Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Joy of Christmas Trees

When I moved away from home and began my new life as an apartment-dweller, I switched from having real Christmas trees to artificial ones. By this time, the miniature lights had become the popular fashion and so the larger, hotter and more dangerous 7 watt bulbs were out. Made of spage-age polymers first developed for use in space by NASA, the tree is more likely to melt into a great, green puddle than to go up in flames. That, together with the cooler lights, seemed to make the whole business slightly less worthy of emergency fire department visits when the tree stayed up too long following the big day. In fact, if I leave the tree up until March, what's the harm?

The delicate nature of a real tree demands that you do not purchase and set it up too many days before Christmas, or you risk a brown tree with razor-sharp needles that might poke Santa (express ticket to the naughty list) or give you a nasty tree-rash when you take it down. An artificial tree can be put up at anytime, but traditonally (my tradition) I think the weekend following Thanksgiving is soon enough. It seems appropriate as the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, is the start of the holiday shopping season and also when Santa arrives in town at then end of our little holiday parade.

But this year, The Boy wanted the tree up even earlier. Judging his sense of restlessness and how unlikely it was that I would get any peace until it was up, I agreed to allow them to put up the tree on the weekend before Thanksgiving. This is the third year in a row that I have had little or nothing to do with putting up the tree. The Boy and The Girl do it all themselves. As The Boy gets older, it goes more smoothly. This year he didn't have to ask at all about the letters on the branches or which order they go in. He's even tall enough to help The Girl put up the lights. I am not even needed for my height anymore.

Of course, the tree doesn't have that elegant, coordinated, Tiffany look. There are no less than three different colors of tinsel garland and they are wrapped around the tree at various levels, so that it is red at the top third, then white, then gold, like a striped tree. They also insisted on having as many strings of lights flashing as they could find flasher bulbs for. My tree should come with a seizure warning, like the ones they put on video games. The ornaments are placed haphazardly and those favored by The Girl usually have a photo of her on them and are grouped at eye level on the front of the tree for maximum exposure.

But you know what? It's beautiful.

It's beautiful because they are so proud of it. It's beautiful because it has special meaning to them. It's beautiful because it's a product of their own creativity. It's beautiful because it represents sibling cooperation.

But mostly, it's beautiful because I didn't have to do it myself. It will become a lot less beautiful after Christmas. It's much harder to find good help to take it all down again.


Anonymous said...

The most beautiful trees are the ones decorated with love all of the excitmement and wonder that children and adults with light hearts bring to the season.

Andrea said...

The boy first has to survive the excitement over his birthday, then perhaps he will return to the excitement of the tree.
Personally, I like sitting in the livingroom with just the Christmas lights on, but then, I always have liked that best.

The Fractal Cat said...

I have mixed feelings about Christmas.

First I recognise it as the event it celebrates. It has always saddened me that in this 'enlightend' age, the true meaning of Christmas is now the ringing of tills that bring in the cash to Corporate Planet Earth. But then, I have this cynical streak...

Second I am happy that admist the madness there survives that still small voice of calm that gives us a service on Christmas day and lets its believers rejoice with the familiar sound of Caroling; and further - Gives hope & blessing.

Thirdly I am delighted to share in those 'Family Gatherings that have become a familiar part of the Festive season (can Two days be properly called a Season?).

Thank God for happy families.

And, in that Spirit, may I be the first to wish you the Seasons Greetings.

Now, I must get back to the writing and the 'eventual' appearance of an ACTUAL blog instead of the aimless meanderings I file away for another day.

Take care all.


Andrea said...

I have been through the years of resenting the commercialism of Christmas, the years of regarding it as a huge burdensome holiday that always comes when I have no money. I am going a whole new way this year. I have decided that I believe in Santa.

I completely respect the religious aspect and think we should all commemorate the birth of Jesus, but there is another side to Christmas that is a purely secular one and that's okay too. It became a secular holiday as soon as it became a national holiday recognized by the Federal gov't. So there's no denying that part of it, and it is why it is always celebrated by all.

So, yes, I believe in the magic of Christmas lights and in watching holiday movies. I believe in angels getting their wings and in miracles on 34th street. I believe that although we don't act better, something in us wants to believe people are better at Christmas and that Scrooge can be reformed.

So I believe in Santa and trees and snow and lights and even Christmas muzak at the mall. It's all good.

And if people remember that the real miracle is not that we can have a few moments of feeling this way, but that God made it possible to truly be this way, then it is even better.

The Fractal Cat said...

I think Im going back
To the things I learnt so well in my youth
I think Im returning to
Those days when I was young enough to know the truth
Now there are no games
To only pass the time
No more colouring books
No christmas bells to chime
But thinking young and growing older is no sin
And I cant play the game of life to win
I can recall a time
When I wasnt ashamed to reach out to a friend
And now I think Ive got
A lot more than just my toys to lend
Now theres more to do
Than watch my sailboat glide
And every day can be
My magic carpet ride
And I can play hide and seek with my fears
And live my days instead of counting my years
Then everyone debates
The true reality
Id rather see the world
The way it used to be
A little bit of freedoms all we lack
So catch me if you can
Im going back
Words and music by gerry goffin and carole king

I said I was cynical. But, hey, I'm learnin'. Little by little.


Andrea said...

A cynic is someone who was once an idealist, but has been disappointed.

It's the nature of life, I suppose. Cynicism is like a defense. It's nice though, occasionally, to let it go for even just the time it takes to light the Christmas tree.

Very important words in that song, Fractal. I think we all need to think younger as we grow older.

Chris said...

There's nothing like seeing the expressions on the faces of kids when they're decoration the tree. I remember when I was a child how much fun decorating the tree was...I think as I got older I became more and more cynical, especially as I was 'volunteered' to go and the the tree from the roof of the car! At least now, the artificial trees are much more life-like and take just a fraction of the time to set up.