Leslie LaPosta always had an artificial Christmas tree growing up, and for a while resisted her husband’s insistence to get a real tree.
LaPosta, of Washington, said her husband, Clayton, wanted to continue his family’s tradition of real trees. When their son Gianni was born she made him a deal: A real tree after he turns 2.
Leslie admits maybe feeling a tinge of regret on Gianni’s second birthday, but that quickly went away when they went to Candle Tree Farm to get their first live Christmas tree this year.
“So I made good on my promise and we got a real tree,” Leslie said. “I love it. It was so fun to go pick it up ... Now I’m a real tree person.”
Yes, the pine needles get everywhere, but that’s not a deal breaker for Leslie.
“The experience is really the selling point for me. You just don’t get that with an artificial tree. The second part is definitely the smell. It smells more like Christmas in the house,” Leslie said.
“The experience” is what draws many people to Quarter Pine Tree Farm in Georges Township, Fayette County, according to Beth Bossio, who works in sales and marketing for the farm.
“I truly believe that our crop is basically the centerpiece of their holiday,” Bossio said of their customers. “It’s a product that is going to give someone an experience from the day they purchase.”
Bossio said there are other benefits to buying live trees.
“Not only for the experience, but Christmas tree farms are keeping land green,” Bossio said, adding that the land is often not suitable for other crops.
Beyond that, Bossio says it is a way to support your local economy.
“Artificial trees are manufactured overseas. Now more than ever, we need to support farmers across America,” Bossio said.
People lined up to buy trees on Quarter Pine Tree’s opening day on Black Friday, but they may have noticed slightly higher prices this year.
Bossio referred to statistics from The Real Christmas Tree, a national organization of Christmas tree farmers, that estimate live tree prices are up 5% to 15% nationwide. According to Bossio, the cost of their 6- to- 7-foot trees have increased by $5.
Even still, live trees are on average cheaper than their artificial counterparts. Artificial trees, however, can be packed away to use again the following year.
In some cases, perhaps the next 60 years.
Anne Holmes, of Smith Township, still puts up the artificial tree tree her grandfather used in her dining room, and has four other artificial trees around the house.
Holmes’ reason for using artificial trees is a bit more practical – her family celebrates Christmas on Dec. 25, but also Russian Christmas on Jan. 7. She explained that one year, they did try to use a live tree.
“It lasted through the season, but it didn’t last until Jan. 7,” Holmes said.
For Tammy Kingan, of Amwell Township, one time getting a real tree was enough.
“Just because my kids are growing up and we always had artificial trees, we had that experience of picking a real one,” Kingan said.
But the fun stopped at the farm.
“I had to keep tightening the tree stand. The tree would lean, and one time it fell over. The pine needles are everywhere. The dogs drink out of the water bowl,” Kingan said.
Growing up, Kingan’s family put up live trees, but those experiences may have pushed her toward using artificial trees.
“The most I remember growing up is just the constant needles. Even after Christmas is over and you have to carry the tree outside. Weeks of vacuuming pine needles,” Kingan said.
Deciding to go with an artificial tree could also just be a matter of circumstance. Rebecca Cochran Yue grew up in Wolfdale and graduated from Trinity High School in 1977, but has lived just outside of Orlando, Fla., for the past 30 years.
In Florida, the wide-open farms of Pennsylvania are exchanged for the parking lots of home improvement stores.
“Home Depot, Lowe’s have large parking lot areas and will let people from up north bring their trees down,” Yue said. “I did that when I first moved here. They’ve been dead, needles are falling off. You pretty much have a big, Charlie Brown tree in your living room.”
Yue has been happy with an artificial tree, one that’s pre-lit and programmable with different kinds of lights.
While she appreciates the convenience, Yue still holds plenty of nostalgia for finding the perfect Christmas tree on a Pennsylvania farm.
“I do miss the days when I was growing up and Dad would take us to a tree farm. That was a lot of fun. I don’t live in the snow anymore, and I don’t live near tree farms,” Yue said. “If I did live up north, I’d be going with the fresh trees again.”