Christmas Tree

By Gipp Forster

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We have an artificial Christmas tree. We’ve had one for years.

I like the old traditions as much as the next person. For many Christmases, I went to the lot faithfully to pick up my aromatic tree, fresh from the forest.

Then, in about 10 days to two weeks or so, the tree would be so dry (yes, I watered it) that if I had have shaken some pepper on it, it probably would have burst into flames.

I hear people talking about going to the forest to cut their own tree. I think of that first little seedling, struggling to grow, season after season reaching for the sun to grow five, six or seven feet tall. Then, unceremoniously chopped or sawed down to stand in some living room for a dozen days, only to be burned or tossed into a shredder.

These thoughts make me sad because I still believe in possibility and trees that talk if we take the time to listen. That’s why we turned to an artificial tree.

In fact, we have four of them: one in the living room and three in our display in the garage. We have tons of tree ornaments: baubles and beads, bulbs and lights, small toys, garland and so on. We save all that for the two in the garage. The other two are fibre optic, whatever that means. They need no decoration because their branches glow and pulsate with different colours. They’re really quite pretty - almost ethereal.

When I was a kid, you could buy a tree for 50 cents. It didn’t look like much! But when you put those old fragile bulbs on it and a string of big lights (compared to today’s) with that twisted red and white or blue and white cord with the big round plug on the end, and two or three tons of tinsel to hide all the gaps, it almost looked magical!

I can still hear my mother scolding when I’d grab a handful of tinsel, “Place it, strand by strand. Don’t throw it! We need to use it again next year.”

And when it came time to take the tree down, we were directed on how to retrieve each strand of tinsel carefully so as not to break it. Then, lay it out neatly in a shoebox that was to be carefully lifted and never shaken. I think we had the same tinsel for eight or nine years. I didn’t really care too much for tinsel after that.

Those old bulbs - yellow, green, red, blue - sure were hot to the touch! If one went out, they all went out. Trying to change the culprit bulb that dared to die in the Christmas season was quite an ordeal if you didn’t wait for the bulbs to cool. Many a blistered finger or fingers throbbed in nearly every home over the festive season.

There was always an old tinfoil-type star to sit on top of the tree. Battle-scarred and vulnerable, it would bravely take its place.

Nearly all the trees I saw, at that time, looked the same: nothing to get too excited about. Not like today! Today, some trees can light up a city block all by themselves. Some are so magnificent it takes your breath away. But then again, if you total up the costs of all the bangles and bows, the bulbs, ornaments, and lights, you could have almost bought a home in the old days. A little exaggeration, I admit, but perhaps closer to the truth than not.

Christmas had an innocence about it in those days - at least for me: a quietness that pervaded change and peace after a world war. No decorated trees on lawns or coloured lights on houses; a gently dressed tree sometimes standing in a living room window gave a gentle reminder of love and a season of goodwill.

I’m not saying I don’t like Christmas today and the abundance of decorations and the glittering trees dancing with the giggling lights. I love it! I try to be right in the middle of the explosion of celebration.

I’m simply saying that in the days of old, times were different, simpler and not as loud. But I felt sad for the tree that was cut down then to brag of festivity as much as I feel sorry for it now. I love the smell of the pine and the spruce and the balsam, but I can go to the forest anytime to enjoy them.

Our artificial trees have done (and will do) nicely thank you very much. I don’t have to burn them or shred them each year and it’s fun to awaken them in December and tell them it’s time to go to work again. Whether artificial or live, the Christmas tree reigns.



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