There are two camps in the Christmas tree world. Real vs. fake. Let's explore:
Real trees smell amazing! Except when they get sprayed with something that smells like cat pee and when you bring it home, your whole house smells like that for the entire Christmas season. That happened to us once and it was most unpleasant. However, most of the time real trees smell fresh and clean and emit the signature scent of Christmas.
Real trees are unique. Every one is different and many hours are spent searching for just the right one - full enough, tall enough, evenly spaced enough. And everyone has their own opinion. Hence, my parents' annual "Christmas Tree Fight." Procuring the tree was not a family affair. Rather, it was something my parents did together and they always ended up in a big fight over it. We (mostly) had beautiful trees and my mom pretty much always won the fight. Which was good except for the years when winning the fight meant an 8-foot-tall flocked tree with only blue lights on it. She must have been going for the cold and dreary look that year.
And let's just talk about flocking for a minute, shall we? Who decided that spraying a lovely, live Christmas tree with fake polyurethane "snow" somehow evoked more emotion from the Christmas season? Trees that have snow on them belong outside - you can't bring that shit indoors! For the love of everything, don't try to replicate it. Flocking is an abomination.
Real trees are expensive. You get what you pay for. One year we went to a lot where every tree was $20. We picked a smallish one because we had a toddler that year and planned to put the tree up on the coffee table for display. We brought it home, set it up, and decorated it. The next morning, the tree was dead. D.E.A.D. Brown and dry and crumbling. We undecorated it, took it back to the tree lot, and they invited us to pick any tree on the lot as compensation. We brought one home that barely cleared the ceiling. We won the lottery on that tree, but other years, we paid nearly $100 for a measly, lopsided tree.
Real trees are a lot of work. If you choose to cut one yourself, you have travel to the tree lot or the woods, argue with family members over which tree is just right, listen to the kids complain how cold/tired/hungry they are, pay for the tree, six hot cocoas, six new ornaments from the gift shop, and sit on Santa's lap for a picture, then haul it home. If you buy from a commercial lot, you have to wander through rows and rows of trees and then cart it home on the roof in a mesh bag, which doesn't do much good when you accidentally drive into the garage with the tree still on top of the car! This happened once to a...ahem...FRIEND of mine.
Real trees require daily watering. I know this because once, after Christmas, I decided I was done watering the tree but I wanted to leave it up until my parents visited in early January. However, trees without water turn brown and die. And when the ornaments start falling off because there are not enough needles left on the tree to hold them up, it's time to throw the tree out. When this happened to me, I did just that - and I had a plan! A friend and I decided to quickly whisk the tree out the front door so as to minimize the mess. We cleared a path, angled the tree just so, and in one fell swoop we swept the tree across the living room and out the door. It took only seconds, but when the tree was outside, it no longer contained any needles. In fact, it was sadder than Charlie Brown's Christmas tree - just a bunch of bare branches. My living room floor, however, was covered in a carpet of brown needles. I was mostly disappointed that my parents wouldn't get to see my lovely decorated tree.
Which brought me to my first ever FAKE (gasp!) tree. I happened to be hitting the 90% off sale at Rite Aid when I spotted what looked like a perfectly acceptable tree, all set up and perfectly conical, for the low, low price of only $12! I couldn't resist such a bargain, so I paid for the tree, hastily disassembled it, threw it into the crumpled box the store offered me to transport it in, and brought it home. I then decorated the entire tree a second time that season. Best of all? I could have left it up until June, and nary a needle dropped on the floor.
I kind of thought it would be a one-time thing, that fake little cheap tree. But when Christmas rolled around again, I rationalized that I could buy a lot of gifts with that extra $100 I would save by not buying a real tree. So, I "settled" instead for some Scentsicles - little sticks of evergreen scent that you hang on your tree to make it smell real. Sort of.
And then, just like that, the little, cheap, funky fake tree became our Christmas tree. One year the plastic base broke and we repaired it with duct tape. That held for another couple of years and then, one night, when I was home alone, sipping my Bailey's and admiring the tree, I noticed that it appeared to be leaning a bit. I climbed under the tree to investigate and the tree promptly fell on me! Heavily laden with ornaments, the tree crashed down and I reached one hand up to steady it before it hit the floor. There I was, holding up the entire Christmas tree with one hand, prone, staring at the tree skirt and wondering what the hell I was going to do? No one was around, no one could hear my cries for help. I pushed the tree back to an upright position and attempted to crawl out from under it. But the tree wasn't having it. Hell-bent on crushing a human, the tree came crashing down again, this time right on my back. I shimmied out from under it, surveyed the damage, and called my husband: "The tree just fell on me. We need a new one."
After the hysterical laughter (noy "Are you ok?", not "Have you been impaled with an ornate star ornament? Do you have colorful glass imbedded in your cheek? Did the magic pickle ornament cause a concussion?"), my husband agreed we needed a new tree. Then, a few days later, he arrived home from a trip to Costco with a very similar story to my "first fake tree" story. He had spotted the perfect tree (pre-lighted this time) and inquired about it. Turns out, it was the last one they had, and, just like our first fake tree, came with no box. My husband hauled it home in a crumpled shipping box and we set it up. When it's time to take it down each year, we just wrap it in a huge tablecloth, ratchet it down with utility straps and store it on the top of the refrigerator in the garage. It resembles a dead body.
So, now we have a fake tree. It doesn't lose it's needles (much) and we can put it up as early as we like. Plus, there is no hurry to take it down after Christmas. Although, I never, ever leave it up until late February the way my ex-husband once did when he was a bachelor living with his bachelor brothers. That tree was a fire hazard.
Real or fake? What kind of tree do YOU like?
More importantly, what kind of tree do cats NOT like? Because I came home the other day to find my Beau kitty sleeping in the branches of our tree. It was not yet decorated but today we put the ornaments on. Now, I wait for the sound of a crashing tree or the opportunity to blast the little suckers with water whenever they go near it. I think I'll just get cozy on the couch with my Bailey's and a super soaker.
Happy tree decorating!