In the spirit of season, I sure wish I had an illustrative Christmas tree story to share with you. 

The last time I tried to procure a tree on my own, the endeavor involved myself and a drunken buddy heading out into the wilds of Burnham, or possibly Benton, to cut one down. 

My friend got a nasty gash from a hacksaw blade, we both suffered near frostbite on our finger tips, and the stupid tree flew out the back of the pickup truck on the ride home. 

That’s no story to tell around Christmastime. Fortunately, when it comes to the great seasonal debate — real tree vs. artificial tree — we have plenty of readers with more wholesome tales to tell. 

We’ll share those stories with you, but first some hard facts about trees. 

As I went poking around for statistics on Christmas trees, I was rather stunned to learn that the average cost of a real one this year is right around $80. That’s 80 bucks for a tree that you might keep for three weeks before stripping it down and lugging it to the curb to be hauled away. 


We’re talking $80 U.S. dollars for a wild-grown tree that will shed needles all over your carpet, will require constant watering and which will be torn apart three times a day by your rambunctious cat, dog or toddler. 

Is it worth it? 

That, my friends, all depends on who you ask. 

Go online as I did to read about the real vs. fake debate and you’ll find a curious thing. The convenience-minded will demand that fake is the way to go and they’ll give you a hundred reasons why that’s so. 

An artificial tree, they will tell you, is convenient and can simply be packed away at the end of the season. An artificial tree is near mess-free and will save you big bucks after just a couple years. A good ol’ fake does not require water, does not attract bugs and will not shed needles that you’ll be required to pluck out of your foot the rest of the year. 

The purist, meanwhile, can give you another hundred in support of the idea that if you’re not sporting a real tree, then my friend, you’re not doing Christmas right. 


A real tree, they will say, poking you in the chest with a gloved finger, will fill your home with the aromatic scent of evergreen; a scent that is scientifically linked to happy childhood memories. Probably. 

Real trees are grown right here in the U.S. of A. and they are safer for the environment because — wouldn’t you know it? — the artificial ones can’t be recycled. 

A real tree comes with real ceremony, too. You pack the whole family in the minivan, head down to the tree farm and then spend the afternoon picking out just the right tree to serve your family at Christmas. That done, you bind it all up, strap it to the roof like a slain deer and then head home for an evening of decorating and arguing over who gets to place the star on top.

Buy a real tree, the purist will insist, or just admit you hate Santa. 

To be fair, the readers who shared their stories with us are not so ardent one way or another. Some prefer artificial, but allow that the real deal can be nice, too. Some used to hoist real trees for Christmas, but then converted to the other side. 

A few who wrote us even straddle the line completely, blending both real and fake in order to maximize their Christmastime ambiance. Clever readers, we have. Here are their stories, in their words.


This is Sue Tymoczko’s real tree, but it’s not the only tree she displays for Christmas. Submitted photo

This is Sue Tymoczko’s other tree, an artificial one that was her husband’s favorite. Submitted photo

Sue Tymoczko, Lewiston 

Why choose when you can have one of each? On the odd years my husband always put up a silver tree, but I still HAD TO HAVE my real tree. We would have a “flamingo party” with the silver tree and other silly stuff, and family and friends would try to outdo each other with an “appropriate gift.”

Bob passed away in 2011, but the tree still comes out many odd years, and sometimes on an even year too. But always, always, I must have my real tree. 

Lorraine Tyra, North Buckfield 

After traveling for several years we decided to retire back East. Our house is in the little village of North Buckfield, in southwestern Maine. The seller was having a yard sale and her artificial tree was out on the lawn. I told her that if the tree didn’t sell she could leave it on the front porch.

We hadn’t had a tree in years. Our little house was too small at the time and there was no place inside so we strung the lights on the tree outside. That location has worked well and even though there is lots of room now in the addition, we still set up the artificial tree on the porch. The colored lights welcome the neighbors as they travel the dark winding roads. After the holiday season is over, the tree is disassembled and boxes are put up in the barn loft. Very simple, very easy. 


Bill Beaulieu, North Monmouth 

At 71 years old I remember jumping in the family car and heading to the country and usually my uncle’s farm in Livermore. Then we would just hit the surrounding woods and my Dad, with approval from Mom, cut down usually a huge tree, tied it to the roof and headed home! Now we would surely be fined for doing so. But as tradition dictates, we go to a local tree farm and do the job: kids, grandkids, the whole family so enjoys this. I could NEVER have anything but the real deal! In fact, we had visitors from England last year and you can’t imagine the thrill they had doing so. Memories are made for the whole family each year, and I hope they continue this tradition long after I’m gone and look at each other and say, “Hey remember when Dad told us about?” or “Remember the year we went and this or that happened?” 

Either way, my family wishes you and all a very Merry Christmas! 

The Brodeur family’s 38-year-old Christmas tree again shines brightly for the season. Submitted photo

Norm and Denise Brodeur, Lewiston 

Our Christmas tree was purchased nearly 38 years ago at Paragon Glass in the Lewiston industrial park. It was the most stunning tree in their display. We paid $200 for the tree, an enormous sum at that time, and it came with white ornaments and 1,500 lights. Over the years the theme of the tree has changed, and the ornaments symbolize the beauty of our family. More importantly, our beloved tree has witnessed our family history. It witnessed the growing of our children, the joy of our families and the sadness of our missing elders. It is now seeing our grandchildren’s spirit of joy and wonder of the Christmas season. In my humble opinion, our majestic artificial tree stood the test of time and bore witness to the magic of Christmas. A task a real tree could never accomplish. 

Anonymous (possibly one of Santa’s elves) 


It was another year of us cutting down our Christmas tree. My wife wanted to go to some place in Raymond that we went to last year despite the distance, so off we go. She said she’d remember how to get there. Forty minutes later we’re still searching for the place. No cellphone reception so no phone and no GPS. We backtrack a town to get reception, find a different tree place in the process, try it, but they have only small trees and leave. We then locate the place my wife wanted to go to, only to be greeted with a sign that says “Sorry we’re closed for the season.” My daughter-in-law, who doesn’t like riding around aimlessly — can you believe that??? — later mentions maybe we should call first next time. Smartypants.

So back we go to L-A and our old standby, North Parish tree farm in Turner, but, of course, it doesn’t open until noon. Which is fine because we need to stop for gas since we blew through a tank seeing the wonderful sights of Raymond. We finally get to Turner, finagle a parking space, stumble around and eventually agree on a tree. But it has to be cut close to the ground to make sure it’s tall enough to maintain a family tradition of touching the ceiling, so the four of us are scraping our knuckles trying to saw down this tree, which is far thicker where it enters the ground than just three inches higher. By the time we’re done, we’ve shed all our outerwear, my son is soaked from the workout, everyone’s sweating, and we’re all so exhausted that the four of us pushed the tree over instead of cutting the last inch of its thick, cold, sappy trunk. Covered with dirt and pine needles, we carry the tree all the way up to the shack, get it on the roof of the car, figure out how to tie it down for the ride home, manhandle it into the house (scraping the doorways for an extra good time) and then repeatedly trim the top — we’re not cutting that trunk again! — until it finally fits without gouging the ceiling. 

Fake or real tree? Real tree every time! It was pure Christmas spirit, from the coffee, cider and hot chocolate we got every time we stopped somewhere, to carols and conversation in the car, to the sandwiches at New Gloucester Village Store, to seeing the good people at North Parish after several years of COVID, to agreeing on just the right tree to cut, to the family teamwork of rearranging the living room and getting the tree perfectly straight (kind of) in its stand, to the amazing smell and the thousands of pine needles now in the vacuum bag that will offer up Christmas for weeks and weeks to come.

P.S. The cat would never let a fake tree in the house. Merry Christmas! 

Carolyn K. Tanner’s grapefruit tree stands in for a Christmas tree. Submitted photo

Carolyn K. Tanner, Poland

Carolyn K. Tanner’s artificial tree has a lifetime of sentimental holiday spirit. Submitted photo

Fifty-nine years ago, this newly married couple went to the Boston neighborhood it-has-everything store. There we found a three-foot artificial tree for our first apartment. Being Boston University students, we had next to no money. However, we made an angel and a star and splurged for a tinsel rope and mini-lights. It was beautiful! It has had a few small ornaments added through the years and it is still beautiful. Now, it sits on a small table beneath a picture window. 


Fifty years ago, while living in Cape Vincent, New York, a neighbor gave us a very lovely grapefruit. Inside was a sprouted seed. We wondered if it would grow with a little tender love and care. First, it was planted in a very small can, then a bigger one and still bigger as it proved that, yes indeed, it would grow. It moved with us through seven moves as we pastored United Methodist churches in northern New York. And, it accompanied us to our Maine retirement cottage in the woods. Each move brought unique challenges in moving the tree. It scattered leaves along a highway when it sat in the pick-up bed. It was buried beneath a pile of packing boxes in the moving van en route to Maine. All the while we just kept caring for it. 

Here in Maine it is too cold to survive outside (as it was in New York state, too). So, now it is planted in a half-barrel container, on a wheeled platform. We easily roll it out in the summer and back in for the winter. So, you see we have both a real tree (no, it doesn’t produce fruit!) and an artificial tree in our small Maine cottage. We enjoy them both. 

 Joanne D’Unger, Leeds 

Real. They clean and cool the air, stabilize soil and prevent water runoff, provide shelter to small critters and keep land in agricultural use before they even grace our space with their woodsy scent. Lay down a “tree skirt,” keep it well watered and give it back to the Earth. Fake? Petroleum pumped or fracked, hauled to refineries, manufactured into plastics, outgassing who knows what kind of chemicals. Nope. 

Jeff Keenan, no town listed 

A real tree is a must-have if you have children — the bigger the better. Remember, everything is bigger when you’re a child. Looking up at that tree: the smell, the touch, the feel, the excitement of decorating — all imprinting visuals that follow you into your dreams. A giant tree in the room, hopefully with a Red Rider under it . . .


Only when Pat Perkins’ real tree totally dried out before Christmas one year did an artificial tree become an option. It’s been their go-to ever since. “In a perfect world we still feel REAL is best. But in this world, ARTIFICIAL is a good, safe option.. It wasn’t an easy choice,” she says. Submitted photo

Pat Perkins, Oxford 

Since 1975 we have always carefully chosen a real Christmas tree to decorate for the holidays. In our most adventurous years we would take to the woods to hunt for a tree that needed to come down and take the top home for our tree. In more recent years we’ve chosen one either from a tree farm or a “fresh” cut tree at a local farm stand. Over the years it seemed more difficult to get a tree that would last the season unless we could venture to somewhere to cut it ourselves. That is where our trouble started in December 2021. Our freshly cut tree that we put up shortly after Thanksgiving never took water well. The needles were not the dark green they should have been, either. Drought, maybe. We proceeded to have faith that our tree would thrive under our careful watering and pruning. Low and behold, in less than two weeks it was quite evident the tree was not going to last. The needles turned brittle and dropped at an alarming pace. 

Water sat in the tree stand into a second day only slightly taking a top off. Here it was more than a week until the big day. We came to the sad and dreaded plan of defrocking the tree, putting ornaments carefully back from whence they came. But we HAD to have a Christmas tree. There was no doubt about that. 

We decided it was time for the dreaded ARTIFICIAL Christmas tree with it’s so-not-appealing look, smell or realness we had always enjoyed. So, to Auburn I drove taking an afternoon looking locally to find only 3-feet-tall or 18-feet-tall artificial trees for sale. Mostly, flocked with heavy fake snow and pre-lit. 

Back home I drove and online I went with another day closer to Christmas and now no tree. After much browsing for a plain fir tree, no lights, of six feet or so height, we managed to find one. But what was the arrival time? We were so relieved to find that it would arrive in less than 48 hours. And it did. All pieces in tact and ready for assembly and a whole new way of decorating a tree.

Wait, first we had to adjust the branches and FLUFF them! WHAT!! Well, needless to say we managed the new instructions. . . . And most relieved that it was real enough looking for us that we were most happy with the outcome. And even though assembly is required and much fluffing is necessary to get that desired look, we don’t worry any more about the tree drying out and needle drop. We have spruce spray and spruce candles to permeate the air. And we no longer have the yearly challenge of finding a tree that will hold up for the season.

So, in a perfect world we still feel REAL is best. But in this world, ARTIFICIAL is a good, safe option. Thank goodness for options! Merry Christmas to everyone who took the time to read this saga! May your season be bright and cheery!

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