We’re not putting up a Christmas tree this year, and it’s not because Daughter is in Brazil and our holidays have taken on the ashy, bland taste familiar to sudden-onset empty-nesters. We have something better than a tree.
Trees of the fir genre are such a cliché, right? Aluminum trees were in vogue for a while, but that was when people expected an atomic attack at any moment and figured the melted metal could be used for barter in the post-apocalypse economy.
The old green tree, with all the duties, eventually made a comeback, however. You buy it at the lot, where the guy asks, “Do you want a fresh cut to maintain the illusion that it’s still alive, or a zombie tree that will shed 57 needles if someone scrapes their chair on the floor in the next room?”
Granted, there’s nothing like the smell of a fir in the house, but most trees purchased off a lot have little if any odor left. So I would burn fir-scented incense sticks, which pack the aromatic profile of a seven-county forest fire, so the house ends up smelling like we have a tree with a sweat gland problem.
Switching to an artificial tree isn’t the same. If you don’t want to abandon the olde traditions, you can assemble it, tie it to your car, and drive around singing tree-related songs: “O faux-fir tree, O faux-fir tree / your wire boughs we’ve twisted / O faux-fir tree, O faux-fir tree / your lights are UL-listed.”
If Daughter were coming home for Christmas, sure, I’d put up a tree and then we’d all hang the familiar ornaments, telling the stories behind each one. But her exchange program insists the kids stay in Brazil and learn their folkways, whatever they are. Having plastic surgery on the beach, maybe.
So no tree. Instead, a new, modern, clean approach: a small birch log.
That’s what really says Christmas these days, right? A stumpy, white, branchless log cut clean on both ends, stuck in a pot, perhaps garnished with cattails. I’ve no idea why. It’s not a tree indigenous to Bethlehem, and I don’t think one of the Wise Men handed over his myrrh and said, “But wait. It gets better” and produced a cylinder of white wood.
The birch log will be the Christmas tree of the future. People will be decorating artificial pre-lit birch logs while Grandpa sits in the corner, scowling:
“Hrmph. In my day we didn’t have fake, meaningless truncated shafts whipped out in the 3-D printer. We put on our warm clothes, got in the car — and in those days, you had to drive yourself! And we went to Bachman’s and got a real log. I still remember how the whole house would smell of birch. Or so we assumed; no one really knew what birch smelled like.”
On second thought, I’m buying a fir.