National Tree Company’s 7½-foot, unlit Feel Real Downswept Douglas Fir (PEDD1-503-75) is a great tree at a great price, if you don’t need lights included. It’s the same size as our main pick, with the same generous branch count (1,867), sporting that same full, room-filling form. It’s identical in construction, too, with the same realistic polyethylene tips, hinged branches, and three sections. You’ll have to string the lights yourself, of course. If you already own enough lights for a 7½-foot tree (roughly 700 bulbs, per the 100-per-foot guideline), choosing this tree is a no-brainer, since you’ll save a chunk of money. Or if you simply prefer to string your own, even if it means spending down those savings, go for it—check out our recommended set of LED Christmas lights, or pick up three 300-bulb strings of incandescents for about $30. And for smaller homes and apartments, we think the 6½-foot version of this tree also makes a great pick.
Pope John Paul II introduced the Christmas tree custom to the Vatican in 1982. Although at first disapproved of by some as out of place at the centre of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican Christmas Tree has become an integral part of the Vatican Christmas celebrations, and in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI spoke of it as part of the normal Christmas decorations in Catholic homes. In 2004, Pope John Paul called the Christmas tree a symbol of Christ. This very ancient custom, he said, exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a sign of undying life, and it reminds Christians of the "tree of life" of Genesis 2:9, an image of Christ, the supreme gift of God to humanity. In the previous year he said: "Beside the crib, the Christmas tree, with its twinkling lights, reminds us that with the birth of Jesus the tree of life has blossomed anew in the desert of humanity. The crib and the tree: precious symbols, which hand down in time the true meaning of Christmas." The Catholic Church's official Book of Blessings has a service for the blessing of the Christmas tree in a home. Likewise the Protestant Episcopal Church in The Anglican Family Prayer Book, which has the imprimatur of The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam of the Anglican Communion, has long had a ritual titled Blessing of a Christmas Tree, as well as Blessing of a Crèche, for use in the church and the home.
With all of that considered I think it is the best Christmas tree possible because it made my wife smile and put us both in the holiday spirit when nothing else was possible. I'm glad we didn't deal with the big real tree that we have to put up, drag out the ornaments, keep watered, make sure the animals don’t' mess with it, and then take it all down in a few weeks. That seems like a lot of work. I doubt this will be the primary tree many years but thanks to this I don't miss a tree and can really appreciate the simplicity and the holiday.
We also like the Cinco C-144E Express, which remains a reliable backup choice after several years of considering new models. It’s stable, and its ample 3-gallon reservoir has an overflow basin to catch drips. The downside is that the tree is secured by four cumbersome hand-twisted bolts, but they do have a quick-release—this speeds up the process considerably and sets this stand apart from the many other similar designs. It’s not as easy to use as the Krinner, and not as versatile, with a design that accepts only tree trunks larger than 3.5 inches in diameter (that’s a tree about 6½ feet or taller). Last, this stand is quite large; if you’re planning on getting a smaller tree, you can step down to the Cinco C-148E.
If the National Tree and GE picks are unavailable, this Home Accents Holiday tree is a worthy alternative. It’s only 21 percent polyethylene—barely half our pick’s percentage—and up close, the fakey PVC needles that make up most of its foliage are pretty obvious. But its high branch-tip count (2,602 versus our pick’s 1,867) gives it a full, realistic appearance when viewed from across the room, and its greater girth (68 versus 59 inches) will fill even the largest living space. Like our other picks, its lights (750, same as our top pick) can switch between white and multicolored; and as on our GE also-great pick, the light strings connect automatically when you assemble the tree.
In addition to different materials and levels of realism, Balsam Hill offers four Signature artificial Christmas tree collections, including Aspen Christmas Signature, Vermont Signature, Napa Christmas Signature, and Smoky Mountain Christmas Signature. All 12 foot and under Christmas trees in these collections even come with our 3-year limited warranty. So, you can rest assured that your Balsam Hill artificial Christmas tree will look flawless all season long, and for years to come!