Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it is finally appropriate to have Christmas trees on display. (For those of you who had your tree up before Thanksgiving, what is wrong with you? Have you no sense of propriety?) And as that is the case, I thought I would share with you my Christmas tree traditions.
There are three schools of thought when it comes to Christmas trees: the real, the fake, and the indifferent.
Many people are committed to the idea of heading out to the wilderness and cutting down a tree for Christmas. My mother is one of these people. First, there is nothing wrong with wanting an authentic Christmas tree to celebrate the season, and for my childhood, I think my mom got to have a real tree only a handful of times.
The reasons against bringing a feral tree indoors are some of the same ones that prevent bringing anything from the wild into your carefully groomed home. Feeding and watering them can be tricky if you don’t want to be attacked by their defense mechanisms (sap in the case of trees, claws and teeth in the case of other wild things). They have no shame when it comes to leaving their droppings wherever they want (needles for trees, excrement for others). And getting rid of the carcass can be a pain (trees don’t just disappear when the season is over, but wild animals are probably worse since they tend to smell when decaying). Also, fire hazards (trees are obvious, and some wild animals just don’t know how to stop playing with matches).
The second group of people prefer fake trees. You save money since you aren’t buying the same thing every year. You save time because taking a tree out of a box is a lot faster than trucking into the woods, finding an acceptable tree, besting it in a game of hand saws, dragging it to get the spare needles shaken off, strapping the thing to your roof like some environmentalist’s nightmare, figuring out how to carry it into your house without getting sap on everything, balancing it, watering it, and cleaning up after it. And you save a tree from seasonal doom so it can go on converting carbon dioxide back into oxygen, which is helpful for all of us oxygen breathers.
Sure the fake tree doesn’t smell like a real tree (unless you mix a few pine-scented air fresheners in with your traditional ornaments). And I know that the trek into the woods to cut down a tree is mostly about family time together and the fake trees don’t allow for the same experience. But fake trees have gotten a lot better and some even come pre-lit, which is terribly convenient to those of us who find untangling strands of Christmas lights a tedious chore.
Then the last group doesn’t really care what type of tree it is. It could be a picture of a tree and they would be happy.
I don’t think I made it a secret which group I fall into. But there is one good reason I should prefer a real tree to a fake, and I ignore it every Christmas. I am colorblind and I grew up with a color-coded fake Christmas tree.
My Christmas tree tradition started when the old, held-together-by-so-many-layers-of-tape-it-was-ridiculous cardboard box came out of the top of the garage. Inside the box was a pole with color-coded holes spaced a bit too far apart for the branches to look real, and a collection of various-sized plastic-on-wire branches, the tips of which corresponded to the coded holes on the pole. When the parts where out of the box, the sorting began. I don’t know why I always insisted on sorting. I think I just liked the challenge. But every year, the challenge proved too much and there were always mistakes in the sorted piles.
Having the wrong branches in the pile meant having the wrong length branch on the tree. So, many times, my non-colorblind family members would have to look over my work before decorating began in earnest. Once all the right branches were in the right places, the challenge became filling the gaps through which the central pole could be seen. Now, I’m sure that when it was new, our tree was as nice as any other fake tree on the market, but fake tree technology has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Our family’s fake tree had more gaps than branches, and it was only by expert application of garland, large ornaments, lights, and tinsel that we could convince the passerby to forget momentarily that our tree obviously came out of a box. And that was the fun of it.
For my Christmas tradition, I liked the challenge of taking something manufactured and transforming it into an original masterpiece. Sure, people who buy real trees don’t have to muck about with the transformational challenge, but for me, that was the point.
And so, whatever your school of thought is where Christmas trees are concerned, I hope that you get the masterpiece that you seek. Just remember that if you do choose a real tree over a fake, I’ll be judging you for taking the easy way out where creativity is concerned, and I’ll be laughing under my breath when you complain about how you were attacked by the sap as you tried to water the thing.