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To fake tree, or not to fake tree, that is the Christmas question

Two clay Christmas trees in an artificial snowy landscape

According to a recent Which? survey, two thirds of us now have an artificial Christmas tree, and only around a fifth of us have a real one. Are real trees on the way out or are they vital to your festive cheer?

It appears that the Christmas ritual of choosing a tree, wrestling it into the car, dragging it through the house, giving it pride of place in the living room, breathing in the pine scent and vacuuming up the needles afterwards is becoming a thing of the past. We’re now more likely to bring a plastic tree down from the loft and take it out of the box.

Our survey has shown that the most popular type of artificial Christmas tree by far is one that looks real. It’s a trend that has been confirmed by two Which?-recommended garden centres: Aylett Nurseries in St Albans and Coolings in Kent both say that, while sales of real trees remain healthy, sales of realistic artificial trees have increased.

Even better than the real thing?

Fake trees have come a long way since the bright green PVC atrocities of yesteryear. Nowadays they are modelled on real trees and have ‘real’ tree names such as ‘English Pine’. They have polyethylene tips, and the best (which can cost several hundred pounds) look pretty real. They create no needle mess, come in different shapes and sizes and have adjustable branches. Some even come with fairy lights already attached.

Not that any of this is convincing me. My parents ‘went fake’ a few years ago and I now have a brief sulk when I go home every Christmas. There’s no pine smell for starters, and the whole thing just looks too perfect. For years we had a real tree, so what’s changed?

Costly Christmas trees

Mum says a combination of factors led her and Dad to get a fake tree. Dad got fed up of digging up soil to put the tree in, and latterly of filling a Christmas tree stand and topping it up with water. Fallen needles were a bit of an issue, and real trees were too wide for the corner of the room where it usually goes. Mum also thinks real trees have got more expensive and she can’t justify paying £33 (the average spend according to our survey) for something that only lasts a couple of weeks.

I think mum and I will have to differ on this one. I can’t abide fake plants of any kind – fake box balls, fake turf or fake Christmas trees. They give absolutely nothing back in terms of oxygen or wildlife habitats. They’re becoming more and more common, and they make my heart sink. It’s like we’re turning our backs on nature – something that most of us get precious little of already.

A real Christmas tree, on the other hand, is usually grown as a sustainable crop, contributes to the local economy and provides a habitat for wildlife while it grows. And according to the National Trust, just five minutes gazing at a tree can reduce stress levels. If that isn’t a recipe for a happy Christmas, I don’t know what is.

What sort of Christmas tree will you have this year?

A real tree (48%, 719 Votes)

An artificial tree (40%, 601 Votes)

I will not have a Christmas tree (11%, 165 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,486

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For me it’s got to be a real tree. I’ve even grown my own on two occasions on various allotments – in the days when allotments weren’t so sought after and I had the space. On both occasions I had to give up the plot just as the trees were reaching a decent size. It was definitely worthwhile. One-year-old seedlings cost about £2 each, if you buy ten. They need no treatment other than an occasional weeding and if you cost the land at £5 (assuming you could grow another crop on it) this works out at £27 for a six-year-old tree. I’ve just spent £36 on a 6 foot tree in our local garden centre. Tempted to try again!

We can’t remember when we bought our 1.8 m artificial tree. More than 14 years ago but possibly 21 years old this year. It stores in the loft in its origional box complete with lights and decorations.
This year it is having a makeover with several new LED light strings I bought in the January sales and powered with a PSU from an old printer. Just 6 W down from 60 W with more lights.
As for the artificial bit, well to be a bit pedantic and misurable, isn’t it all artificial? How many conifers were growing in Jerusalem 2012 years ago? So come on explain what a real Christmas tree is, I would love to know!

Good to see some recycling going on, Brian. I frequently find a use for power supplies and have just repaired a Christmas decoration for a friend.

I don’t think a Christmas tree would produce very good compost – best chipped as a mulch. Growing Christmas trees for cutting will be good anyway – they will absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, and are replaced each year . Producing plastic trees uses up oil resources – not so good.

There definitely weren’t any artificial trees growing in Jerusalem 2012 years ago, but there were real ones in Germany where the traditional originated. Don’t ‘Christmas’ trees owe more to the pagan mid-winter festival? You bring a bit of evergreen foliage into the house as a reminder that winter will not last forever and spring will return. Death and rebirth and all that, but nothing really to do with the Christian festival. So, it has to be a living tree. Or a formerly living tree that will be recycled into a mulch for the garden.

Bad news – our local £10-a-tree seller hasn’t turned up this year. Good news – bought the last two trees from another local supplier – 7 foot tall £15 each. One for the lounge, one outside the door. Still like real trees.
Happy Christmas.