I’m still on the fence when it comes to real Christmas trees vs. artificial replicas. Tonight we decorated only our fifth real tree in the last nine years of our marriage — the fifth real tree I’ve ever had.

Growing up in Alaska the primary method for heating the home was a Blaze Princess wood stove fueled by trees cut down in the Summer to make way for new homes. The biggest drawback to this method is how dry it can get in the middle of Winter when the stoves are used the most. There were more than a few occasions when a small static shock felt more like the jolt from a heart defibrillator.

it gets so dry in that live Christmas trees have a habit of turning a nice golden brown and turning into the best fuel for burning down a house. I saw this first hand at the home of some family friends — fantastic full green pine the first day, Charlie Brown twig tree three days later. It was as pathetic and made more of a mess than merry. The problem was serious enough in our town that in the early years the Chief of the Palmer Fire Department would go door to door to to remind families of the danger of using live trees.

Paying head to fire departments Christmas tree safety awareness propaganda the parents went to Sears and came back with a very nice plastic rendition of a Douglas Fir. Though it did not carry the fragrance of the tree it pretended to be, it looked every bit like the quintessential tree right down to the thousands of individual green plastic-pine needles that together formed a perfect cone shape.

I know very little about the evolution in artificial tree design but I can tell you with confidence that I have yet to see a fake tree that was constructed as well as ours and in no where near the same detail. Today’s forgeries look like cheap knock offs that aren’t even good enough for the likes of Canal Street.

Now that I live in an area that does not know the perils of wood based heating systems live trees are readily available in vast quantities and variety. This is both a joy and a frustration because you can’t just walk and buy any tree because they come in so many different configurations — some not so pleasant. Which leads to the most important question regarding live trees: what’s up with the tops of real trees? I have yet to see one that doesn’t look like a 45 year old guy with male pattern baldness. I would think that by now someone would have come up with a product to correct this problem — think hair extensions but for Christmas trees.

On the plus side is the smell that permeates from a good live tree. Despite advances in fragrant science I doubt any artificial tree will ever become a perfect replication yet it is essential to success. As a child I associated the musty smell of plastic being pulled from a cardboard box as one of the first indicators that presents were going to be in my possession soon. This pine fresh scent is relatively new to me but I don’t get Star Wars toys for Christmas anymore so the pulling-the-tree-from-the-box anticipation for the pre-dawn hours of December 25th isn’t what it used to be.

Not that I’m complaining, just reflecting that perhaps this new direction in annual tradition is necessary to move on and realize there will never be another Christmas where I get all of the figures from the Jabba’s the Hutt’s Palace for the very first time.

In the end I am happy to bring a real tree into my home but there is just something about it that doesn’t quite feel like the Christmas, yet. My wife is perfectly in sync having grown up on real trees all her life, unlike myself who’s timing belt is squeaking for an adjustment.

I suppose It doesn’t matter what type of tree you have (and I think I’m well qualified to say that one type is not superior over the other) because what really matters is that we’re all safe and sound and hopefully scoring Star Wars action figures. Besides, the larger problem — the real pissah — is the total and complete lack of snow in December.