You heard it here first: Birch logs in planters for December decorations are over.
I have no idea if it's true, but if enough people share this on Facebook, it might be. People who put birch logs in pots on the porch and decorate them with red ribbons will be horrified to learn they are behind the times and will pull them out. In three years' time all pots will be in a state of birchlessness. What then?
I'll get a visit from the head of the Ornamental Birch Log Association, who blames me for the collapse of the industry. "I had a house. A boat. A wife. All gone. I hope you're happy."
"Sorry," I will say, gently removing his fingers from my throat, "but as a prominent observer for a major newspaper, I was only reporting what I saw."
And what did I see? Window box decorations put up right after Thanksgiving. Last year: birch rods. This year: a notable absence of birch. It's possible someone stole them, of course, but it's just as possible someone said, "Why do we stick blunt cylinders of white wood in the pot? How did that start?"
Because birches are associated with winter? Because they're a nice contrast with the green of the firs? No one knows. It's not as if there's the Legend of the Birch, told to children every year in December.
"And it came to pass that the king decreed that all the trees should be slain to build a fire for his warmth in the cold months, but that a birch should not be used, as they burned most poorly. In the small village of Barktown, a young birch heard the news and was determined to show the king he could burn just as well as any oak or ash. And so he made his way to the palace and offered to show how his wood was as good as anyone else's.
"The courtiers snickered, but the king commanded them to be silent and let the young, brave length of wood prove he was as good as his word. The log burned brighter and longer than any other, and the king, well pleased, commanded that the vast forests of birches be harvested for warmth.
"This changed the ecology of the woods and led to many invasive species once kept in check by the grubs that lived in harmony with the birches. And so we put out a log each year to remind us in this joyful season that sometimes you get a really stupid idea that you should keep to yourself, or you're going to get everyone killed."
I worried that the birch log would, over time, replace the fir. It doesn't shed needles. It has an honest Nordic starkness, a simple purity that Ikea fans find appealing. It's possible that 300 years hence, you'll walk into someone's house to find a big branchless birch rod in the corner instead of a fir. How did that happen? No one ever declared the birch log over, and so it just hung around until people couldn't imagine a Christmas without it.
It needs a replacement, something that signals you're on the vanguard of porch-pot decoration. I suggest a shrink-wrapped 16-inch Hickory Farms sausage rod, impaled with fondue forks. You can drape lights or tinsel on the fork handles. A new tradition, and a great way to attract wildlife. Come next spring, if you see squirrels and raccoons facing off in combat, waving fondue forks at each other, you'll know why. Because you heard it here first.
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