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Memories of Decorating Trees, Real and Artificial

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Can you guess what percentage of us decorate real Christmas trees as opposed to artificial trees? At one time in the distant past, I would have guessed it would be about half.

Every holiday season, I always enjoy helping my wife decorate our home but I turn from the happy Elf into the Grinch when things don’t work out well. That can happen when the crowning star won’t sit straight atop the tree or we happen to choose a real tree one year and the thing won’t stand up straight.

Sometimes when I get frustrated over the big and the small stuff as I decorate our home for the holidays, I think that maybe I’ve reached a stage of life when it’s time to celebrate holidays in a more moderated way and decorate the house accordingly. My wife hasn’t reached that stage yet, but maybe I have.

Things were different when we first married many years ago in late September. By Thanksgiving we had launched into our first joint home crafts project, making our own ornaments for a tree of the artificial, but rather convincing, variety. Did you know that the first artificial Christmas trees were made by a toilet brush company and actually looked like big, green toilet brushes?

As hopelessly romantic newlyweds, we dedicated ourselves to creating highly sophisticated, decorative ornaments made from Styrofoam balls. Using straight pins that we purchased from the hat district on Manhattan’s West 28th Street, we attached the balls adorned with fine ribbons, metallic threads, beads, semi-precious stones, feathers, pearls and crystals. The project became an addiction that gave us callouses and had us losing sleep, night after night.

A week before Christmas, all the ornaments were completed and the tree was easily assembled in three pieces. We strung it with multi-colored lights and golden tinseled garlands, which we haven’t seen sold in the past 30 years, and there it remained in the corner until after Valentine’s Day. Or was it Easter? Seriously!

We liked it so much that we excused its extended stay to visitors as camp art. We just didn’t want to let go of that demonstration of our first and maybe our only major artistic project created together.

The ridiculousness of the situation paid off, however, when a national magazine was tipped off (by me) about our beautiful tree and published a photo feature about it that appeared in mid-summer.

I often smile as I spy young families picking out real trees and wreaths, excited to get them home for holiday decoration. At the same time, I realize that I seem to have passed into a different phase, someone who decorates for the holidays but enjoys watching our kids pull out all the stops for their kids, whether it be mounting Santa and his reindeer on the roof or putting out cookies and milk. Good for them, but not necessarily for me anymore.

In my own family, there were a few years when we enjoyed four generations of our family gathering at our highly decorated home to celebrate the holidays. I’m looking forward to the day when we can expand generationally to that number once again.

In answer to the real versus artificial Christmas tree question, of the 94 million trees sold, 80 percent of them will be artificial.

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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