Hey – Is That Thing Real?
Why I Like My Fake Christmas Tree
There was a time when I thought an artificial Christmas tree was the holiday’s decorative cousin to the fruitcake – unwanted and producing a mild shudder of general revulsion. I grew up having real Christmas trees. All my friends and family had real trees. Sure, I had seen a few artificial ones growing up in the 70s. They were either kelly green or tinfoil silver, and perfectly hideous. Not hideous in a charming, kitschy sort of way – just hideous. Those images of tacky, bottle brush plastic shrubs stuck with me for years. A real tree was a necessary part of the whole experience. I remember crawling under it in the middle of the night just to inhale the sharp smell of pine and sap and listen to the tinkling of the old fashioned bubble lights.
Once out on my own, it still never occurred to me to have an artificial tree. I may have had half my head shaved and was often dressed in something objectionable to the general public, but I was still a traditionalist at heart. The one exception was the Christmas at my very first apartment in college. My roommate and I were too poor to afford a tree, so we decorated his coat rack with a string of lights and wrapped up empty cigarette cartons to look like presents and lovingly placed them underneath. It was cozy and hilarious all at once, but I vowed from then on to always have a real tree.
And for many years I did. Never mind that the cost got more prohibitive with each passing year. It was okay that even touching the branches made me break out in itchy red bumps. I didn’t really mind still vacuuming up pine needles six weeks after taking it down. Spending hours positioning the trunk into the clunky metal stand to get the bloody thing to stand up straight was part of the tradition. I still loved those real Christmas trees even after the third time in a week our obese cat had climbed it and toppled it over, sending glass ornaments and sap water across the floor.
Then came Christmas about 10 years ago. We picked up a 7-foot fluffy Scotch pine from the neighborhood lot. It was probably the best looking and best smelling tree I’d ever seen and I couldn’t wait to place it in front of the bay window. We spent a twinkling evening stringing it up with vivid lights and shiny ornaments and it was gorgeous.
And it was also dead in 3 days. We tried sawing a few inches off the trunk and continued to water it religiously. Still dead as a doornail. The needles fell off in clumps and left little piles of sharp, stabbing reminders of fifty bucks that would have been better spent on booze. It began to list to one side. We didn’t even turn the lights on after a week for fear it would ignite and give us a fiery death for Christmas. The string of obscenities uttered that year would definitely have put me on Santa’s Naughty List.
The next year we trudged into Walmart with grim resolve and bought a fake. And you know what? The dang thing looked pretty good. It didn’t smell nice and could have been a lot fuller, but it was easy. It always stood up straight. You didn’t have to rotate it so that the bald spot faced the wall. And I’ll say it again; it was EASY. Hell, I went out and bought two more smaller ones so that I could also have one in the bedroom and basement, too. And when Christmas was over I could just fold ‘em up and put them back in their boxes and just hope that a tissue-necrotizing spider didn’t set up shop in there and wait for me next year.
Of course real Christmas trees are still technically “better,” but I just don’t have the patience to mess with them these days. If I ever win the Lotto, I’ll hire a service to deliver and set up a 20-foot once-living regal pine monstrosity in my three-story great room and haul it away after New Year’s. Until then, I’ll be assembling my $99 Walmart special while jamming out to Trans Siberian Orchestra and drinking the booze that I can almost afford from not having to buy another real tree.