In 2013, we took our top four stands to Adams Nurseries in Lancaster, New York, where the staff members generously loaned us a pair of trees to set up and take down. Both of our test trees were Douglas firs, one of the most common Christmas trees sold in the US. One was 6 feet 8 inches tall with a trunk diameter of 3½ inches, and the other was 8 feet 4 inches tall with a trunk diameter of 5½ inches—a fairly typical span between large and small, which let us gauge how well each stand could handle most people’s trees.
Animation for A Charlie Brown Christmas was created by Bill Melendez Productions. Mendelson had no idea whether or not completing a half-hour's worth of animation would be possible given the production's six-month schedule, but Melendez confirmed its feasibility. In actuality, animation was only completed in the final four months of production. CBS initially wanted an hour's worth of animation, but Melendez talked them down to a half-hour special, believing an hour of television animation was too much. Having never worked on a half-hour special before, Melendez phoned Bill Hanna of Hanna-Barbera for advice, but Hanna declined to give any. CBS gave a budget of $76,000 to produce the show and it went $20,000 over budget. The first step in creating the animation was to make a pencil drawing, afterwards inking and painting the drawing onto a cel. The cel was then placed onto a painted background. There are 13,000 drawings in the special, with 12 frames per second to create the illusion of movement.
More than a decade ago, the only material used in trees was polyvinyl chloride. Now, on good trees, PVC appears only as the obviously fake filler branches near the tree’s trunk. PVC is cheaper to produce than PE, and it’s also a lot lighter, so the mixed materials help to balance beauty, cost, and weight. All the trees we considered for this guide consisted of realistic PE branch tips around a lighter, cheaper PVC core. Even though all-PVC trees are still widely available, we don’t recommend them. From a distance they look like trees, but up close they look terrible. On the plus side, however, they are cheap: A 6-foot tree shouldn’t cost more than $100. Also, what was once a genuine health concern—the use of lead as a PVC stabilizer—is no longer an issue in most artificial trees sold in the US, according to National Tree Company and the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents artificial-tree companies.
A couple things that stopped this tree from being number one? The branch tips on this tree start relatively far from the center pole, meaning that from certain angles, you risk seeing a lot of bare metal hinges. Though, if you plan to decorate the tree with lights and ornaments, this becomes less of a problem. The branches also extend very low to the ground, which means it’s hard to slide sizeable presents underneath.
Unlike the impostors of the past, the best of today's imitation trees could pass as the real thing. Another big improvement: Most artificial Christmas trees come pre-lit, so you can skip the temper-fraying ritual of distributing lights evenly around the branches and focus on these Christmas tree decorating ideas instead. Whether you're looking for something classic with no-frills tree or a unique eye-catcher, there's an artificial Christmas tree here for you.
For this guide, we defaulted to the most popular choices in our quest to come up with a tree that would please the most people. Our interview with the sales manager at National Tree Company yielded a few key facts about trends in the industry. The 7½-foot size is the most popular, as US home ceilings are usually 8 feet high, but we’ve also added several smaller (6½-foot) trees to this guide for those with smaller homes or apartments. People hugely prefer pre-lit trees, as well; to cover everyone’s tastes, we decided to look for a tree that could switch between all-white and multicolor. People also want artificial trees to appear convincingly lifelike. And although first-time tree buyers will probably be surprised at a good tree’s price, we knew we’d be in the mainstream range as long as we came in between $250 and $400, judging by the information we got from House of Holiday’s Larry Gurino, National Tree, and our own research. An artificial tree can easily last 10 or 15 years, so the amortized cost is a lot easier to swallow—the average price for a live tree as of 2016 was $51, according to CBS News.
The 30" round Christmas Tree Mat is composed of two non-woven fiber materials separated by a patented barrier media. It is lightweight and can be easily cleaned. It is designed to protect hardwood and carpeted floors from spilled live tree stand water and resulting stains as well as hardwood scratches associated with a trimmed tree during the holidays. Can be used with live or artificial trees.
The Cinco Express fits in the mid-sized tree stand range. It is ideal for real trees up to ten feet tall with a trunk diameter of up to seven inches. This stand is made of heavy-duty plastic. The base features three galvanized pins in its center to hold the tree in place before final adjustments. A push-pull ratchet mechanism makes it easier to set up and take down your tree. The base has an overall diameter of 20 inches and fits two gallons of water.
Balsam Hill is the top-selling artificial-tree brand in the US, and it offers an extraordinary array of top-quality trees in three ranges of realism. After viewing and handling examples in person, we consider its Realistic line comparable overall to National Tree’s Feel Real series. Both have a mix of realistic PE branch tips and plasticky PVC filler branches. And both do a great job of fooling the eye. An exact apples-to-apples comparison isn’t possible (due to differences in lighting options, for example), but Balsam Hill’s trees tend to feature more branch tips and light bulbs at a given height-width combination.
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.