Oh, Christmas Tree

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Real or fake, they’re a staple in every celebrating home

By J.A. Shapira

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It’s tough to find a family in Winnipeg that celebrates Christmas, whose home is without a tree. Real or fake though, does it really matter?

People argue one way or another and they have for decades. Since the idea of having fake Christmas trees came to light, the ease of setup, lack of fire hazards and simplicity of cleanup has attracted many to them and away from the classic real tree from nature.

We’ve all seen the hazards a real tree can bring to the occasion. One just has to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to know that with wild trees sometimes comes wildlife. But what other benefits and drawbacks come with having a faux tree for the season?

According to the Manitoba Christmas Tree Growers Association, there are some big benefits to using real trees in addition to that great fresh scent that keeps your home smelling fragrant like the forest all Christmas.

With fake trees, you know what to expect. It will look the same every year, save you some money since you won’t have to buy a new one each season, as well as saving quite a bit of effort. It also comes without the fire hazards. In my home, we use a fake tree. So why bother with a real one?

First, the fun in selecting your own tree. It becomes a tradition. Now, I’m not suggesting you hike into the middle of the forest, after all there are plenty of Christmas tree farms in and around Winnipeg. They usually keep their fields very well groomed, but don’t expect a walk through the mall — prepare for a day in the country.

Bring the hot chocolate, the mittens and warm snow clothes. Dress the kids in layers, but leave the dog at home. After all, nobody wants a freshly peed on Christmas tree in their living room. Usually the farm operators will provide the saws but the cutter and loaders will want to bring work gloves to keep their hands safe and cut free.

While some farms measure and price each tree individually, others sell them by the foot. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to wade into the field through the cold crisp snow until you find the perfect tree for your family. Check the trunk to be sure it’s straight and strong and try to select a pine with minimal crooks in the trunk.

By autumn, all pines drop and shed, so don’t be upset if the tree looks a little weak; it’s just preparing itself for the winter. Because of this, shopping at a farm is ideal since most of them offer a shaking service which releases all the loose needles before you get home. This also encourages any animals to release as well, preventing you from a confrontation with Scrooge McSquirrel in the living room.

Cutting the tree is a two-person job so it’s best to bring the family or a friend. Most farms offer advice and you can also find videos for it online. After being chopped, the tree goes for a cleaning where it’s netted for you. This makes transporting the tree home a breeze. Just another benefit of buying your tree from a farm.

Before you leave the farm, be sure to pick up a tree removal bag. One tip: You can use the bag as a tree skirt while your tree is up during the holidays.

Unlike a fake Christmas tree, the real tree can be mulched for garden compost, used for a fragrant bonfire or even sunk into lakes and ponds to provide habitat for fish. Being biodegradable is just one added benefit of using a real tree. Granted the fake ones last year after year.

The biggest benefit to a real tree is the memories it makes. You and your family can spend a full afternoon or even day in the winter outdoors picking the perfect tree for your home from thousands on the farm. Enjoy a sleigh ride and bring the camera, hot cocoa and holiday music along for the ride. Many people enjoy a winter bonfire as they sing carols or will go out for a warm rotisserie dinner after a hard day’s work.