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The Christmas Tree Dilemma – Real or Fake?

The Christmas Tree Dilemma – Real or Fake?

It is the time of the year when we have to make a big holiday decision — what type of Christmas tree will you put up? I realize not everyone decorates with a tree, but for those who do, this one is for you.

Living in the Pine Tree State (Maine), I grew up with a real tree. My parents would put it up the day before Christmas and take it down on January 6th. Way back, that was the holiday season. If a real tree is up for only 2 weeks, it doesn’t dry out and the chance of it being a fire hazard is lessened.

For some folks in Maine, the family tradition is to not only have a real tree, but to head into the woods on their property (or on a tree farm) and cut the perfect one down and bring it home. So the act of getting the real tree is as important as having it in the living room.

In the 60s,  70s, and 80s, artificial trees looked, well, fake. They were skinny, had big gaps between limbs, and they smelled like plastic. But in the last 15 years, artificial trees have come a long way and look more like the real thing.

In fact, a 2013 Nielsen survey found that 79% of American homes display holiday trees and of those, 20% are real, and 80% rely on the artificial tree to make their season bright. The tree goes up right after Thanksgiving Day and it comes down 4 – 6 weeks later.

Here are some pros and cons of having a real tree vs. an artificial one:

Real Trees


  • Real trees are actually grown on farms, so you’re supporting a local farmer.
  • Before harvest, the conifers serve as habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife.
  • One acre of a real tree farm produces enough oxygen for 18 people a day.
  • At the end of the season, unsold cut trees are composted and recycled for mulch or used as soil erosion barriers.
  • Nothing beats the smell of a real tree to get you in the holiday spirit.


  • They are usually grown with pesticides.
  • If not properly watered, they are a fire hazard.
  • They leave a blanket of needles that have to be vacuumed up.

Artificial Trees


  • Artificial trees are reusable, year after year.
  • No messy needles.
  • Modern artificial trees look real.


  • They don’t smell amazing like real, fresh trees do.
  • They’re made of PVC, a toxic chemical.
  • They never biodegrade so they’ll always be an environmental burden once they end up in a landfill.

If you decorate with a tree for the holidays, what kind of tree do you have in your home, real or fake? And when does it go up, and when do you take it down? Share your stories here!

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  • Lorraine Measor says:

    I have had a real tree for 45 yrs. .Hubby and I cut it down ourselves and drag it out of the bush! My sister and I did the same thing with our parents…cut it down and drag it out! Nothing like the fresh smell of a real balsam in the house!

  • Char says:

    I grew up in FL, so no real tree. The first time I saw a Christmas tree farm in TN I was simply in awe. (I mean, where did I think real trees on lots came from?) So I’ve had artificial trees most of my life for the practicality (in FL) and the ease of use elsewhere. The first time I had a real tree was in Louisiana, we went to a tree farm and picked one out and they cut it down for us – that was such an awesome thing to do for me, I’ll never forget the experience. But I find I like the fake trees because you can bend and mold the branches to suit your ornaments. Real trees seem to sag with the weight of ornaments. I bought some Scentsicles at Walmart last year that say they are ‘White Winter Fir’ and they smell amazing. You hang them on the fake tree and you can’t even see them, they blend in, but the area around the tree smells real. So I get the best of both without the fuss of watering it, and cleaning up needles and worrying about a fire.

  • Janet Lyons says:

    We do real trees. I grew up cutting trees every year and have carried on the tradition with my daughter. She picks the tree and I cut it down. Usually Thanksgiving weekend and comes down the day after Christmas. Now that she is in college it is harder to carry on the tradition but we are trying.

  • Sandi H. says:

    Since I am allergic to real trees, no brainer. When I last tried to decorate a real tree, everywhere it touched left a red swollen spot on my skin. I miss the smell of a real tree but not Benadryl for Christmas.

  • Micheal Nicholson says:

    The ornaments I have chosen to collect (mostly Hallmark) are too heavy for a real tree. Fake trees are sturdier. They do shed almost as bad as a real tree when they are new, but save a small fortune every year in replacement costs.

  • Diana Owens says:

    Fake since 1984. That is the year my 12 yr old daughter and her 3 sisters took down my real tree the day after Christmas.
    They learned fire safety in school, and became paranoid.
    I miss the real trees. Loved the Balsam trees and the fragrance.

  • Tony dodd says:

    Real tree with a 14 day limit in the house keep watered with just a touch of suger in the water

  • patty lewis says:

    I have two silver trees one from the 1950 and one from 2010 it goes up the week of Xmas and comes down after January first this year later because of money bhaiut it will go up happy holidays everyone

  • Renee Sandstedt says:

    Real. Family tradition. I grew up cutting tree down. Raised my girls the same way. Now my daughter is carrying on tradition in her family. We go the first weekend in December.

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