A Victorian ChristmasLast week Holly, Mom and I all went out to find a Christmas tree and just as Home Depot was closing we found one and brought it home. It’s a pilgrimage that we make every year and every time we make it, I re-question just why we’re doing it in the first place. I don’t mean to sound like a Grinch, because I’m really not. I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person. It’s a joyous season and I like the music and the decorations, the food and the festivities. Although it’s a crazy time of year, I find the season very enjoyable. The only part I don’t find fun is the Christmas tree.

In my mind having a Christmas tree is pure insanity. I don’t know how this custom came to be and I sure as heck don’t know how it became a custom that everyone agreed was a good idea. I mean who seriously sat back and thought bringing a tree inside your home made sense?

In lieu of a definitive answer, I imagine a couple in a log cabin at the turn of the century. They are at the kitchen table enjoying a hot cup of cocoa talking about how to decorate their house that year. Because I’m sure that’s what early pioneers did in their log cabins. 😉 In my mind the conversation went a little something like this:

Wife: “You know what we ought to do this year?”

Husband: “No honey, what?”

Wife: “We ought to go out into the woods and cut us down a tree.”

Husband: “Cut down a tree? What for? I just chopped two cords of wood the other day”

Wife: “Oh, no, I didn’t mean for wood. I just thought it would look pretty in the house.”

Husband: “In the house?”

Wife: “Yes, we’d put the tree in the house and then decorate it.”

Husband: “What the… Why would we want to drag a tree into our house?”

Wife: “Because it would look pretty. We could put lights and hang knick knacks from it.”

Husband: “Ooooh K, but honey, you know the tree is going to die once we cut it down.”

Wife: “No no no, we’d water it.”

Husband: “Water the tree?”

Wife: “Yes, of course silly. We’d put the tree in a bucket and water it”

Husband: “We’d water a tree in our house?”

Wife: “Yes.”

Husband: “And why are we doing this again?”

Wife: “Because it will look pretty.”

Husband: “Yeah. I have to tell you, I’m just not seeing that. I just don’t see how cutting down a perfectly good tree, dragging into out house, watering it every other day and putting stuff on it is going to work. I mean, that’s a lot of work for just a day or two.”

Wife: “Oh no, you don’t understand.”

Husband: “Oh good, because this was sounding a little crazy.”

Wife: “We won’t have it up for just a few days. We’d have to keep it up for at least a month.”

Husband: “What?!?

Wife: “Having a Christmas tree is a lot of work, we’d keep it up till at least the first of the year.”

Husband: “A month?” We’re going to have a slowly dying tree in our house, dropping needles and drying to kindling for a month?”

Wife: “Yes.”

Husband: “In our house?”

Wife: “Yes.”

Husband: “And why are we doing this?”

Wife: “Because it will look pretty.”

Husband: “I love you honey, but this just sounds crazy. I know you think it will look pretty, but what you’re talking about sounds crazy to me.”

Wife: “Are you saying you don’t love me?”

Husband: “No! I’m not saying that at all, I’m just saying…”

Wife: “Because if you don’t think that I can decorate this house properly, then clearly you don’t love me very much do you.”

As she makes a sad face and her eyes began to well up, the husband relents. He grabs his axe and heads for the woods shaking his head as he shuffles off towards the forrest. Knowing that the idea makes little sense to him, he is resolved that he will indeed cut down a tree. Before he’s even out of ear shot, his wife calls out, “Wait for me! I want to help you pick it out.”

Looking back at her with an even deeper look of bewilderment, his wife interprets his look and explains with a big smile on her face, “Well, we have to pick the best tree don’t we?”

And thus began a yearly ritual that spread throughout the land and eventually was saddled upon my shoulders as my yearly burden.

Think this story makes no sense? Well, it makes about as much sense as dragging a tree into your home, attaching various baubles and electrical wires to it and then try to keep it green as it slowly dies and turns to kindling. 😛

If you want to know the real story of how all this “pagan mockery” got started, the History Channel web site has a nice article on the subject.