You’ll see this question posted on nearly every Facebook fan page known to man, “Real or fake Christmas trees? What’s your take?” or some variation thereof. This is the single most popular question I have seen this Christmas season. More than wondering if you are a last minute shopper, favorite holiday traditions or best holiday dish, the Real vs Fake debate has been raging on for weeks.
I don’t really care if you have a real tree or a fake one. My motto for just about everything in life is “to each his own.” But before you spout off that it just isn’t Christmas without a REAL tree, let me tell you a little about my family and our own budding Christmas tradition.
My mother is allergic to pine trees. All of them. This means that in my multiple decades on earth, I have never had a “real” Christmas tree. I’ll repeat that so that the words may fully sink in, I have NEVER had a real, as in live, Christmas tree. Not once in my whole life.
You may well be wondering, after having married a man who had nothing but real trees his whole life, and having not lived in my parents’ home for many years, why I have yet to have one. My husband and I have talked about it. We have discussed each year of our marriage, whether or not to go out and buy a tree. We have always decided against it.
You see, the tree that sits in our living room, the tree that we decorate each year, is a dinky, little plastic thing that has barely survived the years at our house. And it is the tree I grew up with. It is the Christmas tree that my presents sat under every year of my childhood. It is the tree that I decorated every year that I can remember. It is the only tree I have ever known. When I was a young adult, living at home, my parents purchased a newer, nicer, more realistic tree. When wondering what to do with the old one, I asked my mother to keep it. And for the few years that I lived at home after that, we had two trees, the new one, and my tree. I decorated it every year, and moved it with me when I moved in with my husband and when we got married and when we bought our first home. It has been the only tree my husband and I have ever had together and the only one I have ever shared with a significant other.
Each year, we pull out the same boxes that have housed the pieces of that funky, plastic tree, and add to the layers of duct tape already holding them together. We sift through the boxes to find all the pieces, we find all the bags that hold all the branches and begin the process of assembling our tree. It’s not a fancy tree that comes pre-lit; it isn’t one piece the folds neatly together for easy storage. It comes in about a million pieces, with each level of branches numbered, and a Ziplock bag of extra “spiny pieces” in case we have a hole somewhere. The plastic is shiny, as much of it was in the 70s and 80s, and our hands get sore and raw from jamming the branches into the trunk because of the “life like” ridges in each branch’s brown stem.
But it’s our tree. And each year, we look at the fancy, recycled plastic, life like, pre-lit, easy to store trees and note that they get less expensive and more budget friendly each season. But it’s our tree. And, for all its shiny, plastic surfaces and gaps where we have no extra spiny, pine tree pieces to fill, it’s the only tree I have ever known. And it’s the only tree my husband and I have ever shared. And it’s special.
Real trees may smell lovely, but I will probably never know. For I have a real tree of my own. A tree that is as real to me as any memory of Christmas morning, that has houses several tree climbing pet kitties, has been through all my first Christmas morning experiences and has even been peed on by one of our dogs. And I still wouldn’t trade it for that real tree experience. Because real trees go in the garbage after New Year’s Day, but my tree will quite possibly be with me until my dying days.
So think about the new Christmas traditions that can be started. Think of all the treasures we all hope to pass down to our children. Why can’t a family Christmas tree be one of them? It is in ours.