During the holiday season we overconsume—the cookies, the stuffing, the holiday party finger food, the gifts, and on and on. Advice on simplifying the seasonal celebrations is abundant, so I’m not going to go there.
|Weinachtsmarkt in Dresden, Germany, 2007|
I want to focus on the Christmas tree. I love Christmas trees. I love the smell, the twinkling lights, and unwrapping the ornaments and hanging them on the tree. I love picking out a Christmas tree. I have fond memories of driving out to the woods behind our house with my dad and picking out a tree for that year. I’ve always enjoyed watching my sisters hang the lights on the tree (the one job I would joyfully hand over to my husband if he were willing). My love for Christmas trees does not discriminate. I love everything from tinsel and handmade ornaments to the simple elegance of white lights and silk poinsettias on my friend Sandy’s tree.
But I don’t put up a tree every year.
That decision is not purely environmental, but I do often think about the tree vs. no tree choice at least in part based on my impact. After my mom sold the property that the woods were on, we had a fake tree. It was simple and relatively attractive, especially once we had it decorated, but it was never quite the same as a real tree. I’ve heard that artificial trees are better for the environment and I’ve heard that real is better than fake and I’ve heard there is no difference between real and fake (both are bad intheir own way), but as I became an adult I decided that whatever the advantage of not cutting down a tree annually, a fake tree (unless it’s an over the top metallic, retro looking tree) isn’t worth it. Not to me.
I usually put up a real tree when I have the time to enjoy it. I say “I” because my husband enjoys the food, movies, and events of the holidays, but doesn’t share my love for Christmas trees. I put up a real tree in years when I won’t be traveling as much or can work from home more so that I can enjoy the sights and smells of the tree. It also has to be the kind of year when my husband and I can go to pick out a tree together and I can spread out decorating the tree over a couple days so that it doesn’t become a chore. In other years, I may use an evergreen swag on the mantle or a tabletop living tree (some of which have been transplanted to the yard) to bring in the smell of a real tree without the stress of a cut tree.
|sad little tree...|
I’ve thought for years about getting one of those wire trees for displaying ornaments, but I always fear my ornaments are too ordinary without the backdrop of twinkling lights and lush greenery. In 1999 I was in Russia, beginning my dissertation fieldwork and I made a fake tree with metal garland taped to the wall of my apartment and a few ornaments (a couple of which I brought home with me, the rest I gave to a friend for her New Year’s tree). I was wondering about When I saw a post from afriend on facebook that displayed some creative re-interpretations of theChristmas tree, I was inspired. Take a look:
And the branches become firewood for a cold January evening. Since we don’t use any starter, the ash will get added to the compost for the garden in spring. That makes me pretty happy, but I’ll probably be on the lookout for a used wooden ladder between now and next Christmas! My advice is to stress less about making the perfect holiday or even the most environmentally-friendly Christmas. Find joy in the experience rather than the object and flex your creative muscles to make memories.