I will never buy a real Christmas tree. I know, I know, that sounds like a harsh statement, maybe even a challenge against the spirit of the Christmas season. But, as terrible as it sounds, I do have a legitimate reason for my Christmas tree abstinence. It’s not because of the prices, or because I believe cutting the trees down is a sin against nature. It’s not because I hate Christmas, or because I don’t want to have the hassle of cleaning up tiny, sticky pine needles for a month. I don’t have an opinion on tree prices or cutting or clean up. And I certainly don’t hate Christmas. My reason for refusing to ever buy a tree is simple. I am allergic to them.

Yes, you read write. This poor, unfortunate soul is allergic to Christmas trees. When I was growing up, picking out a tree from the local grocery store (I know, real classy) and then keeping it alive and watered for the next month was a tradition. We decorated it with different colored lights and Hallmark ornaments and regularly vacuumed up pine needles from around the base. And every year, without fail, I got walking pneumonia. At first, it was a coincidence, then a concern, and finally, a realization: maybe there was a reason I couldn’t breathe normally for the majority of December.

I was diagnosed with asthma when I was eleven, after a very long and scary attack during which I lost enough oxygen to make my lips and fingers turn blue. It was not fun. 10 out of 10 would not do again. While my diagnosis meant a rather strict medication regime for a while, it also meant my family got some understanding about my annual walking pneumonia crisis. My doctor ran an extensive allergy test to find out what things could trigger my asthma attacks. Along with physical activity and smoke, tree pollen—specifically pine—was one of my biggest triggers. Since it would often take days or weeks of exposure to the tree for my asthma to get bad enough to lead to pneumonia, the correlation wasn’t clear before. But after that simple test, it was hello oxygen, good-bye Christmas trees.

So I will never buy a real Christmas tree. Call me crazy, but breathing is a little important to me. My family has invested in a somewhat realistic fake tree that sits in our sunroom year round. Not because we’re super excited about Christmas all the time; we’re just too lazy to take it apart and put it in the attic every year. In the end, I guess I get the better end of the deal. Christmas tree scented candles don’t bother me, so I can enjoy the scent without the mess or price. And I get to do it all year long. While breathing. It’s really not such a bad trade.