griswold.treePutting up a Christmas tree is not a completely horrible experience, but it’s mighty close.  On the upside, I’ve never broken out a bay window or electrocuted a cat or set an old man on fire in the context of tree-trimming, á la Clark Griswold.  So, there’s that, at least.  No one has ever died whilst the tree is being erected, knock on wood, so I guess that’s something.  However, it is a frustrating endeavor – and surprisingly painful – and nothing ever seems to go as planned.

     Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not a Grinch or a Scrooge.  On the contrary, I love Christmas and all things Christmas-related, with the exception of giant blow-up lawn decorations, which I find abhorrent.  Santa, snowmen, elves, and eggnog – I love it all.  Bring on the presents and Elvis’ Christmas Album and all forms of holiday cheer.  My only problem is with the easily definable period of time from when you start putting up the Christmas tree until it is complete.

     I suppose “dread” would be an appropriate description of the anticipation of this process, roughly on the same level as the gut-wrenching sense of doom leading up to a wisdom tooth extraction.  You have strands of lights, “decorating,” and misshapen metal branches – three things that I hate  – all coalescing into one monster of a challenge that inevitably takes up an entire Saturday.

     Why do I do it, then?  What’s the point?  Well, some things you just do, no matter what.  There are certain rules that you follow.  You have turkey on Thanksgiving even if you don’t like it.  Save the ham and beef tenderloin for another day.  In Alabama there are two football teams, and you must pick one if you’re going to hang around here for very long, or you will be deemed weird.  There’s no fence-straddling around these parts.  When you go to the beach, you eat seafood or pizza, not barbeque or Mexican.  Obviously.  When you go to the movies you get there in time for the previews.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  And, in December you stand up a tree in your house and put lights on it.  No questions asked.

     Some people take the easy route and invest in pre-illuminated trees.  Not I.  I take the road less traveled.  If a tree goes up in my house, it will be chock-full o’ those big, old-fashioned, colored glass Christmas lights – 25 to a strand.  Nothing else will do.  However, they are a bear to work with.  Half of them won’t work.  Inevitably, two or three will bang against the hardwood floor – POP! – bursting into a thousand tiny slivers of razor-sharp glass projectiles.  And, inevitably, I will be barefoot.  This is clearly not an optimal combination of circumstances, but I never seem to learn.

     I am a Christmas tree perfectionist, and I was taught from a very young age that you HIDE THE CORDS, at all cost.  As if anyone in the world would care, really, but I painstakingly wrap every limb of that vile fake tree with strand after strand of lights.  It takes me forever.  I suppose I do care, after all, and that’s what motivates me, but for the impatient, accomplishing hidden cords is a loathsome process.  I try to avoid using profanity, but the one time of year I’m most tempted to string a few choice words together is when those lights are about halfway up that tree.  Mercy!

     Every year, when I’m midway through wrapping lights and I’m sweating and swearing and my foot is bleeding from being imbedded with glass shards and my hands are raw, scratched and bloody from plunging them repeatedly into sharp metal branches, I usually pause, very calmly, put on my shoes, and make a trip to Lowe’s.  This is the year I, I tell myself.  This is the year I am finally throwing out that old fake tree and buying a Cadillac-model pre-lit one-plug easy-connect artificial Frasier fir.  It’ll be up in 5 minutes flat, and I’ll be done with it.  And, every year, as I am surveying the artificial trees on display, I realize that none of them look half as good as my old fake tree with the big, colored lights.  Not even close.

     I go back home and finish what I started, hang the ornaments, and about 9 o’clock that evening, when I finally sit down in my big leather recliner, turn off all interior illumination except for the big gaudy lights on my painstakingly-assembled tree, and survey my work, I am always deeply satisfied with the result.  That is my tree, from top to bottom, and it was worth it.



18 thoughts on “CHRISTMAS TREE

  1. many years ago, we “bit the bullet” and bought that “Cadillac-model pre-lit one-plug easy-connect artificial Frasier fir. It’ll be up in 5 minutes flat, and I’ll be done with it.” tree.
    We even went the extra step and bought the “flocked” model. How else could we experience snow down here in Florida? We get a lot of ribbing, but I LOVE our tree.
    Oh yeah, we also proudly display our 6′ aluminium tree sitting on the turntable, with the revolving multicolored spotlight spectactularily reflecting a rainbow of colors off those shiny metal branches. THAT tree has the honor of being in our front window so all the neighborhood can see how sophisticated we are.

  2. I own the rusty red pickup of Christmas trees. It’s a 4-ft tall artificial tree and I use the plain white lights, and I still hate putting it together and getting it all up. And I was raised on REAL Christmas trees, so I feel an added sense of wrongness because the scent of pine is lacking, and there are no pine needles on the floor. But real trees are so much work! Way worse than artificial.

  3. Well – in our house we are REAL tree people – at least I am. We have found what we hope will be the perfect stand so the tree is up. I love going to pick out a tree. It is the surprise of it all that I like – each tree is different each year. It is probably because I am the daughter of a forester – but it must be a real tree. We are into white environmentally long lasting lights so they are the same each year. But Christmas is not complete without a tree! (I kind of miss the big multicolor lights along with the tinsel that was like spaghetti).

    • Someday I may graduate to a real tree, but for now I guess I’ll stick with the old artificial one. I’m kind of afraid to put my big lights on a real tree, because they do get hot! You’re right – there really is nothing like a real tree, though. Well, now you’ve made me want one! May have to visit the tree farm.

  4. We still use a real tree in my house. To me here’s nothing like having to spend an entire month dealing with alergies, sweeping up pine needles, and scrubbing sap drippings off the floor. But we mostly enjoy the entertainment of watching the cat find his favorite hiding spot and then trying to find ways to coax him down without bringing the tree down too. Merry Christmas

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