Forever evergreens

Scripps-McClatchy Western Service

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Maybe it was the way last year’s tree dried to a crisp before the Christmas wrap hit the floor. Maybe it was all those pine needles still crunching under your step come spring.

Maybe it was the Grinch.

Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to go artificial this year, you’re not alone. When it comes to Christmas trees, a growing number of U.S. families are choosing to fake it.

A survey commissioned by the National Christmas Tree Association this season found that more than half of families who will display a Christmas tree — about 56 percent — plan to go with ersatz tannenbaums.

Maybe that explains why the choices in artificials have become so mind-boggling.

We’re not just talking tall or short, fat or skinny. Options these days include green or flocked, ice or snow, cones or no. Then there are shapes: pencil, slender, medium, medium-full or full. And for the adventurous: spiral, upside-down and a half-tree that fits flush against a wall.

Artificial-tree buyers have the added pressure of knowing the tree they choose will guide their family’s Christmas celebrations for years to come.

"People will come back four or five times before choosing," said Anchorage store owner Beth Ann Shropshire, who also sells the genuine article in an adjoining nursery. "It seems it’s a very monumental decision for a lot of people."

The first pseudo-tannenbaums, marketed more than 100 years ago, came from Germany and were made from goose feathers dyed green to resemble pine branches. Authentic and reproduction "feather trees" are still sought and sold today.

But most of today’s consumers are looking for something more realistic, Shropshire said, and manufacturers are coming through.

Today’s realistic faux trees sport needles treated with a matte finish, and multicolored foliage mimicking a natural mix of old and new growth. These aren’t generic fakes; they’re counterfeit Sierra pines, Douglas firs and blue spruce.

Prices vary widely. A 7-foot prelit tree recently was on sale at Sears for $129.99, while 7 1/2-foot trees at specialty stores ranged between $200 and $500.

Shropshire rounds out her offerings with less traditional "Charlie Brown trees," including alpine styles that look like scrub spruce and an elegant tabletop sized "weeping cedar," with delicate, individually wrapped branches.

Also available, an "alpine cluster" consisting of three tall skinny trees. "They make copper and gold-colored designer trees, but it just doesn’t interest our clientele," Shropshire said.

Nostalgic? The shiny aluminum trees of the 1960s — overt fakes illuminated by revolving "color wheels" — have made a small comeback. A 5-foot aluminum tree from 1960, complete with light, carried a $120 price tag recently at the Pack Rat Mall. Store clerks didn’t anticipate discounting it; a similar one last year went quickly.

"They’re still just as ugly as they always were," said clerk Karren Petty, "but at this point in their age they’re almost bulldog-ugly," in other words, bulldog-cute.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

Mountlake Terrace Library, part of the Sno-Isle Libraries, in Mountlake Terrace, Washington on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sno-Isle workers cite safety, unfilled positions in union push

Workers also pointed to inconsistent policies and a lack of a say in decision-making. Leadership says they’ve been listening.

A view over the Port of Everett Marina looking toward the southern Whidbey Island fault zone in March 2021. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County agencies to simulate major disaster

The scenario will practice the response to an earthquake or tsunami. Dozens of agencies will work with pilots.s

Most Read