December 13, 2010

Christmas Trees, Real & Imaginary


Some people get their panties in a wad if the tree twinkling in the corner isn’t a Spruce, Fir or Pine. I truly don’t believe a “live” or “cut-down” Christmas tree is any better than an artificial one (gasp! horror!) Now while those of you who think I’ve committed a cardinal sin collect themselves, let me explain. What is special to one person might not mean anything to another. Maybe you insist on having a living (notice I won’t say “real” because my tree is real too, even if it isn’t alive) tree because you love to go chop it down or pick it out from a tree farm each year. Maybe you love the smell or the idea of bringing something alive into your home for a few weeks. I’m sure if my family had always adhered to the tradition of a live tree, I would feel as strongly.


I was 13 when we got our beloved Christmas tree. My family had just moved into a new house and since we had a little bit more room, we decided to get a new, bigger tree. We all piled in the mini-van and went to Lowe’s to pick it out. I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one. Six and a half feet, full and bushy, the perfect shade of green… it was a glorious specimen to my 13 year old self. It also cost $100…a huge amount to us, especially for something to be used only once a year. I must have made a convincing case because it came home with us that night.

That first Christmas with the tree and almost every one after that has included the same routine: My dad and I get it down from the attic and proceed to assemble its many parts…each tier of branches color coded to match a set of holes on the trunk. We try to identify the color of paint on each branch, even though they have chipped and faded over the years. My mom flits around rearranging things and hanging ornaments while my brother humors us by sitting in the same room for the required yuletide minimum. This is our tradition. It doesn’t involve driving out to a snowy farm and using an axe or saw, but its our tradition just the same and it means the world to me.

Another part of my tree trimming traditions included putting up a tree for my great grandparents. I’m not sure how this got started, but each year I would go to their house and my grandpa and I would decorate their tree while my grandma flitted (it’s genetic) around the kitchen cooking us a delicious lunch to eat when we were done. In the earlier years they always had a living tree. It was a Spruce that would tear your hands to shreds while the huge lights they used burned like crazy. I convinced them to switch to a non-living tree after awhile and when those gigantic lights finally burned out, we replaced them with small ones. But every one of those times is an equally priceless memory to me….whether the tree was alive or not. I know you “live tree” lovers out there don’t mean to, but when you look down your noses at us “non-living tree” folks, it’s kind of like you are saying our memories and traditions aren’t as special as yours.

This is a highly debated topic. There are die-hard fans of living or cut trees who will never go artificial. Maybe your family is one of these. Maybe you have a special “store-bought” tree like ours that you love to use every year. Or maybe you don’t put up a tree and instead string lights everywhere and have a gorgeous wreath. No matter what you do for your Christmas traditions, treasure the ones you make the traditions with. Cling to your traditions, relish them each year, but be willing to let them evolve and change every now and then.

Now, I’m just dying to know….what kind of tree do you have? And one more thing….I haven’t even begun to share my love of Christmas trees that are silver! More on that to come.


  1. Growing up, we always had a real tree. When our boys were little, we had a real tree: there was a tree farm not far from our house, and we would go there. Until the year our Christmas tree stayed out on the deck until March. Then I decided it was time to go artificial!

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  3. I love your "To each his own" mentality. That said, I LOVE these non-traditional trees I found via dwellinggarwker... Aren't they awesome!?!

  4. Growing up, we always had a live tree, and my sister and I always swore we'd never go artificial. Now we both have artificial trees, and are both very happy with them! My husband's family had live trees until they realized that two of four family members were allergic to the live trees. Maybe one day my husband and I will have a live tree, but for now, it's easier and just as pretty to have an artificial tree. I agree, trees (along with so many other aspects of this season) are all about the tradition--not necessarily the specific details that make one tradition "better" than another!

  5. Artificial is all I have known. My mother was as against pine needles in her capret as she was boxed cake mix.

    Mine is even of the pre-lit variety. Less work the better!

  6. @pookie pantry....I love the "trees" in that link you shared! Believe it or not, I was actually trying to locate a cool coat rack that I could spray paint and use in place of a tree. that she was anti-boxed cake mix!

  7. I think it is all about the memories you have around trimming whatever kind of tree you're used to having! I grew up doing both, and these days, it's all about what time + money dictates.

    I read that Dollywood closed today - must be a real blizzard down there - hee!

  8. we're the kind of family who MUST get a frazier fir. although it doesn't matter if it is cut down or comes from a bunch of boyscouts!
    we always decorate as a family (i love your brothers yuletide minimum)! we all get very into it, though. and not that it's a tradition, but every year that i can remember someone has always broken an ornament. i'd rather that "tradition" stopped, though!

  9. Growing up it was an artificial tree. Then after I got married we bought a real tree. That went on for years. Now we are back to artificial. Easier to take care of with kids/pets/farm work.

  10. We've always had artificial trees. For our family, it was a big tradition to get it down out of the rafters in the barn and set it up each year. When I got married, Chris and I bought an artificial tree that was pre-lit, and I loved it! Now that we're in New Zealand, we still haven't bought a tree... maybe next year :-)

  11. Sigh, we have an artificial one, the one my mom and dad had until they went smaller. One year Mom broke out during Christmas, and we deduced it was an allergy to the tree. I so miss the smell of pine, but it is easier to maintain. I just saw a post on FB by one of my dear friends who had to throw her real tree out this weekend because it was losing its needles in alarming quantities. That is a down side to the real ones/live ones. Wish a candle company could come up with the EXACT smell of a real live pine tree!

  12. I grew up with a fresh tree and once I married, the tradition continued. We tag and cut our trees from local farms every year. It really is a special time. However, it's getting very expensive and the task is more of a chore than delight so we have agreed that next year we are going to look into buying a nice artificial tree.


  13. We had both growing up. But when I was a freshman in college we went to an artificial tree because the real ones were getting to my fathers allergies to bad. There are marks on the ceiling from one that was to tall when we put it up. That is saying a lot as my parents have 12 or 14 ft ceilings on the 1st floor.

  14. REAL!! But you already knew that. : )

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