It’s Coming on Christmas, They’re Cutting Down Trees

December 5, 2004 | 24 comments
By

I have decided to forgo the Christmas tree ritual this year. For the first time in my life I won’t have a sweet scented evergreen in my front room during the holidays.

I wish I could say that this decision was based on some noble attempt to save trees. As some of you know, I am a true tree lover; the mere rustle of leaves or pine branches sends shivers up my spine. I must confess, however, that this decision does not stem from my tree-hugging impulses. If it did I might go buy a plastic tree instead. Actually, I’m not sure I could bear a plastic tree, especially the kind with fake snow. Is this what real tree-huggers resort to?

Others of you know that Christmas is not my favorite time of year—the wrapping and trappings, plastic toys made in Taiwan, blinking colored lights and jingle bell rock—all the cultural kitsch usually leaves me counting down the days until school starts again. Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to singing in Christmas choirs, delighting children with surprises, making fudge, and getting hugs from my Grandmother, but I must admit to a secret sympathy with the Grinch’s detest for most of the rest. Still, my decision not to put up a tree this year isn’t due to my grinchliness either.

The truth is that it seems silly to put up a tree just for me. I won’t be here for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day so it seems like a waste of time and effort. If I were throwing an extravagant Christmas party or had little children then likely I would feel different. As it is, it seems perfectly reasonable not to have a tree. On the other hand, a voice inside wonders if perhaps this lack of interest in a Christmas tree isn’t a sign of cynicism or worse, laziness. If you didn’t have children would you put up a tree? What if you lived alone? To tree or not to tree, that is the question.

24 Responses to It’s Coming on Christmas, They’re Cutting Down Trees

  1. Derek on December 5, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Trappings, like toy companies undersupplying the stores at Christmastime so parents also buy their kids post-Christmas presents?

    The only reason I put up a tree last year is because my grandparents gave me (their old) one. But this grinch here also hasn’t put up outside Christmas lights since 2000. So don’t feel bad.

  2. laura on December 5, 2004 at 11:11 pm

    i’m single and living alone, and will not be in my apartment for christmas. and yet i put up a tree (albiet a small one) every year. why? becuase it makes my apartment feel like home. because it brings joy to friends and neighbors who come to visit. because it’s part of celebrating an important event- the birth of our savior. because it helps me remember that the weeks leading up to christmas are ones of anticipation- for the birth of Jesus. (ok, so i like anticipating the cookies, too). while i don;t see a tree as being necessary for everyone, i do hope everyone has a way to mark the anticipation and celebration inherent with christmas.

  3. David King Landrith on December 5, 2004 at 11:20 pm

    No tree is a smart move, Melissa. Putting up Christmas decorations in December simply creates more mess to clean up in January.

  4. Mark B. on December 5, 2004 at 11:26 pm

    We’ll be in Utah, that strangely foreign place, for Christmas this year, so we won’t have a tree in the house.

    But the 25 foot tall pine in the front garden will get lighted up again–I hope tomorrow–and if I can do it without getting myself killed, I’ll try to figure out how to post a photo here.

    Any suggestions, other than the ridiculously expensive (z.B., Why not rent a cherry-picker?)?

  5. David King Landrith on December 5, 2004 at 11:32 pm

    Mark B: Any suggestions, other than the ridiculously expensive (z.B., Why not rent a cherry-picker?)?

    See if you can get the Deacons quorum to do it. This won’t cost you any more than the price of a few pizzas.

  6. Jack on December 5, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    Gotta have a christmas tree. I love the scent of pine. I love the lights and decorations and the shining star way up top.

  7. Lisa on December 6, 2004 at 12:31 am

    I have a 1950’s era aluminum Christmas tree. Very retro. With the color wheel that makes it all psychedelic. Got it at the thrift store for four bucks. I love Christmas, but before I had kids I too had a hard time going all out with the decorations. I too wondered if I’d lost something, some of the joy of celebration.

    There is something magical about seeing holidays (any holiday) through my children’s eyes and how excited they are about all the fuss. They don’t really even get the concept of presents yet, so I know it’s not even greed. They’re just so darn excited about life. I love it. And I do wonder if we lose something as we get older and decide to forgo the fuss, been there, done that, why bother just for me. But to cite a cliche, it is all about the journey, and even if we’ve ‘been there done that’ I think there may be something to be said for reveling in the experience for it’s own sake. To feel it all, to enjoy it all, to absorb it all.

    Maybe it’s the existential approach to holidays . . . or not. I say do whatever makes you happy in whatever degree you want. There is no wrong answer.

  8. Gordon Smith on December 6, 2004 at 12:46 am

    I have lived in two of the top Christmas tree producing states in the U.S. — Oregon (far-and-away the #1 producer with almost one-quarter of the annual production) and Wisconsin. My first real job (as a 15-year-old) was shearing Christmas trees. Even tree huggers should not weep for Christmas trees, which are grown like any other cash crop, often on small family farms. For every tree cut, at least one more is planted, usually very close to the stump for the old tree. They mature in 6-10 years, so this is not old-growth timber. We cut our own tree every year. The trees are fresher, and the kids love doing it.

  9. Justin on December 6, 2004 at 9:42 am

    We won’t be at home for Christmas, either, but we went to a tree farm and cut down a small tree to decorate. We’re hoping to find a home for it when we leave–a couple of years ago we couldn’t afford a tree and got one in the same manner–a friend going home made us a gift of theirs.

  10. Mathew on December 6, 2004 at 10:03 am

    A lot of really great things come from Taiwan.

  11. Steve Evans on December 6, 2004 at 10:14 am

    Yes, Mat, but also some terrible evils…

  12. danithew on December 6, 2004 at 10:32 am

    I believe I’ve shared this same type of thought at T&S before but maybe it’s worth mentioning again.

    Christmas festivity might become routine or boring to some. I didn’t think it was a very big deal until I had lived Israel for a number of years and then returned during the Christmas season. Going from an airport in Tel Aviv to an airport in the United States (I think it was in Denver) in December is quite a culture change. To be suddenly engulfed in Christmas decorations, trees, etc. brought such a surprising rush of happiness and joy and feeling-at-home. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it all during the years I was away in a predominantly Jewish and Muslim country.

    At the same time I can still remember the relief many Jewish students expressed (while in Israel)at not having to deal with all the Christmas festivities and decorations that show up annually in the United States.

  13. Sean Harrison on December 6, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    To each his own, but as for me and my house… I love the wrapping, the baking, the decorating, the singing,the shopping, the giving, the entertaining, I love it all, the whole shebang. I thrill in the quivering anticipation of children. I love the quiet moments reflecting on the umimaginably glorious gift of the Savior.

    And right in the middle of all this swirling activity is our twenty foot freshly cut blue spruce.

    It seems to me that there is a choice we each make every December, do we succumb to the grinchly cyncism produced my too much selfishness and greed and retreat into ourselves? Or do we lift our eyes above the darkness and see the joy and beauty of the season.

    As for me and my house we will gather at the tree.

  14. john fowles on December 6, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    Melissa, Jordan has posted some of his ideas on why a Christmas tree is significant to him over at a bird’s eye view. I would think that if some of his thoughts approximate your own beliefs and feelings, then putting up a Christmas tree might still be worth it even though you will not be around for Christmas Eve or Christmas day. . . .

  15. Rosalynde Welch on December 6, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    This is the first year we’ve had a tree, since this is the first year we’ve owned a home and will be in it on Christmas. On Saturday we bought it, put it up, and dressed the tree and house. I’m delighted with how lovely it looks, with lights and tree and garland and creche and all in the front room. If putting up the tree and decorations will do nothing but add frustration and stress to your life, then by all means skip it. But for me, this year, at least, it’s a source of beauty and satisfaction. We’ll see if I can keep that attitude while making and sending Christmas cards, tonight’s FHE project. (Why, why, why do I feel compelled to send homemade Christmas cards?!?!)

  16. Kevin Barney on December 6, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    I am a total Christmas geek, so it would never occur to me not to have a tree. Even if I were single, I would still have one. In fact, in our house we have two: a fresh cut one in the family room, that I and the kids decorate (and it doesn’t really matter how good a job we do), and an elegant artificial one in the living room, that my wife decorates with her collection of Eurpoean ornaments (and since she does this one herself she can insure it is done well).

    There is nothing better than doing almost any activity (reading, listening to music, playing with the kids, watching a ball game) in the glow of the Christmas tree lights and the warmth of a fire.

    And for you Mormon feminists, for a long time now I’ve been thinking that a Christmas tree could be reconceptualized as a symbol of our Mother in Heaven. The Hebrew goddess Asherah was represented by a sacred tree, and the association with the birth of the Christ child makes this seem like a natural to me. So if you want to listen to President Hinckley and not pray to Heavenly Mother, but you still want to find a way to honor her in some concrete fashion, get a Christmas tree. (I’ve thought of writing an article along these lines called “Towards an Orthodox Worship of Mother in Heaven,” but have never gotten around to it, and am unlikely ever to do so, so I might as well throw the idea out here.

  17. Ben S. on December 6, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    One of my family’s traditions is to go cut down our tree the day after Thanksgiving… if we can make it out of bed:)
    I love the smell of pine, and Christmas with the King’s Singers playing (you know, the one that was enver even released on cassette), fire crackling, and hot chocolate brewing.

    But, no tree this year, since we’ll be gone for most of it.

  18. Ben Huff on December 6, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    I wish I had a river so . . . well, I don’t think I’d skate away on the St. Joseph River : ) maybe the Dowagiac?
    But I wish I had the right bindings on my cross-country skis and some unfenced land I could ski away on!

  19. Keith on December 6, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    I was alone in an apartment (or with one other who shared the apartment) for a few years. I’d recommend buying the tree, even if you won’t be there Christmas. I think it’s worth filling the room with the scent of pine. There were times in the evening when the lights, the tree, the music playing from the cd really added a peaceful enjoyment. And there’s always the unexpected visitor (party or no party) that might be cheered by the tree.

    There are plenty of reasons to feel cynical or jaded about Christmas. So if you don’t get a tree (and it really may be just too inconvenient or impractical), at least do something to your place that says Christmas for you. I agree with Laura (#2). There’s something good to be found in the “whole season” aspect of Christmas.

  20. Skipless on December 7, 2004 at 1:34 am

    I understand where you are coming from being single and not even being home for the 24th or 25th. I must say I disagree with you though on issues. Buy a small tree just to have the sweet scent in your home. Decorate it a bit. This will only help you get in the spirit or maybe it won’t.
    You know yourself better than others. Ultimately you have to decide what is important for you to do durig the Christmas season. All in all, have great Christmas with your family!

  21. Melissa on December 7, 2004 at 9:31 am

    Danithew—

    Ironically, one of the best Christmases of my life was the December I spent in Jerusalem. No tinsel-covered trees and other trappings but there was lots of New Testament reading as we continued our study of Christ’s life. We ended that semester with a Christmas concert in the Jerusalem Center to which both Jews and Muslims came. They sat next to each other in the audience in peace. I will never forget the profound spirit of love that was there in the “upper room” as we sang about the Savior of the world. Christmas came that night to us—-and it came without packages, boxes and bags. I just wish that more Christmases were consumer (and tinsel) free.

    Gordon—-

    So good to hear that our Christmas tree ritual isn’t contributing to long-term deforestation.

    Kevin—-

    I hope you do find time to write your article on Mother in Heaven, especially if you think you can combine the concepts “orthodox” and “worship of Mother in Heaven” in a paper without oxymoron or irony. We need more thoughtful essays on this topic.

    Rosalynde—-I give you permission NOT to make homeade Christmas cards this year. A friend of mine gave me permission NOT to bake full-scale gingerbread houses for each gueset to decorate on Thanksgiving after dinner, which is what I usually do.I struggled with this decision but decided to follow her advice and it was such a relief!!

    Everyone—For the record, this is only the *first* year I’ve not had a tree. Every previous year I’ve lugged a full-size tree home to my little apartment, decorated it with twinkle lights, shiny balls and ribbons—the only nine yards. I’m not actually quite the Grinch I seem to be.

    Do you realize how hard it is to strap a six foot tree to your car, drive home without losing it on the road, get the tree off the car, up an angled, narrow flight of stairs and in the stand ALONE? Of course, I could put up a small tree, but that seems so Mr Krueger’s Christmas to me. At least for this year, I can buy a pine scented candle and be happy.

    I am glad to hear that most of you haven’t resorted to plastic trees. :)

  22. Russell Arben Fox on December 7, 2004 at 10:53 am

    We have a plastic artificial tree; Megan is allergic to certains kinds of pine and/or fir (we haven’t narrowed it down yet), and had a hacking cough all through the holiday last year until the day we got rid of the tree. Last time we’re trying that for a while. I’m hoping she isn’t allergic to spruces, since they’re my favorite Christmas trees. But decent spruces (especially blue spruces) are expensive and hard to come by in the South, so we haven’t crossed that bridge yet.

  23. Samuel on December 10, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    I agree with your sentiments Melissa. The thought of killing a tree to celebrate the Lord of life has kept me from having a real tree in my home. Unfortunately I do not own a fake tree and I have either had to borrow one or go without. This year my wife insisted that we buy a real tree. My heart sank, but not wanting to appear Grinch-ish, I consented. We now have a severed, needle-dropping corpse in our living room that I cannot bring myself to enjoy. I try to focus on other Christmas-related things to keep my spirits up. Now that it’s Hanukkah, I light my menorah every evening. I purchased it from Murphy the Muslim shopkeeper on the Via Dolorosa about a decade ago. Lighting a menorah that I purchased from a Muslim while I sit by my Christmas tree helps me reflect on the message of peace on earth that our Savior proclaimed.

    Resist the urge to kill a tree. Buy a Poinsettia instead! Shalom.

  24. Susan Allred on December 19, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    I cant wait to get out of Utah, lived here my whole life and the people here are judgemental. The morom kids cant play with my methodist kids. Why? They judge. They are thee cult