“This little tree is absolutely perfect for our downsized Christmas display this year. The base is sturdy and heavy; the burlap covering is traditional and innocuous. The tree itself was fun to ‘fluff out.’ Our tree looks just like the photo! There is plenty of greenery to give a realistic look, and generous spaces between the branches to hold our mercury-glass heirloom ornaments. The pine cones are sturdy and well-attached. The tree is on a small table to add height. We put some photos on Facebook, and have gotten great compliments! We’ll use this tree for years.”
A reference to the animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) based on the comic strip Peanuts by American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz (1922–2000), in which the title character Charlie Brown picks an unattractive Christmas tree to decorate. The selection of the tree represents a protest against the commercialization of Christmas.
Linus and Charlie Brown return to the auditorium with the tree, only to be scorned by Lucy for disobeying her instructions and mocked by the other girls who, along with Snoopy, walk off laughing. At his wit's end, Charlie Brown loudly asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about. Linus says he does and, after walking to center stage, recites the annunciation to the shepherds from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 through 14, as translated by the Authorized King James Version:
We raised our concerns with the American Christmas Tree Association, which stated in response that leaded PVC is no longer used at all in its members’ products. We also asked National Tree Company about its products specifically, and representatives confirmed that the company uses entirely lead-free PVC. We have no reason to doubt those claims, but since no federal standards or tests for artificial-tree materials exist, we have no independent data to confirm or contradict them, either. In general, it seems wise to wash your hands after setting up and decorating your artificial tree, as well as to prevent kids and pets from playing underneath it or (obviously) chewing on the branches. But the risk of lead exposure from a contemporary artificial Christmas tree is likely to be minimal to nonexistent.
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“We bought this for my 90-year-old in-laws who had recently moved into a retirement community and needed a compact Christmas display. The Charlie Brown tree is nostalgic to all of us who grew up waiting to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special come on the tube (back when they were literally tubes). They seem to love it, and now we’ll need to find a couple Peanuts figures to put around it next Christmas.”
Because we advised against pre-lit trees (as you typically can’t remove the lights from the tree even if they burn out), we chose to focus our research on unlit trees. That being said, we know that the convenience of a pre-lit tree is sometimes irresistible. And we have to admit, they make festive night lights. So, we’re still sharing our favorite pre-lit pick.
Height and dimensions: Consider the height of the tree you’d like to purchase, bearing in mind that you’ll need to access the top of the tree for decorating. If the ceilings in your home are within the standard (American) eight to nine foot range, a 7.5 foot tree is probably ideal for you. The dimensions of the tree you purchase should be dependent on where you’re displaying it. If you’re placing it in a small corner, a narrow tree is best, whereas a tree with a wide girth is best for a front and center display.
Cost and realism go hand in hand. Using molds often taken from actual branches, artificial-tree manufacturers shape polyethylene, or PE, to produce highly realistic branch tips. More tips generally make the tree look fuller, with fewer gaps, and more tips cost more money. Similarly, a higher percentage of polyethylene in a tree’s construction generally equates to greater realism—and a higher price. Our pick, for reference, has 1,867 tips and is 37 percent polyethylene, and is convincingly lifelike even up close. You can get trees with far more eye-popping stats, though. This particularly lovely Balsam Fir from Balsam Hill’s most-realistic line of trees, for example, has almost 6,000 tips and is 70 percent polyethylene—and comes at a price to match that extravagance. As with real trees, overall bigger sizes come with bigger costs: House of Holiday, for example, carries more than two dozen trees measuring 12 feet or taller with price tags north of $1,000.
A Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 reports that a small tree decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers" was erected in the guild-house for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day. In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow in his Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt (1584) wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square, where the young men "went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame".
A super-fun way to mix things up this year is with colored Christmas trees. Use one as your main tree or start a monotone holiday theme room. We’ve got a rainbow of colors to pick from: a black Christmas tree, white Christmas tree, pink Christmas tree, red Christmas tree, blue Christmas tree or purple Christmas tree. Or go metallic with a silver Christmas tree, aluminum Christmas tree or gold Christmas tree.