Better Late Than Nevergreen

December 12, 2010 – We’ve done some pretty cool stuff so far this Christmas season, Stowe, Hershey’s Chocolate World, two light festivals (article forthcoming), The Christmas Loft, and more Christmas specials than you can shake a candy cane at. However, so far there’s been a large, conical void in our Christmas lives. We only just yesterday picked up our tree.

I know. For some people this is okay. Heck, I know people who don’t bother with trees until Christmas Eve itself (and by people I’m talking about various movie and television characters who have to squeeze every single Christmas tradition into short plot arcs). However, for me, this is the kind of crime they should stone you for in more stone-y countries. The fact is, no matter how many decorations we put up, nothing we do at the house seems Christmasy unless it’s bathed in the multi-colored glow of a lighted Christmas tree.

The sin is further compounded by the fact that in just a few days, we’ll be gone for a week visiting family, meaning the total days we’ll be with this Christmas tree is less than 10 (not counting all the dark days after Christmas where we just procrastinate taking it down). It’s just that we’ve been, in the words of the magician villain from Frosty the Snowman, “Busy, busy, busy.” I’m not sure why that’s always been my take-away from that special.

You see, not counting Christmas weekend itself, we’ll be spending only one weekend (this one) at home in December and, in the entire previous month of November, that number was between zero and one, depending on whether you are my wife or me. That’s Ludicrous Speed. And, honestly, it kind of made me want to go back to having a fake tree.

Actually, I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to the real tree vs. fake tree Holy War. I’ve done both multiple times through my life, including sawing one down with my bare hands (and a saw) and buying one of those trees with the root bunch still intact so that you can plant it in your backyard after Christmas until, after decades of Christmasi, you eventually have a whole Christmas forest growing in your backyard for all the woodland creatures to celebrate in.

Truth is, though, live and fake trees both have huge benefits and downsides.

Real trees, well, they smell great, enable traditions by being an event to pick out, and have a longer Christmas history. On the downside, they’re time-consuming to pick up, the smell is masked by the dozen Christmas-scented candles we burn every year, they’re hard to hang ornaments on, they’re fire hazards, they end up thrown post-Christmas in a sad snow bank on the curb for the garbage man to pick up, and with all the dropping needles and leaching pine sap, they can be “messy, messy, messy,” in the other words of the magician villain.

Fake trees, well, they’re crazy easy to put up these days (pre-lighted, three pieces), you don’t have to pick them up, the same tree ends up being part of the tradition just like all your favorite Christmas decorations, they’re more cost-efficient, they aren’t chucked into the aforementioned sad snow bank, and they’re safer. Of course, they’re artificiality is impossible to hide up close, you miss out on the tradition of going out with family and choosing one, they feel like less of an accomplishment once they’re up, and they just don’t have the presence (or smell) of real trees.

Basically, whichever one you like between real and fake trees, you’re completely right. But I do know that this year, had we a fake tree in our basement, it would have been up weeks ago and this article would have had a much merrier tone and would probably be about the The Year Without a Santa Claus or Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes or something.

Still, in the three total previous Christmases that my wife and I have been together, we’ve done live trees. And I hate, hate, hate breaking streaks, whether it’s brand of gum purchased at the grocery store impulse rack or how long I’ve gone without falling down (one year, eight months, one week, five days).

This weekend was the only opportunity we had to pick up a live tree and keep the streak intact; however, we vowed to the Christmas spirits that if it turned into a huge hassle, we’d nutcracker march straight to the store and buy a fake tree, and then either start a new streak of fake tree usage or keep it as a back-up from here on out in case we encountered another overly busy Christmas season.

Turned out to be a real fun time. The tree farm we visited yesterday had a petting zoo, wagon rides, a bonfire, and I managed to yet again, thanks to the farm staff, avoid having to tie the tree to the top of the car myself (I’m terrible to the point of emasculation with knots). Once the cold had seeped deep enough into our bones, we jumped back into the car and, with the new Mayhem Allstate Christmas commercial freshly in our minds, took off for home.

This morning, my hands are still sticky with sap and there’s tree water all over the floor, but there's something slowly dying in the corner of my living room, and it finally feels like Christmas is here. Today my agenda looks like this: Decorate Christmas tree, bake cookies, watch Christmas specials, wrap presents. Busy isn't always a bad word at Christmas.