Snow was falling, Christmas music was blasting through the car speakers, and my brother and I eagerly waited to reach our destination: The tree farm. Growing up, my mother and I had an annual tradition to go to the closest tree farm and pick out the prettiest six to seven foot evergreen.
My junior year of high school, my mother and her boyfriend decided they did not want to spend money on the “real deal.” My younger sister and I went to Walmart with my mother to buy a 6 foot polyvinyl tree. I was not the last bit happy while we set the tiers (levels of the tree) on top of each other.. I felt like we had lost a huge part of our Christmas tradition. My mother and I seem to disagree with one another even to this day, nearly four years after the tradition broke.
To my mother, this option was both safer and cleaner than our past Christmas trees. My ferret loved climbing into the tree stand and spilling the water all over the presents and Christmas skirt. Once our puppy came into the situation, everything that fell onto the floor was eaten. Without the constant watering and vacuuming up pine needles, it was easier for my mother too.
We are not the only ones with a plastic tree in our living room. Last december, USA Today posted an article titled “Christmas Tree Shortage: More People Considering Fake Trees,” that stated: “Of the estimated 95 million American households with Christmas trees this year, 81 percent will display fake ones.” The article also gave some highlights to having this artificial plant instead of the once-living one. In the long run, it is more cost efficient. Instead of buying a tree that costs anywhere from 10$ – 40$ every year, one 30$ -100$ artificial tree can last a few years – if taken care of properly.
While the first artificial trees started appearing in homes around the 1930s, there are many safety concerns still not thought of concerning these christmas accessories. In a Money Crashers article, “Real vs. Fake Artificial Christmas Tree Types (Facts & Comparison) – Which Should You Buy?,” states that most of these trees are PVC trees, which are known to harbor toxic lead chemicals. This also means that when a family decides to throw away their tree for a new one, no matter what disposal method is used, it will be harmful to the environment. The article adds that real trees have multiple recycling areas around the country, making it better for the environment. The Huffington Post wrote an article titled “Real Christmas Trees Or Fake Ones — Which Are Better For The Planet?” The article had in it a 2009 study claiming that a family would have to keep their tree 20 years for it to keep its eco-friendly title, but in my opinion, it’s all wasted if you improperly get rid of the tree after you’re done with it.
I will gladly acknowledge the positives and negatives of both real evergreen trees and artificial trees (they even come in an array of colors.) The biggest thing that these plastic pines can’t give me is that family tradition from my childhood. I have noticed a lack of holiday cheer these past few years, but I can hardly blame a holiday accessory for that. This tree that currently sits in my mother’s living room may have ended a beloved tradition, but it cannot take away all those Christmases I had; the memories of running through the maze of greenery sitting on top of pure white snow beneath my cute Barbie boots, the heavy inspections my brother, and eventually sister, gave to each potential tree. None of those can be taken away.
To anyone looking to bring a tree, real or artificial, into their home: My wish is that you keep the holiday spirit alive and your home safe.
The North Carolina Consumers Council suggests that either tree should still be thought of in terms of fire safety. If you decide to get a living (but slowly-dying) evergreen, then they suggest it be freshly cut and kept watered. If a tree dries out, it’s perfect firewood. The same danger can occur with the plastic trees. Don’t keep open wires around them. The North Carolina Consumers Council webpage even states that the precut trees are more likely to catch fire. The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) has a whole section dedicated to holiday safety on their website, with one section specifically for Christmas trees of all kinds. Their data shows, “Between 2012 – 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 4 deaths.”
In the future, if I have a family, I want to drive to the closest tree farm and let my children believe that their choice was the best. I want to keep as many traditions that my children can then pass down to theirs. I want to create as many memories with them as possible, for you never know when traditions will fade, people will change, or society just stops allowing you to easily continue what you’re doing.
While I have done my research and am pretty set on what I will be doing, I encourage others to think hard and do their own research on the subject. Be smart, be safe, and choose what will be better for your pocket, mind and the environment.
Angelique Inchierca can be contacted at