Artificial or real? We are not the only ones to struggle with this question. Pamela Anderson has bounced back and forth, so to speak, in her own answers. But Laurel and I are happy that we’ve stuck with our artificial choice, the 10 foot tree that has graced our living room for three Christmases.
It was difficult for us to make the break from the previously-alive Noble Firs we used to buy from a South Salem lot. Now, we’re happy that we did. If you’ve been considering making the switch to an artificial tree, perhaps the case study that I conducted yesterday will help you decide whether to take the plunge.
Zero minutes. Laurel has gone shopping. And returning. She’s already decided to return two pairs of dark glasses that she was going to give to herself and me. Amateur shoppers return unwanted gifts after Christmas. Pros like Laurel do it before Christmas, when the Costco lines are much shorter. This seems like a good alone time to conduct my research.
Zero + seven minutes. I have finished bringing the tree into the house from its storage spot in the garage. This isn’t quite like singing “Santa Claus is coming to town” while you and your loved one hold each end of a freshly cut fir as you walk through the softly-falling snow. It is more like hauling three large plastic storage boxes and a large plastic tree bag down a walkway and into the living room. In fact, it is exactly like this.
Zero + seventeen minutes. I am ready to start putting the tree together. The ten minutes needed to get the branches out of the boxes/bag, fasten the two pieces of the trunk together, and insert the trunk into the stand would have been shorter if I hadn’t spent several minutes standing in the garage cursing, in a fine holiday spirit, “Now where the _____ is the ____ing tree stand?” Eventually I discovered that I was looking right at it, but for a reason known only to God and woman, Laurel had put it in a plastic bag. Who stores tree stands in plastic bags? Only humans lacking a Y gene, I suspect.
Zero + fifty-two minutes. It takes me thirty-five minutes to place all of the two billion (more or less) branches on the tree. They are color-coded, little circles on the branches matching circles on the trunk. It is easiest to start inserting the branches from the bottom up and we semi-cleverly stored them in each box/bag by level of the tree: lowest, next lowest, middlest, highest. However, we not so cleverly put them in each box/bag by taking the lower branches off before the higher. This meant that the branches I needed first were at the bottom. Subtract at least five minutes if you have more common sense.
However, add a lot more time to this phase if you are obsessive-compulsive. A great thing about artificial trees is that each branch, and every twig on each branch, can be bent into whatever position you like. When branches are stored they may need to be compressed, and thus uncompressed when put back on the tree. But even if the branch is in the same state as it was in the Christmas past, there is an almost irresistible temptation to fuss around with bending it into a just right Zen state. If you have OCD, allow a full day for putting the branches on. Better yet, get a real tree and accept it as it is.
Artificial tree set-up timeline: Fifty-two minutes from start to finish. [Times of others likely will be less, since our tree is larger than most.]
By comparison, we used to drive fifteen minutes to the tree lot, spend at least thirty minutes looking at every tree in the lot until Laurel decided that the very first tree we looked at was indeed the best one (just as I had said half an hour ago), take ten minutes to pay and tie the tree to our luggage rack, spend twenty-five minutes driving home at a glacially slow speed because I’d be afraid the tree would fall off the car if I went faster, and, finally, take at least fifteen minutes to saw off the butt of the tree, haul it into the house, and curse, in a fine holiday sprit, “Now, why the _____ won’t this _____ing tree stand up straight in the stand?” [Research note: cursing, in my experience, is an inevitable part of the tree set-up experience regardless of whether you go artificial or real.]
Real tree set-up estimate: Ninety-five minutes from start to finish.
Happy holidays, whether you go artificial, real, or no tree at all.