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When it’s time to kick the artificial tree to the curb

This is a reprint from my Patch column originally published in December 2010.

We finally replaced our artificial Christmas tree of 17 years. I bought our old one the year after my husband and I got married. It was a nice, full, bushy thing that I found for 50 percent off after the holidays.

It has since appeared in many annual Christmas photos with our two teenagers and 90-pounds-of-fun dog who must be wrestled into position before the picture’s taken.

This year, my husband decided he’d had enough of assembling our old tree, and untangling streams of multi-colored lights before dangling them around the Christmas tree.

“Get one of those pre-lit trees,” he said just before Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to replace a tree that has been in the family for so long, especially one that has witnessed so much life. Toddlers ripping open presents. Grade-schoolers ripping open presents. Teenagers ripping open presents.

But I’ve never had the privilege of hauling a ginormous box filled with color coded tree branches up the basement stairs, assembling the dumb thing, then cursing strands of carefully hung burned out lights. That was my husband’s job.

Even so, I was attached to this old tree. It was bushy! Full! Did I mention it had been featured in our annual Christmas photo? A lot?

Knowing little about pre-lit trees, I turned to my good friend, Google, for a bit of research. After discovering that the very first artificial trees were made of the same material as a toilet scrubber, I scanned the trees on Home Depot’s website.

Did you know Martha Stewart has her very own line of Christmas trees? I clicked on images for sparkling, snowy and just-cut-natural fir trees filled with pine cones and LED lights, then headed to Home Depot for an up-close and personal look.

After circling the Christmas tree displays and hogging the attention of the nearest sales associate for half an hour, I settled on a number from Martha. It sparkled. It looked real. It had pine cones.
I took it home.

With a minimum of swearing, my husband snapped the 3-part tree in place. There it was. Frosty. Piney. Pre-lit. But it wasn’t as bushy or lush-looking as our old one. Maybe the ornaments would help.

I got to work, adorning the tree with the same old ornaments we use every year—ones the kids made when they were younger, a few from my single days, a batch of Waterford ornaments from my mother-in-law. And even though we had enough old ornaments to fill a Tea Party convention (not all of which I used), I was disappointed. The tree didn’t seem as festive as our original. Could I see this tree in our Christmas cards for the next 17 years?

I was starting to think Martha was overrated.

Maybe it just needed an identity of its own. A little shopping therapy never hurt anyone. Including a tree. So off I went, to the greatest store ever invented: Target.

Twenty new ornaments, one fancy bed skirt, four strands of garland, and two boxes of candy canes later, I think the tree looks alright. In fact, I like it.

I just hope it doesn’t tip over.

What’s your Christmas tree story?

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December 22, 2012 - 3:14 pm

Cindy L - What a festive piece, Pam! I missed it the first time around, so I am happy you posted it. Merry Christmas to you and your family! It has been a gift to get to know you better this year.

December 22, 2012 - 3:26 pm

Pam Houghton - Cindy – I feel the same about you and Lynne! So happy we have connected. Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!

January 10, 2013 - 1:24 am

Pat - Hi Pam – it nice to meet you. I came over by way of Wendy McCance’s site.

On your post, I wanted to add a thought about Christmas trees. We have always decorated with a live tree over the years. Every year we check out the artificial ones and can’t seem to bring ourselves to get one.

I don’t know what it is — either the cost (though we would recoup that over time), storage space, smell and lights. Maybe next year will be different.

Hope you’re having a Happy New Year so far!

January 10, 2013 - 1:54 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks for stopping by, Pat. I have to admit that the smell and appearance of real trees are pretty wonderful. I can see why you’d have a hard time switching to artificial! 🙂

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