Number of branch tips and shedding: If you’ve already started perusing through faux trees online, you’ve noticed that many companies specify the number of branch tips on their trees. This is because there’s a direct connection between number of tips and realism. More tips yield a more realistic tree. And just like real Christmas trees, these branch tips are also bound to shed some needles. This is especially true the first time you take the tree out of the box and set it up. The best fake Christmas trees will shed less with each year of use.
Aside from appreciating the quality, beauty, and value of our pick, we chose a National Tree model for a few other reasons, namely exceptionally wide availability (online, in national chain stores, and in mom-and-pop shops), diverse options (in lighting, height, girth, and other considerations) to fit everyone’s unique needs, consistently great reviews, and the solidity of 50-plus years of a family-run business.
Real or cut trees are used only for a short time, but can be recycled and used as mulch, wildlife habitat, or used to prevent erosion. Real trees are carbon-neutral, they emit no more carbon dioxide by being cut down and disposed of than they absorb while growing. However, emissions can occur from farming activities and transportation. An independent life-cycle assessment study, conducted by a firm of experts in sustainable development, states that a natural tree will generate 3.1 kg (6.8 lb) of greenhouse gases every year (based on purchasing 5 km (3.1 miles) from home) whereas the artificial tree will produce 48.3 kg (106 lb) over its lifetime. Some people use living Christmas or potted trees for several seasons, providing a longer life cycle for each tree. Living Christmas trees can be purchased or rented from local market growers. Rentals are picked up after the holidays, while purchased trees can be planted by the owner after use or donated to local tree adoption or urban reforestation services. Smaller and younger trees may be replanted after each season, with the following year running up to the next Christmas allowing the tree to carry out further growth.
In Italy, Ireland and Argentina, along with many countries in Latin America, the Christmas tree is put up on 8 December (Immaculate Conception day) and left up until 6 January. In Australia, the Christmas tree is usually put up on 1 December, which occurs about 2 weeks before the school summer holidays (except for South Australia, where most people put up their tree in November following the completion of the Adelaide Christmas Pageant, a time frame that has started to filter into other states as the official time Christmas decorations and in store Santa Claus start to appear) and is left up until it is taken down. Some traditions suggest that Christmas trees may be kept up until no later than 2 February, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (Candlemas), when the Christmas season effectively closes. Superstitions say that it is a bad sign if Christmas greenery is not removed by Candlemas Eve.
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 little pricey, but you won’t find a stand that’s easier to use—and that includes when you’re stuck putting the tree up by yourself. Unlike most stands, which require you to screw in three or four long threaded bolts, the Krinner has a simple foot pedal. Pump it up and down and five claws slowly close in on and grip your tree. All you have to do is hold it up straight. The XXL fits trees up to 12 feet tall with trunk diameters up to seven inches. That might be overkill for most families, but you’d much rather have a stand that’s too big than come home to find out that your tree won’t fit. There’s a convenient water level indicator, too.
This holiday shop to find a tree that’s the perfect height, shape and type for your lifestyle. For traditional Christmas decor, consider a live tree. Starting in November, we have a huge selection of fresh-cut trees to choose from. Use our Real Christmas Tree Guide to learn more about different tree varieties and useful care tips on lighting and watering to keep your tree healthy and your home safe.