20 December 2010

Briging in the (Fake) Green

"Spirit of Yule" by Ironshod
Every year growing up, getting our Christmas tree was a huge deal. We'd wait for a weekend that neither my brother nor I had a track meet, soccer game, or some other activity, and then we'd all pile into my dad's big red truck and go to the tree farm on top of the mountain. We'd walk up and down the aisles looking for the perfect one. It used to be a white pine, but as I got older we switched to Frasier firs because they didn't bother my mom's allergies as much, and they didn't make quite as much of a mess all over the carpet. It was only later in high school that we switched to hardwood floors. We never put tinsel on the trees, because we used to have a cat who just loved to climb up inside the trees and eat tinsel. It wasn't pretty cleaning up after her. She died when I was about twelve or thirteen. Of course, after our cat died, the habit of tinsel-less trees just stuck. Strangely the fact that we've always owned big dogs with constantly-wagging, and therefore hazardous, tails has never influenced the breakability of the ornaments we use to decorate it.

I remember one year when it had snowed before we went, and so as we got closer to the top of the mountain where the tree farm was, the snow got deeper. I was maybe a freshman in high school then, or maybe in eighth grade. It's hard for me to keep straight anymore since that part of my life is pretty distant. Everyone was all bundled up since it was unseasonably cold for early December around here. I remember wearing a fluffy white coat. We walked up and down the rows of trees, looking for one that was tall enough to be impressive, but wouldn't poke through our ceiling, and fat enough to accommodate our ever-expanding collection of ornaments, but wouldn't take up the whole room. We finally found one—I think this may have been our first year with the Frasier firs—and so my dad took the saw the tree farm gave us, and slowly cut the trunk until it fell. My little brother and I helped him carry it back to where they'd wrap it in a net and help us throw it in the truck bed. My mom would have helped, but her allergies cause her skin to break out really bad wherever she touches any sort of pine. I'm glad, considering how much I love trees and especially evergreens, that I did not inherit any allergies. Once our tree was all wrapped up and ready to go, there was hot cocoa and cider in the little trailer where we paid. I opted for the cider :) I'll take apples over chocolate any day.

However, once my brother and I were both off at college, our parents switched to fake trees. As soon as I found out, I called home, enraged that they could betray our family tradition such just because two of us were out of the house. My youngest brother was still home! We just HAD to have a real tree. It wasn't Christmastime if we didn't have a real tree. In a moment of overexaggeration, I even threatened to not come home for the holidays if they insist on putting up a fake tree every year. Obviously, as I'm at my parent's house now, I decided to concede to the fake tree.

And here's why.

My mom pointed out that, as a lover of nature and a self-proclaimed tree-hugger, it should bother me that the tree necessarily has to die to bring it in for the house. Sure, real trees have a tradition with them that harkens back to the Norse bringing in of the green, but the use of a real, live, breathing tree goes above and beyond bringing in a few branches to decorate the hearth. (Yes, trees do have a respiratory system.) Of course, Western culture has long gone above and beyond to make things bigger, better, louder, faster, more expensive. Taking an old, fabulously Pagan tradition and turning it into a Christianized commercial venture is completely within character. Thus, as much as I love the feel, smell, and aura of a real tree, I do hate that the tree has to die, and for no better reason then a stupid, over-commercialized Christian-version of a Pagan tradition. Thank you, mother, for changing my perspective and reminding me of my ideals. I've made my peace with the institution of the fake tree. I think the best compromise might be Pam's idea from The Office of hiding a pine-scented air freshener between the branches so that it smells real.

When I have my own apartment (this time next year), I don't plan on having either a fake or a real tree. In fact, I plan on going back to an older way of bringing in the green and simply gathering up branches of evergreens that the wind discarded, and decorating my hearth with those. After all, I doubt I'll ever live far from a forest. Except when I'm deployed, that is. I won't have much control over that.

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