artificial trees do not have the same effect as real trees in regards to natural fragrance and appearance.  Most are made of plastic and metals with many not even coming close to looking like real trees.  A pole with green arms sticking out just doesn’t quite work, nor does it put you in the holiday spirit.  Another negative is that one also has to have the space to store it year after year.

Selecting a real living tree for a Christmas tree has been a tradition for centuries. They are many positives of using a real one.  First, the beauty of a real Christmas tree is simply spectacular. There are many species to choose from, they offer a natural pleasing fragrance, and they come in a variety of textures, sizes, and shapes.  There is something that can be said about the experience of going to the tree farm or nursery and picking out your very own Christmas tree.  It can be made into a special family event.  Real trees are also biodegradable and can be recycled into mulch or as a fish reef after the holidays.

Real Christmas trees do, however, have some negatives.  Purchasing a good looking, better quality tree will cost you several dollars.  They aren’t cheap unless you want a cheap looking tree. The cost you put into a real tree or two can sometimes be about the same cost of an artificial one. Another disadvantage is they have to be watered regularly to keep them looking good and to prevent them from drying out.  They can potentially become a fire hazard if they dry out and are near a heat source.  Clean-up can also be a big mess.  When the time arrives to take down the Christmas tree, the tree will likely be drier and will have started dropping lots of needles. There is also the problem of all the real trees not being recycled.  Instead, they wind up out with the garbage and in the landfills.

Whether you choose to have an artificial Christmas tree or a real Christmas tree, may it bring you joy and beauty this holiday season.

by Shane Harris, Tallapoosa County Extension Coordinator