Artificial Trees

“Reports cite a 34 percent drop in live tree sales the past decade, and a 30 percent rise last year alone in the sale of fake trees, to 9.6 million”

The tradition of putting up and decorating a Christmas tree is nothing new. It is the iconic symbol of the holiday and has become a focal point in the homes of those who participate in Christmas festivities. It is a ritual activity that many have fond memories of and there is a nostalgia to having a real tree. However, there was a change from classic to modern and this change occurred when a numerous amount of other artifacts became plasticized. The culture of Christmas intersects with the culture of plastic, and so the artificial Christmas tree is born. Its popularity has grown since its invention, creating a new demand. “Reports cite a 34 percent drop in live tree sales the past decade, and a 30 percent rise last year alone in the sale of fake trees, to 9.6 million”. A demand for plastic starts with economics: how cheap plastic objects are compared to their non-plastic counterpart. “…uncertain economic times ensure more Americans will be looking at Christmas trees as an investment…a single artificial Christmas tree costs 70 percent less than the purchase of ten real Christmas trees over the same period of time”. All of this mixed with our convenience culture that enjoys the ease of new technologies, the artificial Christmas tree has blossomed into the holiday staple that it is today.

An Artificial Christmas Tree

In 1992, in the United States, about 46 percent of homes displaying Christmas trees displayed an artificial tree. Twelve years later, a 2004 ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that 58 percent of U.S. residents used an artificial tree instead of a natural tree. The real versus artificial tree debate has been popular in mass media through the early 21st century. The debate is a frequent topic of news articles during the Christmas holiday season. Early 21st century coverage of the debate focused on the decrease in natural Christmas tree sales, and rise in artificial tree sales over the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The rise in popularity of artificial trees did not go unnoticed by the Christmas tree farming industry in the United States.  A 1975 poll by Michigan State University showed the reasons why consumers were beginning to prefer artificial over natural Christmas trees. The reasons included safety, one-time purchasing, and environmental responsibility but the biggest reason respondents gave pollsters was no messy needle clean up.