The spirit, not the kind, of tree counts
December 5, 2006
There was a time in these United States, or at least in Ohio where I grew up, that the Christmas tree didn’t appear until Christmas morning – sort of a Yule miracle. That was the way it was done in a small town like West Milton.
Then we moved to the big city of Dayton, Ohio, where cynicism was rife among youths and adults. Father was working for the morning paper, the Dayton Journal Herald, and so we slipped into the practice of buying a Christmas tree from a lot.
Time passed and I went to work in Tokyo, where Christmas (“Ka-ri-su-ma-su”) was observed chiefly by partying and slurping sake. No trees there for a bachelor journalist.
Then it was on to Germany for another newspaper. Lots of Christmas trees there, many decorated with real candles.
Then it was back to the USA and work in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago. Trees were hacked out of commercial forests and lugged home well in advance of Christmas Eve.
Since then it’s been a mixed bag, everything from no tree to a tiny artificial tree to a live wreath.
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Which brings us to the point of this story: today’s tree – natural or artificial, and if artificial, already decorated or bare plastic? The choice is yours.
You can cut one for yourself for $5 or $10, thanks to the BLM or National Park Service. Or you can buy a live or cut one from a local lot.
Prices of the Fake variety
Artificial trees can be pretty pricey, but not when you consider the long life span. You can spend under $100 or more than $1,000, but you get what you pay for.
At a tree outlet on Highway 395 South, here were the prices, all without tree stands:
Tree 6 to 7 feet tall: $46, Douglas fir
Tree 8 to 9 feet tall: $55, Douglas fir
Tree 11 to 12 feet tall: $210
Tree 7 to 8 feet tall, Douglas fir, $46
Tree 11 to 12 feet tall, noble, $210
Tree stands, plastic, $25
Figure cut trees from lots at about half the price of artificial.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ARTIFICIAL TREE
• Fit the tree to your space. They can range from 4 to 12 feet. The most common height is 71Ú2 feet.
• The more branch “tips,” the better the tree. It should look like a real tree. If the center pole is clearly visible, skip it.
• Make sure it has a quality, metal tree stand with rubber feet to avoid slipping or scratching your floor.
• Pick a tree with “hinged” branch construction for easier setup. Don’t waste time assembling a “hooked” tree.
• On the Internet, make sure the retailer is using high-resolution photos, preferably with super-zoom so you can better inspect the tree.
• Look for clear lights and colored lights or a tree with both. Good retailers add on-off foot pedals and remote control.
• Don’t accept LED lights; they don’t emit the warm yule glow you’ve grown up with.
THE ECOLOGY OF IT ALL
Dr. Robert Moore has this to say about the fake versus real tree argument:
“One way to protect the environment is to choose renewable materials and energy wherever possible. Artificial trees are made from non-renewable plastics and petroleum-based products. Although some people claim that these trees last a lifetime, most are thrown away within nine years – and remain in landfill sites for centuries.
“For me, the choice isn’t real or artificial, but whether to buy a cut tree or one that’s growing in a pot, which I can plant outside after the holidays. Some of the environmental benefits of real Christmas trees,” Moore said.
He offers these points to think about:
• Cut trees are recyclable. After the holidays, trees are chipped into biodegradable mulch, which can be used for playgrounds, gardens, hiking trails and animal stalls. Whole trees are also used on beaches to prevent shore erosion, and in lakes, streams and ponds to provide hiding spots and feeding areas for fish.
• They grow back. North American forests cover about the same area of land as they did 100 years ago and, in the last decade, have actually expanded by nearly 10 million acres. For every tree harvested, up to three more are planted to ensure a steady supply year after year.
“As for potted trees, they need quite a lot of care to ensure survival,” he added.
OK, there you are. The decision is yours. Pour moi, the real wreath in my window is enough. Besides, it was a gift.
• Contact Sam Bauman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1236.