Alright, If you have been reading here for at least a year, perhaps you are already expecting this post. Yes, it is the I’m so annoyed at the the Christmas Tree Market, and I am going to Extrapolate that into a Bigger Statement about Design post. Here goes.
Starting with the positive, I got my beautiful Christmas tree this year from a place that couldn’t have made me happier if they had wrapped the thing in a big giant velvet bow, brought it to my house and set it up for me. But really, all they did was plant a pretty little field full of fir trees out in central Massachusetts some years ago. And then, because they are farmers and parents they became completely distracted, they forgot about them. The trees were left to the mercy of the wild and were allowed to grow and mature just like mother nature intended.
There was no bulldozing of mountains sides, no pesticide spraying, and no labor intensive shearing. While I have a pretty big beef with all of these, I can also recognize that tree farming has a lot of environmental benefits as well. Tree farms, like any other agricultural product need to be approached with the same greater understanding of the environmental practices that they employ. We are increasingly applying this logic to our food products and trees are no different. Tree farming is a debate that certainly has two strong sides to it and lots of gray area in between, but my strategy is to buy as locally as I can, and know as much about what I am buying as possible — then use may brain to make the right choice.
(my 2010 holiday tree– it has all of, perhaps, 10 branches to hang things on — but is beautiful nonetheless)
But my rant for today is different….I have come to hate tree lots because there isn’t any point to the shopping anymore. I remember when I was a kid going to a tree lot at the holidays was like a mini lesson in Dendrology. Trees looked different from each other and there was a point to examining each one, different varieties different shapes, sizes and styles. None were so perfect that you didn’t have to take the time to be charmed by the beautiful eccentricities of it. Walking the lot and pulling out a tree, spinning it around and examining it from all sides had a purpose. Now, I hardly feel kind when I ask for a tree to be unfurled for examination — what is the point? I am just wasting everyone’s time trying to find the perfect tree. They are all ‘perfect’. Each has been pruned and honed and hyper-cultivated to look exactly like the one next to it. Oh sure, perhaps one will be a little taller, or a little fatter, and we can boringly discuss needle retention, but they all look the same. And that makes me sad and a little mad.
I find it to be a particularly American habit to strive for sameness. My mother used to comment on the profound cultural difference she noticed between Europeans and Americans when she would visit me when I lived in the UK. ‘Everyone here seems to want to look different and unique, but back home, they all want to look the same.’ I have to agree, when you look at the average (and thank goodness there are lots of people that are not on the bell curve), this is certainly true. All across the country the same stores are in the mall, the same restaurants are in the parking lots and now for the holidays, the same trees are in the tree lots. Ubiquity reigns. Bleh.
So here ends my annual Christmas tree rant. I encourage you to save yourself from holiday sameness. Please, seize this once a year opportunity to express your self however you want (design with abandon!!). Who cares if your tree matches your pottery barn sofa – it’s only a few weeks. Seek alternatives. Demand a flocked tree, a charlie brown tree, a bare stemmed deciduous tree with nice branches, maybe even a hot pink tinsel tree. At the very least, if you go for real, a local tree that grew naturally in the place it was born. Bring it into your home and celebrate it and all its natural beauty.
Then decorate it with abandon, give yourself the liberty to make the tree and it’s decoration a unique expression of you. Let yourself go and enjoy the creativity. This year, I decided for the first time, to not take all the ornaments that have been given to me over the years out of the attic. I neither purchased or choose any of them for myself and while the sentimental ties to the givers of these baubles is strong, I don’t necessarily love them visually. I have been yearning for an opportunity to create my own thing. So instead, I shopped at the dollar store, Ikea, Target, TJMaxx and the woods around my house for cheap decorations and materials to make our own look. This is what I came up with so far… more to come as I finish up.
If you are looking for some inspiration, check out some of the Studio ‘g’ tree posts from years past….. What’s a Girl Gotta Do To Get a Flocked Tree in New England?, and Save a Tree, Last minute Christmas Tree Alternatives.