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Real or artificial — it’s a choice

December 9, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

Fresh smell or convenience? Finding the perfect tree, or bringing one out of storage? These are a few of the choices and trade-offs when considering buying a real Christmas tree versus an artificial one.

Ervin Mertz of Rogers City said he usually picks out a balsam fir from the woods and sets it up at his parents' farm near Hawks. While he doesn't set up a tree in his own home, it's still a family tradition at his parents' house. Decorating one will be bittersweet this year, as it's the family's first Christmas since his father's death.

Mertz would never use an artificial tree because he believes they're not part of the true meaning of the season, he said. Artificial ones represent the more commercialized aspect of the holidays.

Article Photos

News photo by Jordan Travis
Rogers City Optimist Club Mike Peltz, right, chats with club member Melrin Little at the club’s Christmas tree sale Friday. Peltz uses an artificial tree in his home, although he’s bought real ones in the past, he said.

"If you get back to the church, and the true meaning of Christmas ... the tree represents the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost," he said.

Mertz likes the smell of a fresh-cut tree in the house as well, he said. By keeping a plastic bag around the base he can take care of shed needles, and bagging the tree itself, without much fuss.

For Dick Adair, one tree isn't enough. He puts up three in his Rogers City home, one with old-fashioned decorations, one for food and the third for miniature "booze" bottles, he said.

"People bring them back from all over the country," he said.

The practice evolved over 40 years, Adair said. He and his wife started putting up a tree near the kitchen with gingerbread men, named after each member of the family. Later, he put up a "Charlie Brown" tree and hung a few miniature bottles on it.

All this time, Adair has used real trees out of habit, he said. Originally from the Sault Ste. Marie area, his uncle owned one of the largest tree lots in the area. However, he's not adverse to the idea of artificial ones, and even put one up for his wife when she was in a nearby nursing home.

At a Rogers City greenhouse, Optimist Club President Mike Peltz said he uses an artificial tree. He and Merlin Little were selling fresh-cut Christmas trees as a fundraiser for the club. He agreed they look more authentic than they used to.

"People walk in and look at the tree I've got," said. "If you don't tell them it's a real tree, they don't know."

While Peltz had used real trees in the past, he switched due to the convenience of artificial ones, he said.

"These trees are too heavy to handle. I can't handle that tree by myself," he said. "I used to be able to, but not any more."

Patti Briley, who owns a gift shop in Alpena, has used an artificial tree in her home since 1997, she said. For her, the convenience factor of an artificial tree depends on one's perspective.

"Mine is 6 1/2 feet tall," she said. "It's big, it's heavy and it comes in three sections."

Then, when the holiday season is over, artificial trees have to be disassembled, packed back into a container and stored, Briley said. Even left assembled, it would still take up a considerable amount of space.

Last year, Peltz was able to avoid this step. He was able to bag his tree - ornaments and all - and set it aside for this year, he said. He only needed to replace a handful that had fallen off.

While Briley uses an artificial tree, she still likes the genuine article.

"I like the smell, and the idea of going out in the woods and hunting for the perfect tree," she said.

Still, Briley likely wouldn't switch back, she said. Artificial ones are easier to arrange, and there are candles that give off evergreen scents. Most importantly, she doesn't like to needlessly cut down trees.

"I don't want to go out and cut down trees," she said. "I think we need our trees, and there are a lot of trees cut down for Christmas time that go to waste."

The safety of artificial trees is also a bonus, considering how many house fires are started by dried-out Christmas trees every year, Briley said.

Either way, putting up a Christmas tree is part of celebrating the holiday, Adair said.

"No matter what kind of tree you put up, it's Christmas," he said.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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