We always get a real Christmas tree. We are lucky to know someone who owns their own Christmas tree farm and all we have to do is just ask for a tree. We tell them we want a Frasier Fir, preferably a skinny, shorter version. Like a Charlie Brown tree. Of course, it's never like that. The trees are always very beautiful and we are grateful that all the fuss of going out in the cold to personally pick out a tree is removed from the process. Some people enjoy that ritual but not me, I am really not fond of cold weather. So this works out perfectly.
For me, the hard part about having a real tree is letting go. It seems such a shame to cut this beautiful living thing down for something so (realistically) unnecessary. But there is something to be said for the amazing pine smell that permeates the house. So I keep the tree up for as long as is practical. And once we take it down we place it in my garden for the duration of the winter where it becomes a refuge for the birds. It's amazing to see how many little birds protect themselves among the branches during bad weather. It's a beautiful thing.
Once spring comes I have to get the tree out of the garden. So we have a bonfire to turn the tree into ash. The ash gets turned with the compost that goes back into the garden. It's a great way to complete the circle and use every bit of that tree. So another year goes by and we feel good about renewing nature's gift and giving it back to the earth.