As a child, one of the fondest memories I have was joining Mom and Dad in the annual adventure of picking out the family Christmas tree. It involved going to several tree lots to find “the perfect” tree.
Dad would wade into the “forest” and pick out one that had that “just right” shape. He’d call Mom and me over to inspect the tree he’d chosen. Mom would circle the tree to make sure there weren’t any bad spots. Then I would give it a thumbs up.
I remember the advent of the artificial tree. Sometime around 1965 the aluminum tree debuted in America. If you bought one of those babies you had to have a color wheel to shine on it. It was like a disc that was divided into four colors that turned so that each color would alternately illuminate the shiny limbs of the tree. Mom and Dad decided to buy one. I never liked it and was very vocal about it. I think we put the hideous thing up twice before I convinced them that a real tree was so much better. I missed the trip to the tree lot; the excitement of hunting for and finding the right tree, strapping it to the roof of the car and decorating it when we got it home. There’s something about the scent of a real tree at Christmastime.
Thanks to A Charlie Brown Christmas, sales of the aluminum tree declined. In the Peanuts special, Charlie Brown and his pal Linus head to a lot to buy a tree for the school play. They are overwhelmed by all the aluminum trees. Charlie Brown spots a tiny, pitiful Christmas tree and Linus asks, “Do they still make wooden Christmas trees?” A Charlie Brown Christmas pointed to an over-commercialization of Christmas.
Lately, I haven’t seen as many trees going down the highway headed to someone’s home. Is this a sign that the artificial tree has replaced the real thing in our homes?
I am happy to report that the answer is a resounding no. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, poll results from 2011 show that consumers in the U.S. purchased just under 31 million farm-grown Christmas trees and 9.5 million new plastic, artificial trees. Real trees outsell artificial trees by a greater than 3 to 1 margin.
There are some beautiful artificial trees available. The good ones are pricey. I realize that they don’t dry out, they don’t drop needles that wind up becoming embedded in the carpet and aren’t messy when you take them down.
Call me old-fashioned, but it’s hard to beat bundling up in your winter coat, popping in a Bing Crosby CD and hitting the road in search of the Yuletide spirit and memory-making that can be found in the perfect 8-foot Fraser fir. It far surpasses plunking down $100 or more for the perfect limited-warranty, made in China, pre-lit polyvinylchloride Christmas tree.