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Special section Thrifty gifting

Aroma, feel and tradition all play a part in this decision, and the comparative cost factor is nothing to sneeze at, either.

Real or artificial (trees) -- what's better?

Real or artificial: What's best for you?

Denise Reynolds, a resident of Fort Lauderale, Fla., says she usually buys a 6-foot Frasier fir every year for about $70. While the live tree can sometimes be a long process to set up, she says wouldn't have it any other way because it brings more of a "wintery" feel in her home with fragrance and individual character.

"There's nothing like the smell of a real tree," says Reynolds. "It's a pain sometimes, but it's worthwhile. Down here in South Florida, there's no weather change and a real tree brings the aroma of Christmas."

Walterscheidt says that many people are also drawn to live trees because they make a trip to the tree lot an annual family tradition. Hunting down the perfect tree, strapping it to the roof of the family vehicle, bringing it in the home and setting it up is the perfect way to start the holidays for many. "Choose and cut" farms where people can select their own trees in a farm and cut them down are also becoming very popular throughout many parts of the country.

"A lot of the farms are doing extra things like having campfires and events for the family. It's just a lot of fun to get out there and find the perfect tree," says Walterscheidt.

Whether to go live or artificial also depends on how a person wants to end their holiday season. Artificial trees must be carefully packed away and stored whereas live trees can simply be tossed out of the house. Some proponents of artificial trees argue that they're more ecologically friendly, but they're often made of non-renewable petroleum-based products and are usually manufactured in China. While millions of live trees are cut down every year, they're also biodegradable and can be recycled and turned into mulch or to provide habitats for fish and wildlife.

In the end, the question of whether to celebrate with a real or artificial tree comes down to three things: the cost, the time you want to spend setting it up and taking it down, and personal preference.

-- Posted: Nov. 30, 2007
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