My family always bought a real tree. Every. Year. We lived in the suburbs so usually we would go out some Saturday shortly after Thanksgiving and drive to a tree farm in the boonies. I can't remember where we would go and I actually think it varied from year to year. It was usually pretty cold and sometimes there was already snow on the ground. We weren't picky about tree type - sometimes it was a fir and at other times it was a spruce - but we always got a big one. Not Chevy-Chase-Christmas-Vacation BIG, but still pretty big AND round. My dad usually had to saw off some of the top AND bottom so that it would vertically fit in our house.
So, we'd strap it to the roof of our station wagon (or later our big 'ole red conversion van) and bring it home. Then the real fun would begin. See, the tree stand we had was old - it was metal, rusty, and crooked even WITHOUT a tree in it! My dad would situate himself at the bottom under the tree and at least two of us would have to hold the tree by the trunk while he screwed in the trunk. It usually took several tries of screwing and unscrewing the pins in and out before the tree was straight. And sometimes we STILL couldn't get it straight, at which point my dad would get some small pieces of scrap wood and prop them under the leaning side of the tree.
After my husband and I bought our first home (we didn't even try to put a tree in our little apartment), we decided to go artificial. The fake ones look so authentic these days and they are SO much easier to set up and put away. Plus, they are much less expensive in the long term when compared with having to buy a cut tree every year. Our kids get just as much joy out of setting it up and decorating it as me and my siblings did with the real trees.
©2012, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder