Real or Fake?

Ladened with family keepsakes, gifts and souvenirs, any tree, real or fake, is star of the holiday show.

Ladened with family keepsakes, gifts and souvenirs, any tree, real or fake, is star of the holiday show.

Bah humbug! Tis the season’s real meaning that counts

By Michael Leach

A pointless debate arises every year Christmas season — real or fake. Tis one of many irrelevant “traditions” that detract from the true meaning of this special season. 

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” helped torpedo sales of silvery aluminum trees when it first aired on television a half century ago and seemed to give wooden trees an unbeatable lead. Even spindly (may we say scraggly?) real trees became adorable. But not at our house.

Ironically, my sister and I, not our parents, championed a faux fir. This was anathema to our parents. During our early childhood years Father bought a live tree. After the holidays, most were planted in a windbreak along the west side of the back yard where a few continue to thrive. Our first live Christmas tree now towers far higher than the family home place.

But wrestling a tree growing from a fat ball of lead-like soil eventually offset the charm of a living memorial to our favorite holiday. Enter cut trees.

After several years, this also came to a halt. Our last tree shopping day is described perfectly in a rather somber carol, “Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone …In the bleak midwinter, long ago.” Three of our perfectionist family of four went from tree to tree at several lots.

Bleak got bleaker. Even when Sister, Father and I finally agreed on a specimen, Mother would nix it. Sitting in the warmth of the car, idling to keep the heater blasting sufficiently to melt iron, she would offer a faint sneer and several shakes of her head.

Finally fatigue prevailed. We toted home a less than perfect tree. It’s flawed state was quickly altered by Father and I. We sawed off the crooked bottom of the trunk. We snipped back a few bushy branches, and drilled holes to insert them into the trunk to give the tree a fuller, more symmetrical effect. (Back then, virtually all trees had a good side, positioned to face into the living room, and a bad side rammed against a wall or window.)

Real tree enthusiasts swoon over the scent of fresh pine or other conifer. Ours smelled of fire retardant. Father took no chances.

Mother had the dreary task of filling the water pan of the metal tree stand every day to ensure Tannenbaum remained as green and life-like as possible. She emerged with long, dangly tinsel icicles and prickly needles decorating her bouffant hairdo. What she uttered during cleanup was anything but tidings of joy.

As Sister and I refused to risk frost-bitten limbs another year, we bought a rather lifelike Pinus plasticus.

My current fake tree is about 25 years old and sheds almost as badly as the brittle spruces that will soon line the curbs. Yet it has a certain nostalgic value no cut-and-toss wooden tree can boast. Plus, it decorates more easily than the real deal. Need that ornament to hang an inch or so to the right? No problem. Bend the branch. 

But I digress.

Your choice in trees is strictly personal. We won’t settle the debate by arguing. What I hope we can all agree to is that Christmas, which represents the coming of light, hope, new life, and peace is more needed than usual this year.

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