While out shopping with clients this past weekend I noticed a lot of people buying trees for the holidays. Although Christmas has admittedly snuck up on me this year, it’s officially December 1st and there’s no time like the present to get into the spirit.
When I was younger we always had a real tree. Whether we cut it down ourselves or went to our favourite local vendor, it was a tradition to find the perfect tree as a family. As someone with a preference for symmetry and an attention to detail, I would pride myself on finding the undisputable winner. Confession – I am slightly OCD when it comes to finding and, not surprisingly, decorating the perfect Christmas tree...
Once my brother and I left for University my parents took this task upon themselves and one year something changed. Frustrated with the maintenance and clean up of a real tree, they made an executive decision to invest in an “imposter”. It wasn’t inexpensive but it was surprisingly realistic.
Although initially not a fan of the fake tree based on principle alone, the symmetry, feel, distribution of lights and overall look was flawless. Given its ease of set up, I have to admit I’ve become an even bigger supporter over the years.
Here are a few things to consider if you are facing this debate at home as well as some tips for buying the perfect tree – whether real or artificial:
Cost – A realistic, high quality and not too perfect artificial tree is definitely an investment but, like most things, you get what you pay for. It’s also something you’ll have for at least 10-20 years. Quantity of branches and branch tips, the material used, the look of the center pole, whether the branches are hinged, the type of stand, how it’s set up and the general design of the foliage all help make an artificial tree look more realistic.
In terms of cost, artificial trees range in price from $100 to $1,000 dollars however several online providers have sales this week:
Depending on its size, variety and place of origin, a real tree can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 dollars annually. If you’re willing to cut it down yourself you’ll get the added experience for around $40 to $70 dollars.
Clean Up – If there’s a downside to a real tree it’s definitely keeping it healthy and alive until the New Year. Living in a condo makes this especially difficult given how dry they can be. Every time I buy a real tree I end up regretting it slightly in July when I’m still finding needles in odd places. The benefit of an artificial tree is that there’s no watering, it’s less of a fire hazard and very few, if any, needles are lost in the process of setting it up and taking it down.
Time – Finding, setting up and decorating your tree is a relatively long process every year whether it’s artificial or real and especially if you’re cutting it down yourself. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy the process thoroughly by bonding with friends and family, making decorations with the kids, sharing hot chocolate, perhaps some mulled wine etc., but time is money near the holidays, so be sure to factor this into your decision making process.
Storage – Many artificial trees take up a lot of room. The handy “instant evergreen” flip trees are especially large and bulky in terms of storage but a fair trade off given their quick and easy set up. Anyone living in a condo knows storage space is especially limited. The same often goes for most homeowners in the GTA so be sure and consider storage of your tree all year round as well as it’s stand and your decorations when deciding on a real versus artificial tree.
Sustainability – Is a real or fake tree more sustainable? Given the importance of being environmentally conscious I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this ongoing debate. According to the North American Christmas Tree Association a recent Life Cycle analysis determined that neither type of tree has a significant impact on the environment. Personally, I’m always a fan of buying local whenever possible so be sure and consider the origin of your tree to minimize its environmental footprint.
Whether you choose to celebrate this season with a real or fake tree the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference and what best suits your lifestyle. Happy Holiday prep to everyone and be sure to enjoy the process!