Saturday, December 5, 2009

Putting Up (With) a Christmas Tree

"Christmas Tree Erection" is not as much fun as it sounds. The agony starts with bringing your "severgreen" home. A proper fir, of the genus Expensivis Fire Hazardia, will smell so good it'll be more than worth having that branch perforate your cornea.

Setting this baby up in a stand is easy, provided you have an advanced degree in reverse metallurgic architectural horticulture. If not, just prop it up against a closet, or other place frequently accessed by your spouse, who will appreciate the aggravation as an excuse to have a third cup of spiked cider. Excellent, because the biggest mistake people make when putting up the tree is doing it sober.

First, string on the lights. Easiest technique: Just electrocute yourself right away and skip the rest. Common technique: Sob over tangled cords which haven’t functioned since that miracle occurred on 34th street, the one where every bulb on a light string stayed lit for more than 20 seconds. Be sure to wrap the light strings tightly onto the tree and onto nearby objects like your left leg, which will be released soon enough when you take the tree down on Easter.

Now take out the ornaments. Categories of these include: Broken, stolen, unwillingly homemade, and accidentally sacrilegious. Therefore the once pristinely natural tree ends up looking like an Elvis-as-Gladiator parade float. Luckily this is a much less upsetting vision to people drunk on eggnog than the sight of an actual tree.

What goes on top? To honor the birthplace of Jesus, the guy who the debatably pagan tree display celebrates, you should crown your creation with a “Star of Bethlehem.” Don’t spend a lot of money on it, because the cat will knock the tree over and break it. You must then retaliate by strapping the cat itself to the top branch. Don’t worry that your family will find this disturbing. Prolonged meowing can easily be drowned out by cranking up The Chipmunks’ disco version of Silent Night.

This whole ritual really is joyful as well as frustrating. The tree’s majestic splendor will remind you of the good will Christmas engenders in people across the world. Its glory will thaw you on returning from gathering wood and shoveling snow and singing merry carols like you did as a kid. And when you take the tree down you'll finally be inspired to vacuum for the first time this century, what with the needles and the cat's tinsel-filled hairballs.

Next December you might be tempted to just decorate a fake tree, throw a blanket over it in January, and unveil it year after year. Fine. Either way, a lovingly trimmed Christmas tree is the most gorgeous thing that you’ll ever see. Just as soon as you nurse that eyeball back to health.

(A word of warning, cut trees get progressively more retaliatory every year. I heard that in 2010 they're going for the groin.)