A Real Christmas Tree vs An Artificial Christmas Tree

If you celebrate Christmas, chances are good that you decorate a Christmas tree. Whatever other decorations, ornaments and other seasonal reminders with which you adorn your home, your Christmas tree is probably the focal point. You may decorate your tree on Christmas Eve, as one of my neighbours used to do, or you may set it up over Thanksgiving weekend, as my parents have done for as long as I can remember. Perhaps you like your tree enough that you have already set it up, as I do every year around the second week of November.

Whenever you decorate your tree, I bet a lot of you still go out to buy a real tree every year. You probably enjoy the tradition of going to a vacant lot or parking lot near your home, where the tree vendor has set up shop. You wander through rows of trees, perhaps wistfully remarking about a tiny tree that makes you think of Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. You enjoy the scent of pine and fir and the chill in the air. Finally you see the perfect tree. Perhaps you haggle a bit with the vendor. Perhaps you just claim the tree and pay for it before anyone else can take it from you. Perhaps this is how you have found a Christmas tree every year since you were old enough to walk.

I am all for holiday traditions, but for those of you who still rely on a “real” tree at Christmas, I just do not understand the appeal. In our busy lives, the effort to look for a tree, and then to get it home, and then to keep it hydrated after you have set it up, seems more like work than holiday revelry. More importantly, the annual cost of a new tree (unless you grow your own) can be significant.

My wife and I have been married for many years. The year before we were married, I went out and bought a good quality artificial Christmas tree. I think I spent about $300 on that tree, including the stand. We set the tree up together. Adorned with Christmas lights and ornaments, the tree was beautiful. It still is beautiful. We have been setting that tree up for many, many years and it has become a part of our holiday tradition that we would not want to lose. We may move to a smaller house some day, but wherever we go, the house will have to have room for our tree at Christmas.

Think about how much money you are spending on your Christmas trees year after year. You may spend $100 or $200 every year on a real tree. I have even seen trees for as much as $400 or $500, although I confess I always wonder who has a house large enough to contain trees that are 15 feet tall and who has front doors wide enough to allow such trees to enter the home.

I value tradition as much as anyone, but the cost of a new tree every year does seem rather excessive when realistic artificial trees, such as the tree that I bought so many years ago, are available. Before you go out to buy a real tree, think about starting a new family tradition and buy a good quality artificial tree.

What do you think? Can an artificial tree be as much a tradition as a real tree? Will you continue to buy real trees, despite the cost, year after year? Or might you, just might you, consider saving a bit of money for years to come, and go out this year to buy an artificial Christmas tree?

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31 Responses to A Real Christmas Tree vs An Artificial Christmas Tree

  1. Kristie says:

    I bought an artificial tree 12 years ago for about $100-$150 and it still goes up every year and looks the same as the first. We love it. I talked about replacing it with ones with lights already on it, but hubby likes our good ‘ol faithful tree since it was our first Christmas together when I got it.

  2. justme says:

    I would love a fake tree
    when I was a kid we had a metal tree that was tinfoil color 😉

    my Dh wants a real tree, and we will get a real tree this year we have a tree farm across the street from our house so 20 bucks and we cut the tree drag it home easy and cheap

    I hate bringing it in all the bugs and needles, but I do not say a word just deal with it someday I will have a fake tree 😉

  3. Rob says:

    I’m leaning towards an artificial tree more and more every year. But if I may offer a suggestion. Buy the artificial tree AFTER christmas and save it for the next year. Many stores have plenty of trees left over for up to 75% off in some cases..I think I just might do that myself this year.

  4. t says:

    I prefer the look of a real tree usually, but would rather have an artificial tree. Real trees upset my allergies and can be a mess to clean up.

  5. Traciatim says:

    An artificial tree is an abomination of petroleum products shipped half way around the world.

    Maybe we are spoiled, but I couldn’t fathom spending 100 bucks on a real tree, in fact usually 30 bucks is about what I spend.

    We had a good fake tree ($150, looked fine) when we lived in an apartment and the building banned real trees. As soon as we moved to a home the fake garbage was on Kijiji.

    Also keep in mind that trees absorb pollution from the air, and CO2, best while growing in their young years, and most trees are turned in to mulch after use. By using a real tree you are voting with your dollars that you want more trees planted and you like clean air. Buying a fake tree is stating you like chinese slave labour and want lots of oil based products poisening your home.

  6. princessperky says:

    Real trees are better for the environment, and $30 or $40 is about what we pay. A part of the cost of Christmas, just like the steak for dinner, sure a perfectly good source of protein could be had for much less, but steak and a real tree is what we want.

    Besides, take good care of the tree, and it is hardly any work.

  7. MollyJ says:

    I went vintage: a 6-foot aluminum tree from the 1950s, complete with color wheel, all from a yard sale and for less than $40.

  8. KC says:

    I bought an artificial tree at least 7 years ago for $4.00(that’s right) just after Christmas. It is large and in good quality. It has been great year after year. I can’t imagine paying more than 50 bucks for any tree, real or not.

    Is it really better for the environment if you buy a real tree? After all, you are releasing all of the carbon the tree was storing into the atmospere when a tree is cut down and a fake tree can be used year after year. It seems like one tree made with bad chemicals is better than cutting down dozens of trees.

  9. Brian says:

    I spend $15 a year on a real tree. I might even be able to spend less at some u-cut lots.

    I’d have to set up that fake tree of yours for 20 years to make up the cost.

    Personally, I like the smell of the real tree, and eagerly look forward to cutting a tree together when my son gets old enough.

  10. Cassandra says:

    I could never get a fake tree. To me, it just isn’t Christmas without a real tree! Near where I live you can buy a permit to cut down a tree yourself. The tree lasts much longer and it is much cheaper! Plus, it is a lot of fun going out and “hunting” for a tree.

  11. Diane says:

    It wouldn’t be Christmas at our house without a real tree! We’ve bought an 8ft Frasier Fir from the same local lot, owned by the same local woman every year since 1991 – the year my 2nd son was born. (Always bought real trees prior to that as well, but now that lot is a tradition…)

    Growing up my family ALWAYS had a real tree and I loved the fresh smell and glow of the lights. My mom is 73 and she still gets a real tree every year, as do both my sisters.

    If I didn’t have anything else for Christmas I’d have the tree – it’s more important to me than gifts – it is the center of our celebration.

    We put it up the weekend after Thanksgiving and take it down sometime after New Years (after January 6th is the tradition).

    We love the twinkling lights, years of collected ornaments and spend every possible evening sitting and enjoying our tree.

    I can’t even imagine setting up a fake tree, no matter how beautiful!

  12. Sue says:

    I will always go with a real tree because unlike with the fake trees the real trees are often grown within my own neighborhood, so I’m supporting local business when I buy a real tree.

  13. Sara says:

    I am agree with Diane,Christmas celebrations is incomplete without a real christmas tree.

  14. Back in the Late Cretaceous, when I was a young wife, houses had deep, thick shag rugs (please…don’t ever let those come back into fashion!). My husband wanted a real tree, something I’d never had because I grew up in the Middle East, where a) pine trees did not sprout next to the date palms and b) no one would think of killing a tree to drag it into the house. Anyway, when the tree’s needles would drop on the floor, they would lodge in the carpet, where they COULD NOT be swept up no matter how many times you vacuumed. It would be July before I stopped getting needles jabbed in my feet every time I walked into the living room barefoot.

    Finally I figured it out: Duh! Get a living tree! A small pine will live in a pot for several years. Often you can buy a Norfolk pine at the grocery store. More traditional-looking trees can be had at any Home Depot or real nursery. Dolly it into the house, decorate it, and then dolly it back outside when Christmas is over. When it gets too big for this routine, plant it in the ground.

    For a several years, too, we decorated a large, beautiful house plant: we called it The Christmas Jade Plant. Worked. Didn’t kill anything. Didn’t engage any petroleum manufacturers in making a plastic Xmas tree. Didn’t force us to buy into the Xmas Lunacy.

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  16. Ann says:

    Have to admit that I switched to an artificial tree when the type of real tree I always got became so expensive that the artifical one was paid for in two years!

    That being said, I will NOT get a pre-lighted tree made in China. I decided to get a smaller tree last year and thought pre-lighted was a neat idea and picked one up at Menard’s. When I set it up, there were dangerously bad connections everywhere! I marked them, took it back to Menard’s, told them and got a full refund.

    Be awfuly careful with any pre-lighted trees!

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  18. Pine says:

    Most artificial trees are manufactured in China and contain PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The plastic material, typically PVC, can be a potential source of hazardous lead. The potential for lead poisoning is great enough that fake trees made in China are required by California Prop 65 to have a warning label. the manufacture of PVC creates and disperses dioxins, which include the most toxic man-made chemical known. Released into air or water, dioxins enter the food chain, where they accumulate in fatty tissues of animals and humans, a potential risk for causing cancer, damaging immune functions and impairing children’s development. Buy a real tree and water it.

  19. sheila says:

    I have had a real tree all my life and now I have a home an a 2 kids and a husband. I hate fake tree’s. I only spend 8 $ and i would have to but up a ugly fake tree over 30 years before i would have paid 4 it. The smell is great and fun to pick out.

  20. Art says:

    I don’t know where you guys are from that buy real trees for $20. The only trees you can buy for that amount are 4 foot trees w/o any needles.

    As far as saving the environment, I don’t see how cutting down a tree year after year is better for the environment when you can use a artificial tree for 10 years +.

    And what’s the deal of going out into the woods (read tree farm), searching around for the “right tree” cutting it down, tying it on top of your SUV, putting it up, watering it, spray it w/ some sort of fire retardant, and vacuuming up needles for 3-4 weeks? Sounds like more of a hassle than tradition to me.

    I see an artificial tree as an investment, a couple hundred bucks now and we’re done for at least 10 years (that’s $20 per year). As far as the smell, I use one of those tree shaped car fresheners.

  21. justme says:

    I am in Oregon, people plant the trees just for this purpose they are cheap and planted on mom and pop farms all over the state

  22. Cynthia says:

    The local Starbucks in my are was giving them out for free.
    I got one yesterday.
    So yeah 🙂
    I’m fine.

  23. Pepper says:

    After spending my life hunting for a tree each christmas (on family land or land of friends, so…free tree), and swearing I’d never have a fake tree, when my new family moved into our first house, I bought a fake tree. Why? 2 words, printed right there on the box:


    Every New Year’s Eve my Dad would give us our fire-safety lesson/new year’s celebration. We would take the dried out tree into the back yard (always a cedar), he would hold it up in one hand, stick a match to it, and we’d all watch it explode in flame in about 3 seconds. Great fun when you’re 10. But when you’re 27 with a newborn, it makes you think. So I sacrifice my personal preferences on the alter of family safety.

  24. Jen says:

    If I didn’t live in an area where real Christmas trees are plentiful in all varieties (Portland, OR, area), perhaps I would be more inclined to go with an artificial tree. As it is, I would rather go without than go artificial.

  25. Cindy M says:

    Wow. I must be on the wrong forum, I’m truly into recycle and reuse these days. Anyway, you guys make me glad I don’t have to obsess anymore about xmass or impressing the kiddies. Tree worship, totally pagan in origin (I’m a saved bible believer, by the way, but yes, xmass and most of the customs are totally pagan). Having said that, I do love my evergreens but would only buy one I could plant out in my yard. I also seeing love lights on a tree, so I’d string some tiny lights on an outside tree if that’s what I was into. But I’m not, ha-ha.

  26. David G. Mitchell says:

    I found an interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel about the high cost of Christmas trees. Note that even real Christmas trees require the use of petroleum products (as in petroleum based fertilers, sold by the ton!!). Here is a link to the article for those of you who are interested.


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  28. Vic says:

    Yes, artificial Christmas trees are in virtually every mall display, but I think that they are becoming more and more popular for the private home. There is no getting around the initial sticker-shock on the price tag for some of these trees, but it probably better to think about them as an investment for several years. Be sure to think about storage options when you shop around and whether to get a pre-lit tree or not. Just some things to think about. Thanks for the post.

  29. kristy says:

    well, I think your a cheap son of a bitch and your whacked to ! I’m a woman, and it takes no time for me to buy a real tree. It costs between 35-00 and 80.00 for a decent one. I bring it home, set it up within one hour and water it once a day. It’s gorgeous and smells wonderful. How hard is that? You are weird………

  30. go green says:

    i completely disagree with you. You are willing to cut down a new tree every year, that may or may not be replaced. Yes trees take in CO2, which is why we should leave them in the ground to do their job. I highly doubt a new tree is planted for every real christmas tree that is sold. And as for fake trees, not all of them are made in China. I’m sure you can find a really nice fake tree made in the US for a decent price, just as I did 4 years ago. I still have that tree too.

  31. EcoMom says:

    If you buy from a tree farm they are replanted. It is worth buying a real tree. We need to not just hack it down but teach our children the value of the tree and why we adorn it and pay some respect to it during our holiday celebration. If we quit buying the artificial tree more tree farms will sprout up. It is supply and demand. Our culture is so far removed from nature it is sad.
    Artificial trees are fine if you already have one and that is all you can afford. Before you buy one from Goodwill or a place like that you will want to make sure it does not contain lead if you have children or pets.
    If you want a real one please go and buy it at a local tree farm. Do not hack one down from the side of the road. And if you wish maybe even find a place where you can plant one come spring. It starts with you.

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