Our family’s move over to the faux side this holiday didn’t play well on Instagram.
Last week, I posted a photo of our recent stop at Home Depot to shop for fake trees. The comments ranged from “What?!?!?!” “No” and “I am so sorry” to “This AND the election? Way too much for one month. Sigh.”
A “face screaming in fear” emoji was posted. And there were offers of fir-scented candles.
I was clearly being tree-shamed.
And I totally deserved it.
Throughout my design writing career, I have been a traditionalist, making clear my disdain for silk flowers and artificial plants and my love of fine linen tablecloths and real candles. I chastized my colleagues, calling their pre-lit, remote-controlled trees tacky and shuddering in horror at the stories of how some consumers slipped tree-shaped pine car air fresheners in the depths of their fake firs.
Last winter, I wrote about the horror of gas fireplaces vs. wood-burning ones.
I also wrote an article in 1999 shaming people who had fake trees. I am now ashamed of it.
But rereading it, I realized that, back then, my very meticulous husband wrapped our tree with 1,000 lights. Last season? The tree topped out at a circuit-busting 2,000 lights.
In that article, his painstaking procedure was well described by our then-9-year-old son.
“Dad sits down on the floor and starts straightening out the strings of lights. Then he starts wrapping them around the tree. It takes all day. Or even two days. He’s sort of grumpy, especially if some of the lights go off after he’s all finished. Sometimes, when he finds a knot in the string, he gets really mad. Mom and I stay out of his way.”
Last year, after my husband spent two days stressfully working on lighting the tree, he ran out of time. My son, now 26, arrived for the holidays and spent a day finishing up the lights so we could put our hundreds of ornaments on the tree by the deadline: Christmas Eve dinner for nine people.
Why did we go fake? It could save our marriage. But there are other reasons, too.
● We just had our living room painted and got a new rug. Who wants branch scratch marks on the walls, sap stains on the rug and water marks on the hardwood floors?
● We were tired of dragging the tree in from the back yard, littering the whole house with needles and drawing blood from our hands. Not to mention the pain of watering the tree daily.
● The emergency trips to CVS for more lights were getting out of control. We are convinced there is a conspiracy to manufacture lights that last no more than one season. They seem to go bad just as you’ve finished installing them while lying on your back.
● We were sick of stockpiling the tiny packages of fuses that come with each string of lights. Do you know of anyone who has successfully replaced a fuse?
● The idea of local tree lots selling real trees that already have strings of lights wrapped around their branches by trusty elves never took off.
Yes, the real thing is worth it, but real life gets in the way. My son was all in. My husband said the choice to go fake was disappointing, but he could use the extra two days for something else. “The biggest hurdle for a traditionalist like me is realizing the taste police won’t be at your door if you give up on a real tree,” he said.
As we were finishing up our transaction at Home Depot, my brother-in-law Chris called. My husband explained that we were loading our tree-in-a-box into the car.
“You bought a fake tree?” Chris asked Morgan.
“Yes,” Morgan replied. I was proud of him for his forthright honesty.
“What would Martha Stewart say?”
“She’d love the idea,” Morgan said. “We bought one of her trees.”
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