It's the time of year we've all been waiting for.
Decorations and holiday gifts have been displayed in stores for months, prompting annoyed, yet secretly excited groans of "Christmas already?"
Now that the turkey has been cut and the leftovers have been gobbled up, it's finally time to break out the lights and stockings.
Of course, the most crucial Christmas decoration is the tree.
"Ever since I was a kid, I remember getting a real tree from a local tree farm near my house. We usually get our tree two weeks before Christmas and decorate it as a family," said Gayle Rosenberger, 21, of White Hall, Md.
Many factors come into play when choosing the perfect family tree. Is it the right size? Does it have a nice shape? How does it smell? Can it support the weight of dozens of ornaments?
For some families, the only way to go is to get a real pine or fir for the living room.
"I feel the fake ones take away from the magic of Christmas," said Rosenberger. "In every Christmas movie, you see people chopping down a tree, not putting up a fake one."
Jim Bowers, nursery manager at Stauffers of Kissel Hill in Dover, said that, real or fake, the look of the tree is key to the Christmas celebration.
But, he warns, you get what you pay for. "Cheap fake trees look, well . . . fake."
He said while artificial trees can start at around $20, well-made ones can run up to $400.
Karen Umland of York prefers a fake tree because she can reuse it every year. She finally bought a new tree this year after using her last one for a decade.
Umland said she prefers the convenience of an artificial tree, but also gets a second, live tree for her home each year.
Ashley Fleshman from New Salem, likes real trees but has some environmental concerns about them. "I hate the idea of cutting down a tree just for a month of decoration. I think I'm going to start getting the replantable ones."
According to tree experts, Fleshman may have the right idea.
"Many years ago, people wanted real trees because it was a family tradition. Now it's become more of an environmental thing. Today's society is more environmentally aware," he said.
Strathmeyer said fake trees are made of plastic, dyes and petroleum, which just end up in landfills and leak into the water system when people throw them out.
Real trees can be recycled.
"When Christmas is over, my grandmother takes her tree outside and turns it into a nesting place for birds. In the spring she cuts it up and uses it for mulch," Strathmeyer says.
But cost and environmental impact have nothing on Christmas tradition.
"It's a family thing," Bowers said. "People like being able to come down and pick a tree as a family. It adds to the experience, which people really enjoy."
Where to find a real tree
IF THE QUEST for the perfect Christmas tree reaches Griswoldian proportions in your household, then it's never too early to start looking, according to area farmers.
On the hunt for a real Christmas tree? Find a list of cut-your-own and pre-cut tree locations in York and Adams counties at smartmagpa.com.
What you said
WE ASKED the York Daily Record/Sunday News online Facebook community: What does your family prefer, a real Christmas tree or an artificial one?
Here's what they had to say:
Janelle Keller-Buster: Artificial. Much less mess!
Keith Shocker: Artificial. My dog eats the live kind.
Mindi Weikert-Kauffman: I prefer real, but the HUMBUGS I love prefer the "boxed tree" :)
Ashley Yingling Fleshman: Not to be a hippie, but I hate the idea of cutting down a tree just for a month of decoration. I think I'm going to start getting the replantable ones.
Gini Slaseman Riese: Artificial - once we had a praying mantis nest hatch that was in a real tree!
Kayla Nace: Real for sure! I cannot stand fake ones!
Anne Fonda: Artificial, after years of live trees. Less mess, better use of my money each year, and my husband's bad back. Not to mention allergies.
Maria Ellis: We have to use artificial - my daughter and my brother are both allergic.
Dawn Williams Polchlopek: Artificial, my dog (urinated) on my real one a few years ago . . . never again!