enter image description here
Source: National Christmas Tree Association via Statista.


Our family was watching (again) A Christmas Story last night, and during the scene where the Old Man is bargaining to purchase a Christmas tree, he starts haggling with the salesman:

You know the neighbors bought one of those brand new plastic trees... the thing looks like it was made of...green pipe cleaners!

Obviously in the 1940's, artificial trees were still rather new (and not very realistic). But over the decades since then they have improved. In fact, from the data I have been able to find thus far, since at least 2013 (perhaps even further back than that), anywhere from 75% to 80% of Americans who display Christmas trees in their homes use artificial instead of real trees. This may seem counter-intuitive when looking at the annual purchase breakdowns in the info graphic above, but the key is that artificial trees are kept and used from year to year anywhere for four to eight (or more) years, whereas real trees last only one holiday season and must be purchased fresh again the following year.

I have been looking for annual tree preference trends, and I'm sure I'm close with the sources I have searched included below - but so far I have been unable to find trend data that would reveal what I am looking for in the question, namely:


At what point in American history did annual artificial Christmas tree usage (not purchases) exceed 50%, thus eclipsing the use of real trees in American homes during the holiday season?


  • 4
    I don't know how common this is but what about people who re-use a real tree simply by having it in a (large) pot? When it gets too big to cart around (after maybe 2 to 4 years), you transfer it to a permanent location outside and start again with a smaller one. This is great for the environment and great for people who think plastic trees aren't the real deal (like me). Dec 12 '18 at 1:48
  • 5
    @LarsBosteen that's actually a great idea and it reminds me somewhat of the evergreen forest that now surrounds my old family homestead where I grew up (years ago and hundreds of miles away)... my family would get a live tree for Christmas and keep it potted in the house (decorated, of course), and then when the season was over, plant it on the estate (several acres). I could probably point out a few of them today and tell you what year they were used. Unfortunately a few of them didn't survive more than a year but most of them are much taller than the two story house now.
    – Kerry L
    Dec 12 '18 at 3:11
  • 1
    One of the great benefits of an artificial tree is that you can keep the lighting attached. "Putting up the tree" is a matter of getting the (rather light) box from the basement, stand up the tree, plug in the lights, and hang the decorations for this year. No carting around, no looking for a new one every couple of years (and you'll have to find a potted tree, or a tree you'd be allowed to dig up -- those aren't common where I live). And if you're living in an appartment complex or similar, you won't have anywhere to put a potted tree, so... we went fake eight years ago. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Dec 12 '18 at 12:01
  • 1
    We've been using a fiber optic tree, about 2 feet tall, since the mid-1980s. It has the colors built into the base! Dec 12 '18 at 12:31
  • 5
    Not a complete answer, but another data point: based on Gallup polls, in 1989 52% used real and 40% fake, while in 2004 the figures were real 37% fake 58% (remainder either have multiple trees or say "it depends"). abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/971a4ChristmasTrees.pdf
    – Stuart F
    Dec 13 '18 at 12:19

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