Oh, Christmas tree.
Whether real or fake, it has long been a tradition to put up a Christmas tree for the holidays. I’m not even sure where the tradition began, and why. Who decided, hey, let’s go outside, cut down a tree and bring it into our house. And while we’re at it, we might as well drape lights and shiny plastic and glittering globes of various colors from its branches. It’s kind of a strange tradition if you think about it.
I also wonder when the idea to incorporate fake, plastic trees into the tradition came about. Either way, I’d say the loyalty is split about 50/50 nowadays.
We always had a real tree growing up- although I can’t necessarily vouch for my early years of life; it’s very possible we had one or two fake ones when I was a baby, but with my dad’s less-than-friendly disposition toward the idea, I think it’s safe to assume we never did. As a kid, the mess and maintenance involved with having a real tree never mattered to me; my dad always took care of the setup, watering and break-down. Sometimes I’d help by vacuuming the stray needles that littered the floor after bringing the tree in and out of the house. But that was usually the extent of it. Instead, I got to help with the decorating and simply enjoy the tree’s beauty and ambiance. And there was always something comforting and homey about having a real tree, between the scent and the look of it.
Sometimes we would just pick one out among the many pre-cut beauties, deciding which ones were ugly, which were too small, which were too big and which was just right. Usually we’d cut one down ourselves, though, trudging out into the fields, in the snow and cold, searching for that perfect one. My dad always did the cutting (naturally) but it became a tradition that made the whole concept that much more intimate.
But now, this being my first Christmas in my own place, the idea of a fake tree doesn’t seem as unpleasant. I decided to forgo a tree this year, unsure whether I’d even be around to enjoy it or not. But, although it saddens me to think I won’t have a real tree again (at least for awhile), the ease and convenience of a fake tree is becoming more and more appealing. The cost of a freshly-cut tree can get expensive, up into the hundreds for a real good one, and when you’re done enjoying it for a month or so, you throw it out. Sure, a fake tree (a decent one, not one of those ugly, tacky ones) is probably not cheap either. But what, you spend a few hundred once, and then you have it for years to come. You pull it out of storage once a year, set it up, and that’s it, no watering, no maintenance, no falling needles to litter the floor and prick your feet. The idea still bums me out, but I still have a year to think about it.
For now I will just try and focus on not thinking about what’s coming next, what happens to the real trees after they’ve served their purpose- or for those unlucky ones that were never bought, after they’ve been rejected over and over again. I always wondered what happened to the ones nobody wanted, but the older I get, the less I try to think about it. The outlook is bleak, and the more I let myself dwell on the thought, the more depressed I become.
Quite frankly, I mourn for you, Christmas tree. Not only are you disrespected by the millions of plastic wannabes that adorn shop windows the day after Halloween (and sometimes before), but for those who are lucky enough to be cut down and loved (for however long a time) your life is short-lived. When we’re done using you, when we’ve gotten everything we can out of you, when we no longer need you or care about you, you are tossed out, lost among the other trash, the crumpled wrapping paper, the empty boxes, the broken ornaments. You are nothing more than a decoration, and once you’ve served your purpose, we move on.
You mean nothing. You are forgotten.