We finally got The Tree up at the Dept., and let me tell you--there is nothing that makes a bigger Scrooge out of me anymore than that job. I know, I know, how horrid does that make me sound as a Person and as a Mother and as a Woman and, by default therefore, The Holiday Bringer? But, holy crap, when it's just two grownups wrangling a seven-foot spruce and eleventy billion strings of mini-lights, the Jolly goes out of the task really fast.
(Interjection here by Rick: Whaddya mean "two grownups?" You are a lightweight and can't even stand near the door while I bring the damn thing in because you will get cold. The stand weighs more than you do. I do all the lights while you dress up the mantel. Now go ahead. )
After all the grunt work is done, the decorating begins, and that part is pretty okay. I mean, I try very hard not to be a real martinet about which ornaments hang where; it's just that some ornaments are front-of-the-tree ornaments, and some...well, they just don't make the cut. They're not First-Stringers, if you know what I mean. Now, ornaments I inherited from my dad's childhood tree? Front and center. Those have sentimental value. Plastic ornament I can't remember the origin of? Back of the tree. Handpainted likenesses of the dear departed TravisCat and EmilyCat? Hanging together in the front, right next to the sweater-head girl ornaments that Emily used to sneak off the tree while we were asleep or at work and we'd later find in her water dish. All the ornaments have a hierarchy, and almost all have a memory attached to them of some kind.
That's why I just don't get The Themed Christmas Tree. Really, what the heck is that all about? I mean, I understand them in stores, all decorated in a Circus Theme or a Teddy Bear Theme or a Color Theme, but that's to sell ornaments and lights. Why would you have that in your home at Christmas?
I look at the Family Christmas Tree as an eclectic celebration of the family. The ornaments are things that you've collected, things your kids or you have made, things that reflect your lives. Each year, Jared and Sam and I would take a day and go to breakfast and then go and look at all the decorated trees at the department stores. Each of them could pick out a special ornament of his own. To this day, each remembers which ornaments belong to whom. For a while there, they were stuck on foods: we have a kiwi, a pear, a pickle, a slice of watermelon. Then it was animals. Then sports. But the point is, those decorations personalize our tree. And when those boys leave my home to start one of their own, they can take those ornaments with them.
A theme tree doesn't have any of that. It matches a room. Or an idea. It could be anyone's tree. It could be in Pier One or Pottery Barn or Macy's just as well as in your home.
I think the absolute worst theme tree I ever saw was in a garden center in 1997. That was the year that Titanic hit the big screen. This garden center had a Titanic theme tree. I almost threw up. It had a continuous loop of the Celine Dion theme playing, and it actually had a few replicas of the ship stuck in it here and there. The ornaments were all rather Edwardian looking--lace, muslin, flowers, some baby's breath, all that crap, and some blue plastic gemstone hearts. But what a horrific idea. I leaned in to my husband and said, "Where are the life preservers and the bluish, lifeless bodies? How about a few chunks of polar ice?" Good heavens, how tasteless. And the Cleveland television station came to do a story on it! Why do I live here? Aaarrrrggghhh!
Every year there is a story about The War on Christmas. Every year I think that's a bunch of bullshit. What we really should be fighting against is The Theme Christmas Tree. It's destroying the very fiber of The American Family. So, right now--go get some pipecleaners and some Cheerios and make a wreath to hang on your Christmas tree! Make a Rudolph out of popsicle sticks and cotton balls! To paraphrase Charlie Brown: "It's not such a bad little tree. All it needs is a little love."
(Oh, and here's a Classic Dept. of Nance Post about Christmas Trees Past.)