Holiday tradition requires a real tree

A perennial question we ask in December, for our Question of the Week feature, is “Real tree, or fake tree?” If you missed the answers in the Dec. 1 issue, real trees were the clear winner. Again.

Almost every year, almost every person we ask this question of says they’re getting a real tree for the holidays, which makes me happy every time. Their answers shouldn’t surprise me any more. We are basically in Christmas tree country here.

Even if we weren’t, I would do my best to get a real tree every year, or at the very least, a real wreath. The real tree is an important part of my holiday traditions now, and I take credit for making it part of my husband’s too. He came from a fake-tree family; I thought fake trees were the solution of last resort only. We had to have one when I was a child — I doubt there was an evergreen tree within 500 miles of our house in Panama — but as soon as we moved to the U.S., my parents introduced us to the joys of trees that smell wonderful, ooze pitch, and need regular watering. My brothers and I would fight for the privilege of watering the tree.

Another part of my family’s tradition was the way-too-short stay of the tree. My Dad always put off getting the tree until two weeks before the big day, which drove us kids crazy but probably made my fire-conscious Mom very happy. And the tree only stayed for a day or two after New Year’s, before being ousted. We were in a dry, wood-heated house in Minnesota in the depths of winter, after all.

We were always sad to see the tree go, and sadder still to have to pick the fallen needles out of the carpet.

I understand that artificial trees are more convenient in a lot of ways. We owned a fake tree for a while, and would put it up even when we had a real tree. Sometimes when our schedules got too full, that little fake tree was our only holiday decoration.

Then it broke. It’s still in our garage. I have no idea how to recycle a fake Christmas tree.

But I’m a pro at recycling an actual tree. In the week or so after New Year’s Day, I check my neighborhood for the red flyer, or go on Facebook to find out when the collection is. Then I just put the tree out on my driveway, attach a check and wait for the Boy Scouts to magically whisk it away to a future career as garden mulch.

So my answer to the perennial question is a real tree, too, and will be for as long as their scent brings up fond memories.

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