How to Offend Christmas
Generosity, joy, and kindness seem easier during Christmas. If we could flush commercialism, it would be the most wonderful time of the year. Two things offend Christmas, artificial trees and white lights.
Authentic people have real trees. Everyone else insults mankind with fakery. The only thing worse than a fake Christmas tree is the double offense of a fake flocked Christmas tree. The first offense of an artificial Christmas tree is its pretending to be real. Adding fake snow is pretentious self-importance.
White lights offend the spirit of Christmas glaring with monotonous drudgery. Authentic people have colored lights on real trees. Bringing in the greens was a celebration of life in the darkness of winter. Fake trees insult life. They aren’t alive and never will be.
Trees are expensive in Pennsylvania this year. We have miles of forest and a gazillion evergreens, but one Christmas tree is a hundred bucks. I remember when dad and I trudged into the forest and came out with a real tree for free.
Christmas tree supply is, like many things, tight. Something about a disease a few years ago has created shortage. Picking a tree is like walking through Sam’s Club and seeing something you might need next month. You better get it because when they run out, that’s it.
Monday morning my wife did the unthinkable. She ordered an artificial tree. It arrived with commercial precision Tuesday morning. To add insult to injury, she purchased – with our hard-earned money – a flocked tree. I can’t even use the word Christmas to describe it.
The final offense is white lights look great on it.
What long-held beliefs have you let go?
Our life journey is all about change, growth, and continuous improvement which does not necessarily result in diluting our core values.
Trees, lights, Santa…all symbols, the true action is giving and gratitude.
So true Bob. Change and growth.
This was me. The family would fight every year over the perfect real tree. Lot or cut it down? Fluffy or sparse? That one has holes in it, that ones too big. My husband invented the mystery tree one year. We picked on that wasn’t displayed and still wrapped up. LOL. We got an artificial tree last year, pre lit and all. This year, I had the tree up in 10 minutes and I realized how great it is. We got a wreath from the local club at the high school and brought in some fresh greenery. We skipped the line so to speak in frustration, put the money somewhere else, and got in the spirit way sooner.
I’ve reflected on past years of leadership and the biggest theme for me is that I used to exhaust myself trying to do it all and have all the answers and be just perfect. Sometimes it’s better to just set up the artificial tree and let the family focus on other areas.
PS our artificial tree has a “light flock” and we don’t even live where it snows. Never have. Totally offensive!
Wonderful application, Kayte. It’s a great lesson for all leaders. Everything isn’t a priority. Good enough is best sometimes and it gives us time for other things.
PS… I’m aghast at the hypocrisy.
I joined your wife’s camp a long time ago. I used to love getting a tree. We used to get them for free from the family farm or the small plot of woods on my family’s land. But moving several hours away made that impossible. Then trees started getting expensive, at least in my mind as I still remember free trees. Then fake trees started looking almost real. Then my wife bought one, and I came around.
The small investment in a nice faux tree has paid for itself AND I get to keep it up for as long as I like without fear of a fire hazard. Don’t hate me for this next part, but we’ve also been buying our Christmas cookies. Other people can bake really really well. 🙂
Delegation rocks. 🙂
Good morning and Merry Christmas to all! I’m with John Gray, I grew up with free blue spruce from my Grandfather’s camp in Thorpe Hollow, NY. Moved to Florida, I insisted on a real tree, albeit from Home Depot. Then one year, the tree DID NOT SMELL! That was the deal breaker for all the extra work the live tree brings. End of season we got a stunning fake 8 footer and a pine scented candle. I can bend those little pine boughs to my liking to fit my ornaments and I’ve only popped the breaker once with all my little white lights. It’s a wonderful life!
Ah, it is a wonderful life. (One of my favorite sappy Christmas specials.)
I don’t should on others about whether or not they get a live or artificial tree. My dad was an insurance agent and he assisted a few families whose homes were destroyed by fires that began with the Christmas tree. Of course, that was in the old days when the tree lights were blazing hot. But his experience with those families converted us to artificial trees. I love not worrying about keeping the tree watered. My collection of Christmas cacti which are blooming now support my love of live plants as do the poinsettias I buy every year.
I remember those hot lights! Your recollection tugs at my heart. Thanks for jumping in today.
I grew up with live trees my entire life. We had the family tradition of going to pick out and tag our tree with my parents and grandparents. After selecting the perfect tree, we all went out for a family breakfast. My father and grandfather would then go back and dig those Christmas trees right after Thanksgiving. After Christmas, the tree was planted in our yard. One year the tree didn’t make it to planting, it stayed on the patio all year and came back inside the next Christmas. When my husband decided, he wasn’t going to dig trees and we were going to get an artificial tree, I was not a happy Elf. Oh well, many years have come and gone with artificial trees and guess what, we still celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Lord (the real meaning of Christmas). Change can certainly be hard sometimes but with change we grow and can create new traditions. Wishing all of you a wonderful, blessed and Merry Christmas!!!!
Brilliant Susan. Change is hard, but the alternative – over time – is not viable. 🙂
Digging? Holy Cow. That’s a commitment. We had a live tree one year and planted it. It was great. The dang thing weighed a ton!!
One year, we had a live tree with roots. We had two evergreen bushes at the end of the driveway, one on either side. One bush got an infestation and had to be taken out. Our tree that year was a replacement bush. We kept it inside until the ground was warm enough we could plant it to replace the dead bush.
I love live trees, but with dogs and kids and the fact that I love to put my tree up in early Nov, a live tree is not in the picture. We have a beautiful artificial tree, though and by all accounts, it looks real. This was an interesting post, Dan. Made me stop and think about things, as so many of your articles do.
The new tradition we started when our kids were little was to turn fast food kids’ meal toys into ornaments. Those went on the lowest branches: kids could hang them and couldn’t break them. Kids are now in their 20s, and the lowest branches are still those fast food kids’ meal toys.
That’s a beautiful tradition, Jennifer. It gives a whole new meaning to fast foods!
I agrew up with the German tradition of a real tree. Last year I bought an artificial Frazier. At first, I thought I was turning my back on tradition, I reasoned we all have to adapt and grow. My husband and I enjoy the quiet lights on cold winter nights. While my tree is primarily shining with white lights, I am fortunate enough to be able to switch to multicolored lights, which, prompted by your article, I will consider changing them up as the mood fits. Thank you for your daily articles. They are my morning ritual. Happy Holidays!
It’s a privilege to be part of your morning ritual and encouraging to hear it. BTW, I just saw the morning shine on our tree. It’s delightful. 🙂
I am struggling with this same dilemma right now. We have always went out and cut down a Christmas tree at a local farm and I loved every tree we brought home. But our children both live out of state and have their own families It is easier if we travel to them for the holidays. I still decorate for Christmas, but we do not have a tree because I am struggling with the idea of a artificial tree. Change is difficult, but I know that we grow when we embrace change. I plan on purchasing an artificial tree this next year and will come to love it as well.
Change is sometimes best experienced gradually. 🙂 … Of course there are times we don’t have a choice. Enjoy your family.
It sounds like you are having an opportunity for growth, stretching and learning additional perspective.
Consider analogies as you often do as it relates to work life.
Real trees aren’t fake – true. However, cutting its life short just at its prime to be enjoyed only for a short period of time, then to be tossed to the curb, or better chipped and recycled into the earth, tells me that we can hit our prime and then only have a short lived value for a tiny season. Once that is over we will be forgotten and left as trash.
Colored lights vs white. White might be boring, but it reminds me of being good at one thing. It also reminds me that although different lights might show different personalities all lighting the way, white lights might also show unity and commonality coming together as a team. Simplicity can be beautiful, not just boring.
Back to fake trees, I live in a cabin with hilly nature surrounding me. I have a fake tree up in my living room year-round. It completes the nature that I’m surrounded with outside and brings some inside. My living room is a calming place to be no matter the season. It’s a simple space. The tree adorned in white lights creates a welcoming spot all year. It is simply decorated with a seasonal garland. The sunflowers were recently removed to make way for winter cheer. Few people enter my cabin. My fake tree is not about being pretentious (something I was raised around and abhor) but about appreciating my surroundings and having a calm space to disappear from life demands for a time. It makes me smile and I’m a better REAL person around others because of it.
To each his own but I’m positive that your insight will soon find new ways to appreciate something different.
Love your applications. It’s fun to mull over everyday things through the lens of leadership. I want to live in a cabin in the woods!
People have their preferences, right? My wife and I only use white lights. We find they don’t clash with the colorful ornaments made by our children. To each their own.
The great debate of colored or white is only surpassed by the controversy of blinking or not!
The right way is the way I do it, which of course is the source of unnecessary strife all over the world.
So, I enjoy your take on this. I do want to come out for the value of real trees. They’re biodegradable. They can be used to create habitat for creatures. They can be converted to mulch. They don’t contribute to the growing problem of plastic waste. OR you can just not have a tree…..sacrilege, I know. But hear me out. Get a Yule log. Decorate the heck out of it with nice goodies and then have that sucker in the fireplace for the holiday. Smells good. Warms the house. Yes, it releases greenhouse gasses but nothing is perfect. 🙂
Love your reflections on this. I had never thought of a yule log. Blows my mind. I need a few more years to overcome this year’s trauma before considering something sacrilegious.
My wife and I always bought a real tree- even when we were first married. We switched to an artificial tree when we started a family and began to spend Christmas with her family. We’d be away from home for a week so it was safer because no one was home to water it. I do miss the pine scent, but it is convenient.
Wow, I never thought of freedom as a benefit of artificial trees. Fascinating.
Dan, my sincere condolences on your tragic experience. One of the joys in moving to Oregon has been getting our $5 permit and heading out into the woods to cut down our own tree.
I’m proud of you. True to the end. And you’re helping manage the forest. You multiply my humiliation.
I am a double offender AND I live on 40 acres in southwestern Oregon (the Christmas tree capital of the US) and have trees all over my property. Due to allergy issues, we can no longer have a live tree in the house. My 9′ artificial pencil (think tall and narrow) evergreen tree goes up on the day after Thanksgiving (NEVER before) and will stay up until the first or second week of January. I love the pure white lights that dance in their rolling waves across all 9′ of the tree.
As leaders, we must constantly flex and change our leadership styles to match the current situation. While there is benefit to tradition, sometimes the new and innovative can be better than “what was”. I like not having to worry about a tree that dries to a tinder-dry match stick standing in my living room before Christmas arrives. And with the advent of scented products, I bought a bottle of Christmas Tree scented oil and reed sticks. My home smells like a Christmas tree is in the living room! Holiday blessings to all!
So glad you joined in today. Yes, allergies are a dispensation from god that makes artificial trees acceptable. I see you have some rituals that endure. A ritual is a point of stability in an ever-changing environment.
We’ve always stuck to the belief that “Christmas happens at home” with all the cooking preparations, house decorating and more.
I’ve always wanted to try Christmas in a warm place for a change, and kept brining up that it’s not where – it is the who on Christmas that is important.
Well this year we’re actually considering flying to AZ away from WA rain. Not sure if it will happen, but I can feel the original belief has been at least slowly showing small cracks on the surface …
I’m with you, Daniel. But you might be interested to know that when the kids were young we spent one Christmas at Disney World in Orlando. Yup! rented a condo and went to Disney on Christmas Eve. It was amazing. We did Thanksgiving in NYC one year too. I suppose breaking the tradition of being home during the holidays is a chance for new experiences.
The most egregious offense of Christmas is when people do not honor the Holiday in whose name it is for Christ himself as in Jesus Christ. It is a celebration of God’s gift to us to send His son Jesus Christ in his birth, his life, and the redeeming work of His life for all mankind that believe & follow Him. Our entire calendar of B.C (Before Christ) . & A.D.(After Death or Anno Domini) hinges upon this pivotal event in the continuum of time on this earth. So for people to reject the greatest gift of all time is the epitome of an offense. This is God’s truth so we need to choose what to do with the gift either receive & believe it, or reject our maker – it is my hope you ponder this truth and chose wisely as God loves us all enough and wants a relationship with each of us which is what the gift of this season is all about.
Hi James. We live in a pluralistic society. My Jewish friends don’t seem to take offense that I don’t celebrate Hanakah, even though the whole Christmas thing irritates some of them.
Dan! Embrace the artificial, flocked tree! (We’ve had artificial for many years now as a result of allergies and fear of fire.) Best of luck!
I’m in. This year. 🙂 Let’s see how it feels as time passes. Right now, I’m excited about it.
My brother, sister and parents grew up in an 800 sq. ft. house with one bedroom. Nonetheless, my dad would take my brother and me to multiple tree lots in search of the perfect tree. He’s tell each sales person that he was looking for a tree for the church! The tree would take up a 5’x5′ space in the living room after we spent hours in the garage splicing branches into bare spots and cutting 4′ off of the bottom so it could stand up inside. Of course, we had multicolored bulbs, but only after we’d spent hours trying to get them all to work. The result, though, was spectacular and something that Clark Griswold would be proud of!
My wife and I are now empty nesters, after doing a condensed version of the above for 22 years. I miss all of the traditions of a real tree and how wonderous it looks, but the grandkids will only see it for a few hours so, is it worth it? Christmas is about spending time with loved ones, not spending fleeting time on trees and other decorations.
Thanks for posting this, Dan.
Powerful reflection. Old man Parker from A Christmas Story would be proud.
Back on the farm, the trees were bare compared to the groomed ones we buy today. Big bulbs and tinsel.
And “Christmas Vacation” with the Griswald’s is must watching every year in our house, along with a long list of other silly shows and movies.
Great story and great replies. Found myself chuckling about a few of the points. A couple of years ago we made a split decision – we have an artificial tree and if we have time we go out and try to find a real one at one of those corner Christmas tree lots. Best of both worlds! Until last year when we could only find a real tree at Home Depot! Oh well – it worked!!!!
Funny you say this Dale. My wife just said, if we end up missing a real tree we can take this one downstairs and get a real one next year. Then we’ll have two.
My mother started our tradition of gold ornaments and white lights when we lived in German. It reminds me of walking through a clear night, cheeks touched with cold, the snow crunching, star glittering crossing a stone bridge to the chapel where Silent Night Holy Night was first composed. The gold of the straw in the manger and the gold of the wise men’s gift.
Sometimes making changes so you can preserve the heart of the tradition is better than grimly holding on.
Although I am with you when it comes to flocking. Especially when the flocking falls off like dandruff. Nothing like a tree with dandruff to ruin the mood.
Beautiful story, Elizabeth. Germany is a great place to celebrate Christmas.
History.com has this on it: “Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree.”
Two memories of real trees: one year my father embraced the idea of buying a live tree with a burlap bag of roots. He went to every store he could think of to find a washtub or something to put the tree in so we could keep it watered. No luck. So there he was, trying to plant it in the front yard when the ground was frozen. There was a lot of swearing going on, not exactly in the Christmas spirit . It was very cold and the ground didn’t want to yield. The tree is still in front of that house, more than 50 years later.
Second tree memory, from the same house. We had a cut live tree again, and after Christmas, Daddy decided to burn it in our fireplace. He cut off most of the, branches but not all. Stuck it in the fireplace and after it caught, flames were coming out of the chimney on a two story house with a peaked roof. Daddy made my sister and me go out in the back yard with the hose in case the roof caught fire. Fortunately, it did not and the fire died down quickly, But it was quite the event and was never repeated!
He insisted on fake trees after that and we had this awful tree that smelled like moldy plastic. Finally got rid of that one when my mother moved after Daddy went to heaven.
Your story sounds like a movie waiting to me made!! Swearing while replanting a Christmas tree is hilarious. Perhaps it wasn’t to you back then, but I read your comment to my wife. We both cracked up.
You make a convincing argument for fake trees.
The first fake Christmas tree.
Dad had been sick in bed & Mom was busy taking care of him. Dad got better, but then just before Christmas Mom came down with something (exhaustion?) and was now sick in bed. It’s 24 DEC & Dad realizes there’s no Christmas tree! As Dad told the story, evening of 24 Dec he drove to the local big box store & got inside just as they were closing. He headed for the Christmas decorations only to find all the fake Christmas tree sold out. A clerk approached him to inform him the store was closing. Dad explained the situation. Then both he & the clerk look up to see a fully decorated fake Christmas tree on display…..Dad asks if they’ll sell him the display tree? The store manager comes over & the clerk explains the situation. The manager tells the clerk to take the display tree down for my Dad. The manager turns to my Dad, tells him the price of the tree, alone, and that the clerks will wrap it up, fully decorated, lights (multi-color), all the trimmings & take it out to his car…and Merry Christmas!
Every year, after the Christmas holiday, the fake Christmas tree, fully decorated, lights & all the trimmings, would get wrapped up, as is, and moved into storage until next December.
What a great story. Generosity is so powerful. One of the things I like best about the Holiday Season is the way it makes me feel about other people.
So glad it had colored lights. 🙂
Ah, the age old dilemmas – real or fake tree, white or colored lights. For years we were a real tree family with the light decision based only on what worked or not from previous years. All that came to a screeching halt the year the tree came pre-decorated with a bat and some spiders that had decided to hibernate in the tree before it was cut. You can guess the rest of the story once the tree was moved into the warmth of the house. Unforeseen events led to the quick adoption of a fake tree that takes but an afternoon or less to set up (yay, more time for things that previously were neglected) and doesn’t start causing work as soon as it’s “finished.”
Pre-lit with white lights, it goes up just after Thanksgiving but stays undecorated until the spirit moves me to drag the ornaments out. Said ornaments get removed just after the new year but the tree often stays in the corner until early February, giving coziness and light to an otherwise dark season. So thanks to a bat, we made some on the fly (no pun intended) decisions that led to a kinder, more gentle start to the year.
My leadership take away to all this is to embrace the chaos as it can lead to a forced rethinking of how things are done with delightful unintended consequences.
Your story sounds a little like National Lampoons Christmas vacation. Somehow the squirrel came with the tree. However, I’ll take a squirrel to a bat and spiders. I’m looking forward to enjoying our new fake tree long after the season ends as well.
Christmas lands in the middle of Summer here in Australia. Real or fake trees? We debate silver or green plastic and whether it will be too hot to eat Christmas dinner on the deck! 😀
Sounds like a great debate!
Should we fire up the grill or head to the beach?