We bit the holiday bullet last year and bought an artificial Christmas tree. It looks genuine, but it’s entirely fake—sort of like a top-of-the-line toupee.
My wife had been pushing for the imitation evergreen for years, but I had always resisted.
“What about the wonderful romance of going out and cutting our own tree every year?’ I would say. “Or going to a lot? It’s a time-honored tradition.”
Then she pointed out that burnt toast, leaky pipes and hemorrhoids were also “time-honored” occurrences—but that doesn’t make them things to long for.
She was right, of course. All the cheery Norman Rockwell images I recalled of hunting for and decorating holiday trees were utter fiction.
Looking back at photos and videos of Christmases past, one thing becomes clear: Most of the trees I selected and erected wound up looking pretty lousy.
They all died in vain. Some were probably suicides.
I’m the actual guy who has drilled holes in a Christmas tree in order to glue on additional branches—branches that wouldn’t have been available if I hadn’t stupidly sawed them off in first place.
And I’m the same person who somehow could never remember to keep water in the base of the tree—thereby turning Tannenbaum into Tan ‘n brown within a few days.
That’s when I got the idea of restoring the color with green paint. Sure enough, two or three cans of spray paint could turn that tree with the dead needles into a tree with dead needles painted green.
Even the family cat wasn’t fooled.
Another time, we bought a tree from a Boy Scout troop. That one died before we got home.
But one year, the holiday tree experience proved downright terrifying. It happened late on a frigid winter night—a night of sudden terror—when a 14-foot noble became ignoble.
We’d made the purchase from a nearby tree farm on an afternoon when freezing rain and snow made conditions miserable. Luckily, the farm had several trees already cut, bundled up in sturdy string and ready to go.
The grizzled octogenarian owner of the lot assured us that while our new tree was quite frozen, it was a beauty—and once it gently thawed, the branches would gracefully lie out—and the tree would reveal its true magnificence. Sounded good to me.
Our home had a wonderful 18-foot entry hall, and the tree was intended to make the inside of the place look like Rockefeller Center, without the ice rink.
We drove the frozen tree home atop a neighbor’s truck—and with his help and two other guys, got the tall timber erected. Next, the tree was encircled it with a huge plastic tarp intended to catch the melting ice. Things were going beautifully.
By then, the hour was late—so we decided to decorate the tree in the morning while it de-thawed overnight. We trundled upstairs and got nestled all snug in our beds as visions of sugarplums—actually Sweet ‘n Low plums—danced in our heads.
Sometime around two in the morning, there arose such a clatter—I sprang from my bed to see what the heck was going on. There was a series of loud “thwacking” noises —like a lion tamer cracking a big bullwhip.
I got downstairs just in time to see the finale of the great Christmas tree thaw—as its mighty branches were snapping open like blades on a Swiss army knife.
Pictures were knocked off walls. A large pot was upended and broken. A nearby window was cracked right down the middle.
Someone screamed in horror at what appeared to be a big, scary tree coming to life.
Someone screamed again each time another branch snapped down like a hatchet blade.
When the tree was finally finished opening, I stopped screaming.
Then, finally calm, I had to admit that the tree really was quite beautiful, just as the old tree farmer had said.
Three days later, it was as beautiful as a doornail—and twice as dead.
That’s why we have a fake tree now.