Households are always partial to their preferred style of Christmas tree. Diehard fans of real trees can’t fathom a celebration without that fresh pine fragrance wafting through their homes. And those who set up artificial trees year after year thrive on creating entire themes of decor around uniquely colored, flocked, or pre-lit designs.
But, aside from cosmetic preferences, is there an apples-to-apples comparison to make between real Christmas trees and artificial Christmas trees? When budgets are tighter than ever, which one is better for the bottom line? Are there other benefits to consider?
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the median price Americans paid for each of the 26.2 million real trees sold in 2019 was almost $77. Not bad, especially considering the “shortage” of Christmas trees that’s existed since 2015. (Though no one who’s wanted one has gone without a real tree during the past five years, a shortage has existed due to growers exiting the business after an oversupply in the 1990s.)
If we compare that $77 to the cost of an artificial tree, anyone who’s browsed Christmas merchandise online or at big box stores knows that’s quite a bit less than most faux models! Of course, reusing an artificial tree year after year brings the overall cost down, and there are often clearance deals to be found after the season (rarely as cheap as $77 though). Still, the cost of an artificial tree that’s designed to withstand packing, repacking, and long-term storage can cost into the hundreds or more (the average lifespan of an artificial tree being just six years).
For any of us who can’t lay out the upfront cost of a sturdy artificial tree in order to save across the next six or more years, a real tree is a more affordable solution.
Beyond the cost comparison, though, are there other benefits to choosing real Christmas trees over artificial ones?
Absolutely! Purchasing a real tree from a local farmer and/or local seller helps support your local economy. Naturally, real trees are biodegradable and, most of the time, they’re recyclable, too. After the holidays, many community organizations accept old Christmas trees and reuse them as mulch along nature paths and elsewhere. Also, many zoos give them to their larger animals for playtime or snacking. That keeps the celebrations going long after the holidays have passed and it’s a much more pleasant option than knowing your artificial tree will end up in a landfill.
If you’re ready to try a real Christmas tree for the first time, make sure you have a sturdy Christmas tree stand to hold it. Ask your salesperson to cut off at least an inch from the trunk to ensure it will absorb plenty of water once you get it home. Find a place away from the fireplace or other heat sources to set it up, put down some plastic between the stand and your rug to protect it from water and sap drippings. Let the tree rest overnight before decorating! Now, you’re all set to add your tree skirt and decorations! Remember, your tree needs lots of water to remain fresh and reduce fire risk throughout the season. The standard recipe is to keep one quart of water in the stand for each inch of tree trunk diameter. (For example, a 5” trunk needs 5 quarts of water in the stand at all times.)
Sherlock, Jake. “The Real Story About the Supply and Price of Christmas Trees in 2019,” November 11, 2020. https://realchristmastrees.org/2020/04/06/the-real-story-about-the-price-of-christmas-trees-in-2019/.