Artificial Trees Need Not Apply this Christmas

One Christmas Eve, many years ago, I came home from work to find that my then-husband had adopted all the leftover, un-bought Christmas trees from a nearby lot and brought them into the house. [Christmas Trees: Fun and Festive Ideas]

The impact, from the fragrance and from the columns of green that filled our tiny living room, kitchen, hallway and even bathroom, was as magical as that first step through the closet in “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Sharing Christmas with this assortment of too-short, too-thin, too-lopsided and too-bald trees seemed almost as right as if they had been lonely people.

Of course, after a day or two they began to shed needles, so with the same post-holiday efficiency one uses on a turkey carcass (carve it up and turn it into soup), we dragged our former friends outside, chopped them up and turned them into firewood. We were still vacuuming needles out of the rug years later.

I always remember this episode when the trees start to pop up on Christmas tree lots. Suddenly weedy vacant lots turn into enchanted forests. Families still shop together, looking for the perfect tree, the one that will not only fit the living room but also will turn each ornament in their collection into a magical, tiny world unto itself.

I know artificial trees have made advances in realism over the years. When it comes to symmetry, efficiency, tidiness and reliability, an artificial tree beats the real thing every time. Now often pre-lit, they spare the fingers and the patience of the former light-stringer.

You can buy packs of ornaments, color-coordinated, of course, to give your tree the latest look, one that fits in with the rest of your decor.

I say bah humbug to that.

Give me dropping needles and sap-stained fingers any day. Give me the same ornaments year after year, with a few new ones to replace those that didn’t survive the last visit out of the tissue-lined box.

Give me the styrofoam ball sparsely covered with sequins and bits of ribbon stuck in with pins. I inherited it when my parents were paring down their possessions, and remember it to be a project of my then 8-year-old sister, who started with big dreams of a Faberge-egg sort of ball but tired after the first 37 sequins or so.

There is a Santa face, drawn in marker on a paper plate, with cotton for a beard and the tuft on the end of his cap, a project from my now-adolescent nephew.

There are the few remaining painted-glass birds from my childhood, wispy tufts of real feathers still clinging to their tails, a straw star from a Norwegian visitor, a resin cowboy hat.

Christmas trees are relics of our pre-Christian history, when northern people would decorate a tree and prepare to celebrate the lengthening hours of daylight beginning around December 21. It was almost as if they sacrificed the tree to make sure the light would return.

So when I look into the branches of a real tree, the colors of the globes and the lights twinkling in the corners of my eyes, I see the tiny shoots and buds that will never grow, and take in the aroma that will eventually fade, and know that they are reminders that winter is the time when the earth and the things that grow in it are gathering strength, when the days are just about to start to lengthen, and that the promise of rebirth will be kept once again.

Comments are closed.