Artificial or real. It’s the seasonal version of the plastic or paper question.
Both serve the same purpose.
In the end both symbolize Christmas just like both types of bags carry goods.
I’m partial to artificial, although I don’t have a Christmas tree in my home. That may strike some as blasphemy, but according to one of the hard-hitting ABC News/Washington Post polls from 2006, 58 percent of people who have Christmas trees in their homes agree with me.
My choice of artificial has a bit to do with cost. The National Christmas Tree Association likes pointing out the typical real tree costs $33.80 versus $68.80 for an artificial tree. But unlike the real tree, the artificial tree can be used for multiple years.
My preference has nothing to do with the environment. Artificial trees are made of non-biodegradable polyvinyl chloride. It has the same ability to break down as Melmac dishware from the 1950s once it is buried in a landfill.
Real trees, on the other hand, are recycled into mulch. And while they are being grown, each tree absorbs an average of a ton a year in CO2 while an acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people each day.
Logic should dictate that I’d take real over artificial.
But that leaves out the human factor.
As a kid I loved real trees. But that was before my older brother somehow assumed tree buying decisions after my father passed away.
Richard eventually earned a double major in architecture and engineering. That should give you a clue to how I was turned off of real trees.
The first year Richard was in charge of the Christmas tree search I was 8. Lincoln had two Christmas tree lots. None of the offerings were to Richard’s liking. So we headed to Roseville. There were seven or eight Christmas tree lots there. Again, none met his standard.
Mom humored Richard in part because it was the first Christmas after dad died. So a few nights later we went to Cal Expo to search the biggest Christmas tree lot in the Sacramento region - Bob’s Christmas Tree Land. After four hours and combing through easily several thousand trees we left empty handed. Richard was distraught. Mom reluctantly agreed to one last outing.
It started after mom got off work on a Saturday at 4 p.m. It ended six hours later after we had visited four tree lots in Sacramento before going back to Bob’s Christmas Tree Land.
Mom finally lost her patience. It was either buy a tree or there’d be no tree. Richard got the message. So we bought a tree and several sets of tree boughs as Richard said he wanted to make some wreaths.
Imagine my disappointment the next day when we still couldn’t put up the tree. Richard was busy sawing off branches that weren’t perfect and nailing on boughs that we had bought on the premise he was making wreaths.
The next year Mom wised up and bought a tree from a guy passing through town from Oregon. Richard though decided we had to wait until he had time to supervise the tree decorating five days later. It was left out in the backyard during that time. Did I mention Richard had a dog?
When we finally brought the tree into the house, we started noticing a stench as it warmed up. Rusty had used it as a fire hydrant. Let’s just say it wasn’t pine scent that filled the house.
It took Mom a couple more years of Christmas tree hell to join the dark side and buy an artificial tree.
That, of course, didn’t end the debate about how one should decorate a tree. I even found that to be true after I married.
I was chided for just draping lights on instead of wrapping them or - more precisely - meticulously weaving cords and light bulbs around the branches. It made no sense to me. Once you placed ornaments and tinsel on a tree you couldn’t tell the difference.
I was told point blank I was strange. So I did what any other husband would do, I polled men and women at a church pancake breakfast. Five out of five guys said they draped lights while virtually every woman said they used the weave method.
So how does one deal with such a difference between the sexes?
Tom Dutart - who was once a neighbor - told me his secret. They had an artificial tree but he wasn’t thrilled with his wife Linda’s insistence that he was putting the lights on wrong by draping them.
So one year he grabbed one of his homemade brews, went out to the garage, and weaved the lights on the tree while carefully stapling each one in place.
Then at season’s end, he wrapped the tree intact and hung it upside down from rafters in the garage.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.