Macy’s goes for artificial Great Tree

O Christmas tree! O Christmas tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging — and fake.

If you're a fan of holiday traditions, brace yourself, Atlantans. No longer will Georgia-grown trees vie for the chance to be Macy's Great Tree atop the Lenox Square store. This year's tree wasn't grown at all. And it's moving to the parking lot.

For the first time in six decades, an artificial tree will be used as the iconic start to the holiday season in Atlanta, the retailer has announced.

The new 56-foot-tall tree — made by Alpharetta-based Christmas Lights, Etc — is the store’s way of protecting the environment and saving energy, according to Michael Krauter, Macy’s president and regional director of stores.

“This year, Macy’s is excited to bring a new element to this annual holiday festivity as we celebrate with a reusable tree,” Krauter said in an emailed statement.

Rather than uprooting a tree every fall, the new Macy’s tree should last at least 10 years, said Hillary Zody, a spokeswoman for the manufacturer. The company’s trees are already on display at Macy’s stores in San Francisco and Chicago.

“They feel real; they look real,” Zody told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s not changing a tradition; it’s evolving a tradition. It shouldn’t take any joy from what this wonderful holiday is about.”

But for many people, news of an artificial tree was harder to stomach than a Christmas fruitcake.

“I get it, but I don’t like it,” Shelley Hendrix of Canton said. “It’s sad when traditions go away. It’s not the end of the world, but it is disappointing.”

It’s not the first big change for the Great Tree. The brightly decorated seasonal landmark was first mounted atop Rich’s downtown store in 1948 before moving to Lenox in 2000. In 2005, the tree’s name began to incorporate Macy’s, after Rich’s stores became Macy’s.

In recent years, the Great Tree has proved to be a great hassle, but it’s not clear whether that had anything to do with Macy’s decision to go artificial.

The 2012 tree, a 60-foot white pine, fell in January, puncturing the roof of the third-floor men’s department. No one was injured when the tree fell.

And in November 2011, the 60-foot Douglas County pine that was supposed to top the Lenox store cracked as it was being hoisted up. The backup tree was cut the next day and made it to Lenox in time for its official lighting.

This year’s tree lighting will begin at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving night, following pre-show entertainment at 5:15 p.m. The lighting will televised on WSB.