A Minimalist Moment: The Tannenbaum Tango

Our tree in its younger days.

What did you do on Black Friday? Were you hunkered down in lines outside superstores during the wee hours? Driving from mall to mall to check for any lingering unbelievable steals? Sleeping in because you blacked out on tryptophan? Or were you up in the attic untangling a mass of Christmas lights?

At my house, the day after Thanksgiving was spent setting up our ten-year-old artificial Christmas tree before my daughter went back to school. After growing up in a family nursery where cut evergreens provided a major source of winter income, and years of loyally spending big bucks on tree farms and garden centers in the midwest, I went rogue and bought our one (and probably only) artificial tree in 2000.

The purchase would be viewed as sacrilege by environmentalists and extended family alike, but I figured that since we were going the fake route, why not take it all the way with a decidedly unnatural but beautiful white tree full of gold, silver and purple ornaments with beaded garland. For nine years, this work of art has sparkled in front of our living room window, adding to the decorations outside (strings of blue LED lights).

This year, however, when we pulled out the pre-lit tiers of branches with color codes matching the center pole (no easy hinges on this baby), my husband, daughter and I could no longer deny that the formerly pristine “needles” had browned to a dingy gold. And so, after this Christmas, our one artificial guilty pleasure will be retired.

Which leads to the question of its replacement. Or not. In the quest to conquer clutter in my life, all but the Christmas stash has been ransacked. And now, I have to address the white elephant, or should I say snowman, in the room. (And yes, it includes the Frosty collection that has snowballed over the years.)

This past Friday, already on a roll from decorating the tree, we decided to go ahead and put up all the decorations. And, there was simply not enough room at the inn for snow people, or snow globes, or even the manger. My diligence in purging furniture has led to a holiday housing shortfall. Too many festive guests, so somebody will have to move on to the Island of Misfit Toys (or Goodwill).

Picking out who goes will be difficult, kind of like choosing your favorite puppy from an adorable litter. The stockings will never leave, nor the little wire tabletop tree with blinking lights that my daughter named “Timmy” one year for some reason. Ornaments sporting the big orange T’s of my husband’s favorite team won’t be heading out any time soon, despite a less than stellar football season. The herd of tiny plastic reindeer, with nearly all its fake fur loved off, has already made the trip back to the dorm.

As for our largest symbol of the holidays, both ancient and modern, I’m thinking of taking a sneaky detour from the whole fake vs. real dilemma. I’ve got my eye on one of those old-fashioned feather trees for next year. Made out of genuine wood and fowl and not some cheap plastic imitation, it is still the antique version of an artificial Christmas tree. I’ll think of it as a piece of seasonal furniture that you can take apart and put away after the big twelve days.

Or, I can probably turn it into a handy stool for the rest of the year.

7 thoughts on “A Minimalist Moment: The Tannenbaum Tango

  1. My dad also had a small Christmas tree business on our 20 acres in Indiana. We built a corduroy road out of hardwoods to get across the marsh that bisected our property to the hill we planted in back. After you trim a few thousand Christmas trees every summer, for six years each, they don’t seem as romantic and festive. Still, we always put up a tree, even after the business ended and the thousands of remaining trees grew up to have a life of their own. Eventually we had to take the top out of something that should properly have been logged, but we had a fresh tree from our land.
    All that is gone now. But my wife and I still have a real tree. Ernie, our rubber plant. Not strong enough for strings of lights, but every year Ernie gets bigger and can hold more ornaments. And we imagine he likes to be elevated to his Christmas status. And we can even feel good knowing we haven’t killed a tree and we are not wasting space in the attic or garage or basement we don’t have.

    1. suburbansatsangs

      A living tree (or plant) is a great alternative. I bet Ernie looks good all dressed up for the holidays. I tried using Norfolk Pines a couple of times, but never kept one long enough to have it get to any size. Still, that might be the way to go. Thanks for sharing — I always love your stories. If you’re ever inclined to come out to visit your roots, let us know.

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  3. Last week, while in Albq. New Mex. we spied a 40 ft Christmas tree that was actually made of “other christmas trees” (plastic fake trees). It was believe it or not, kind of spectacular. If not that, it surely was unique.


    1. suburbansatsangs

      Wow, a 40-footer, eh? I wonder how many smaller trees it took to make that? Good to know there’s a way to recycle the fake trees into more fake trees. Thanks for stopping by, DS.

  4. I used to go to garden centers that sold trees and ask for their tree clippings (they cut off the lower branches of trees they sell) to make wreaths and swags with them. They gave the branches to me for free and they smelled great.
    You probably couldn’t easily put your ornaments on them, but if you want a cheap way to get the look and smell of evergreen in your house, it’s an idea.

    1. suburbansatsangs

      Another great idea! I’ve never thought to ask for clippings and I do miss that evergreen smell. Thanks as always for your ideas and observations.

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