Aside from where to buy things or what to buy loved ones, the most hotly debated Christmas question these days revolves around the ultimate symbol of Christmas – the Tannenbaum – and whether it will be the sweet-smelling real deal or the cleaner artificial alternative.
All over the country, and in Charlestown as well, families bring in a Christmas tree to their home to celebrate the season. Some, however, prefer an artificial tree that is typically made of plastic, while others like having a real spruce tree at the center of the action. Meanwhile, a growing number would like to have a real tree, but are forced by life’s circumstances to opt for the convenience of an artificial tree.
An informal survey of a handful of Charlestown families showed that the preferences were about a 50-50 split, though many were torn in their decisions.
“My husband and I started out our marriage getting fresh trees for Christmas,” said Jennifer Roycroft. “We loved the smell and charm of having a real one for the holidays. We have since converted to artificial once we had children for a few key reasons. First, our children play on the floor a lot. Second, our daughter still put things in her mouth, like pine needles. Lastly, with kids, we don’t have time to water it and stay on top of the mess. Hopefully, one day we will get to get a real one again, but for now with young kids, artificial has been an easier option.”
Jeff Bischoff of the National Tree Company in New Jersey – the largest importer in the U.S. of artificial Christmas trees, most of which are made in China – said there are many reasons why consumers like Roycroft opt for his company’s products.
“There are a lot of good reasons we point to,” he said. “A real tree is something you can only buy once and then you have to throw it out. There are some environmental concerns there, and an artificial tree is something you buy once and it lasts for multiple years. Real trees are getting more and more expensive every year too, and the economics of an artificial tree make sense. Real trees also bring about a lot of maintenance such as watering, and can dry out and cause problems with pets and small children. Real trees can also pull an insect into the house, such as beetles.”
Other key reasons, he said, are health related and fire related.
“A lot of people these days have allergies and cannot have real trees in the house,” he added. “There are also a lot of government agencies and office buildings that want to display a tree, but cannot have a real tree in the building because of the risk of fire.”
Those reasonable reasons, however, often fail to break through to die-hard real tree advocates. For those folks, the idea of having something manufactured at the center of their celebration just won’t do.
“Personally I would never ever get a plastic or artificial tree,” said Dianna Cronin. “Unless you have some allergy to pine or something, I could not imagine having a fake tree, and yes you can tell the difference. As much of a pain the set up, maintenance and clean up of a real tree is, I would not want it any other way.”
Said Shery Keleher, “I prefer a real tree. What else smells so good? Besides, it’s always an adventure each year to actually get it standing straight.”
Other real tree advocates said supporting local farms and businesses keeps them pining for the real thing.
“Each year we drive to a tree farm and cut a fresh tree,” said Jenna Carroll. “We like to support the local farmers and our tree barely drops a needle before New Year’s. #Freshpine.”
Still others, despite the trouble and care of a real tree, feel the need to keep tradition going – even if somewhat reluctantly.
“We choose a fresh tree,” said Karen Ferguson. “Every morning we are faced with the task of watering, which usually involves getting poked in the face with a branch, brushing pine needles and sap out of your hair and clothes – all while getting jumped on by whatever kid is around and wanting to wrestle. But, the smell of a fresh cut tree at the end of the day makes it worth it – I think.”
An equal number of folks, however, don’t feel right about cutting down good trees just for the sake of displaying it for about a month in the house.
“We do an artificial tree because I hate to think of chopping down a live tree and then throwing it out,” said Jennifer Rossi, joining a chorus of other Charlestown folks who felt the same way.
All that debate aside, there are a growing number of folks who like the real trees, but like Roycroft, have chosen artificial for the time being because of their season in life.
“I personally love real trees, but with three small kids, my house is messy enough,” said Melissa Doherty. “It’s quicker and easier to use a pre-lit, fake tree, and we also like to put it up right after Thanksgiving – so longevity is an issue.”
No matter which kind of tree one prefers, the one jolly fellow that is so crucial to Christmas and to the purpose of Christmas trees – that person being Santa Claus – doesn’t seem to have a preference either way.
“Whether pine or plastic, large or small, or white, green or silver – I’ll not fail to leave gifts under any kind of tree for the good boys and girls of Charlestown,” said Santa earlier this month in a visit on the Enchanted Trolley at Thompson Square.