Thursday, December 3, 2009

O Christmas tree, O Chrsitmas tree!

As a family we trudge through the field, silent, ever ready for the attack. Eyes wide open we are alert, hunting for the perfect specimen. Sizing each each living thing up we compare it to the last, the next- this one is too skinny, that one has a full body...finally we spot it slanding boldly in a patch of golden sun. There, the one we have been looking for. Its perfect, magnificent. Its reaches into the air as if in a permanent salutation to the sun. Its perfectly symmetrical and the suns rays reflecting it gives it an otherworldly glow. its breathtakingly beautiful. We circle around it slowly, as if we are afraid that we might startle it into running for cover...We find no flaws. Yes, its the one...We raise our weapon and deliver the death blow. Helpless, our victim cannot move or run away, We wield our weapon again and again- mercilessly until it is completely cut off from its life source. It falls to the ground and we descend upon its body, binding it tightly. The children whoop from the joy of victory. As a family we drag its body off, the children pulling almost uselessly at its limp limbs. We pay the man at the gate and load our prize onto the roof of our four-door sedan. On the way home we sing carols as the windshield wipers flash back and forth, pushing snowy flakes from our path. Finally we arrive at our destination. The corps is unloaded and we drag it into the house. The mother pulls boxes from the closet, preparing for the next part of the ritual. The father curses as he attempts to make the dead body stand erect to give the illusion of life as the children look on. The ropes come off the body and are replaced by colorful bulbs. The family decorates the already decaying body with shiny baubles. Our lives seem to revolve around our prize for the next several weeks. Guests come in and admire our handiwork, not a word is said about the fact that there is a dead body in our living room, its as if nobody is aware or cares that it was once a living, breathing being. Three weeks later, the decorations are removed from its body after the mother curses about the pieces that fall from its dead frame. And its dragged unceremoniously to the curb of the family home, forgotten, with the rest of the Christmas trees. Like my prose? hehe...I'm not a huge fan of the whole Christmas tree chopping action that happens around this time of year- if you couldn't tell. It really disturbs me. I'm 23, most the trees that are killed and rot in homes around the country are my age. In their infancy, really, as trees go. Trees in town centers and ones like the one in Rockefeller center are much much older, some well over 100 years. They spent years basking in the suns rays, withstanding strong winds that sought to overturn them, using the nutrients in the soil and rain to grow stronger and taller, they housed and fed birds, squirrels and bugs- only to be chopped down, adorned with colorful ornaments and left to dry up in our living rooms for some number of days before we drag it off with the rest of the holiday litter. My father and his wife plan to get a "live tree" this year, an ironic term, if you ask me. They attempt to comfort me by telling me that it was a tree specifically grown for this purpose. I suppose that is meant to assure me, just as its meant to be a comfort when I'm told that the cows, pigs and birds that make their way to the table were "grown for that purpose," but that's another entry. While it bothers me on a micro level that trees are treated this way, I also finding it a concerning phenomenon in society. We spend about 48 weeks per year preaching that we need to save trees and plant trees and help the environment. The other four weeks or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas we turn our backs on the philosophy in the name of tradition. I think this ritual is particularly confusing to children who are very concrete and black and white in their thinking. Why would they grow up concerned about deforestation if they are trained from a young age to participate in it every December?Regardless of whether or not the trees used for the holidays are replaced sustainably or not, the whole idea seems in opposition to the values we are trying to promote as conservationists. I challenge those who want a "live tree" to opt for an actual *living* tree, that is one that is potted and can be brought in doors for the season then planted outdoors when spring arrives.Wouldn't that be a lovely tradition to begin with your family? Having a beautifully decorated tree living in your home for the Christmas holidays and planting it with the arrival of spring, perhaps around Easter for another tradition? For Christians that could be a handy way of reminding children of the necessary connection between the two holidays. For pagans and others it is a nice way to celebrate the changing of seasons. Most importantly, it would be a wonderful opportunity to replenish the earth and to teach the next generation about the importance of good stewardship for the planet.

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