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Live versus artificial trees: It all comes down to taste


Dec. 21, 2013 at 6:21 a.m.
Updated Dec. 22, 2013 at 6:22 a.m.

Lizzi Caldwell, 14, and her mother, Maureen, check out a tree from all angles before deciding on the perfect tree to take home for Christmas at Holiday Hills Christmas Trees in the Hastings parking lot Dec. 4. The family said they usually cut down their own tree but ran out of time this year.

For two little girls, they had a very big job ahead.

In warm winter coats and colorful hats, sisters Kelly and Melanie Laredo, ages 5 and 2, strode into the striped tent that Holiday Hills Christmas Trees calls home.

Their mission - to seek out this year's tree.

"Usually, we go with a fake one, but it's more fun to pick one out," mom Tiffany Laredo, of Edna, said with a smile at her girls. "This will help us get Christmas started."

The choice between a real or artificial Christmas tree is one many Crossroads families make from year to year. But when it comes to what's best, those in the business say it all comes down to preference.

Nationwide, more than 94 million households will display a Christmas tree this holiday season, according to a Nielsen study done on behalf of the American Christmas Tree Association. Of those, according to a tree association news release, 80 percent of trees will be artificial and 20 percent live.

Thomas Long, who owns Shop the World, has had artificial trees gracing his showroom for months. Because they boast stronger branches and don't droop like the live varieties, he said they make more sense when it comes to displaying ornaments inside the shop.

"Last year, we bought a lot of live garland and put it up so people would see it as they walked in the store," he said. "We misted it daily, but within the week, it turned brown."

Still, he said, many people throughout the Crossroads seem to be switching to live trees.

"Our designer has been going to people's houses, and we're seeing more and more of them," he explained. "A lot of people love the smell."

Really, he said, both options have their pros and cons.

While live trees bring that Christmas smell, and some make it a tradition to search out the perfect one, they can be rough for those with allergies. Meanwhile, artificial trees don't die and are less likely to leave a mess of fallen needles.

Regardless of which variety a person chooses, one thing holds true across the board: Trees need decorations. And Long, whose store makes it a point to stay on top of such trends, said a few elements stand out this year.

Owls, the woodland look and gingerbread elements are all popular this time around, he said, while burlap is another big look.

In this part of the world, where hunting is big, he said many people enjoy getting outdoorsy with their trees, incorporating moss and branches.

"We had 288 pairs of antlers this year, and we sold every one of 'em," he said, explaining people add them throughout their trees, and even as toppers.

For Daniel Loa, who does seasonal work with Holiday Hills, a real tree is the only way to go. His reason: the smell.

"The aroma gets you going," he said, rubbing the needles of a grand fir tree and noting the citrus-like scent. "You take one of these home, you don't even need an air freshener."

Loa, who has a live tree at his Victoria home, said he enjoys his work this time of year, especially helping the little ones with the process.

"I'll tell them Alvin (the Chipmunk) is on the loose, and they'll help me look through the tree," he said. "Once the tree's ready to go home, I tell them it's an Elvis tree. It's all shook up."

Before they're packaged up and ready to go home, trees go into a shaker to remove any loose needles, branches or anything else that might be inside.

Trees have been known to drop lizards and bird nests, he said, while one purchase this year brought a first.

"A shrimp tail fell out," Loa said, laughing. "I'd never seen that before."

As for the Laredo family, their holiday excursion didn't take long. Within minutes, the girls had chosen this year's perfect tree: a 6-foot noble fir.

"It's the right size," Kelly said, watching as Loa put her find into the shaker and prepared it for the ride home. "We liked it."

And, although the artificial variety might typically take the lead role inside the family's home, Kelly decided she could get behind having a live tree instead.

"They smell much more gooder," she said.



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