Are Fake Christmas Trees the New Normal?

Last year Charlene Truong Launer, a social media content creator, bought a real Christmas tree from a seller on a sidewalk in Manhattan.

Ms. Launer, 29, and her husband carried the tree 15 minutes to their apartment in TriBeCa and spent hours setting it up. “I was so excited,” she said.

The next morning, however, it all came crashing down — literally. “Our Christmas tree had toppled over, and all of our ornaments broke,” she said. “I was so devastated.”

They put it back together, but the tree headaches didn’t end there. “The whole time we had the tree the pine needles were all over the ground,” she said. Ms. Launer added that when it was time to toss the tree out, the collection team scattered pine needles everywhere after dragging the tree out of her apartment building.

She vowed never again.

Instead of shopping for a Christmas tree in person this year, she ordered a fake, nine-foot fir from Home Depot. “It arrived in a box, and I popped it open, and it was perfect,” she said. “It even came with lights.”

Ms. Launer considers herself a convert: “It looks really real,” she added. “I love it.”

She is hardly alone. According to polling by the American Christmas Tree Association, 77 percent of people who have at least one Christmas tree this year are going faux. The association found that people like how easy fake trees are to set up, that no maintenance is required, and that the trees look consistent and pretty throughout the holiday season.

Ben Frumin of Wirecutter, which is owned by The New York Times, said its guide to the best artificial Christmas trees was one of its most read product reviews last month — out of a catalog of more than 1,000 reviews.

But the popularity of faux trees isn’t necessarily great news for the environment: Bill Lindberg, a horticulture expert at Michigan State University, said there were environmental and economical benefits to having a real tree. “Artificial trees are made of plastic that will eventually end up in a landfill. Real trees are renewable resources and can be mulched up and returned to the ground,” he said.

But if you are going to opt for an artificial tree, he said the best thing you could do is use the same one over and over. “There was a study done that compared the environmental impacts of a real tree versus a fake tree,” he said. “It showed that if you kept your artificial tree for eight years, that is basically when you start to break even.” If you keep it for longer, he added, “you could be helping the environment.”

Other factors also drive fake trees’ popularity: Some people like how cost effective it is to buy one tree that can be reused for decades. “Our real Christmas tree that was six or seven feet was $300, which would be an expensive annual tradition,” Ms. Launer said. “Our fake one was $500, and then we get to put it in storage for next year.”

There’s also the fact that many fake trees now look remarkably real. Home Depot’s Grand Duchess, an artificial, 7.5-foot balsam fir that comes with 250 color-changing lights, became known as “the viral Christmas tree” on TikTok. The company said it was already sold out for the season.

Emily Scheiner, 36, who works in marketing, didn’t object when her boyfriend insisted on buying an artificial tree this year for their apartment in SoHo. “He is a neat freak, so the thought of falling needles around the apartment was freaking him out,” she said.

Ms. Scheiner, who is Jewish, didn’t grow up having a Christmas tree, so she was amazed by the many options for artificial ones. The couple settled on a 6.5-foot, artificial Douglas fir by the National Tree Company. She said her dog, Bernie, had embraced it, too. “We have to keep him from eating it.”

Even people who have been surrounded by real Christmas trees their whole lives are going faux this year.

Lillian Greene, 22, grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Boone, N.C. “Every year I would get to choose my own tree and cut it down,” she said.

But now she lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a youth counselor, the experience was different. “They have pre-cut ones at the grocery store, but I figured if I wasn’t getting the full Christmas farm experience, what was the point?”

She bought an artificial, six-foot tree from Amazon, which “felt a little like a family betrayal,” she said. “I already miss some things about having a real tree, like the smell.” She also noticed that the fake tree was a little “too perfect,” and added: “Real trees would have some dry spots where there aren’t any leaves.”

But she was enjoying the fact that there was no cleaning or maintenance. “I think as long as I live in L.A., I’ll stick to the fake one,” she said.

Her sister, Laurel Greene, 20, who still lives in North Carolina, even got one, too.

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