Christmas is that wonderful time of year which brings out the best in a person, or perhaps the worst. The best is the loving generosity of a parent towards the children, the worshipful practices in which we remember the birth of Jesus the King, and the time joyfully invested with the family creating memories and traditions. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?
While the romantic revels in the goodness and joy of Christmas, there is an evil parallel to the season which makes the Grinch look like a jovial buddy. The horrors of Christmas orbit around a central malignant evil which is the decorated live Christmas tree. I’m not talking about the evil imagined by some fundamentalist semi-cult group that says the prophet Jeremiah was preaching against the Christmas tree in his judgment against idolatry 605 years B.C., before the nativity. No, I’m much more pragmatic. I’m talking about the evil unleashed at the taking down of the tree after all the good times are over. The Christmas tree is to Christmas what the January credit card bill is to personal debt after December’s mindless and irresponsible spending. Taking down the tree is like waking up the morning after a 12-hour pub crawl the night before (something I have only heard about but never experienced) and realizing that it is only now that the true price is to be paid. Any residual joy of the season is quickly buried under an avalanche of tree-spawned suffering and remorse at having succumbed yet once again to the “but they are so pretty and they smell so good” from your wife. Guys, don’t fall for it. It is a trap that will surely ensnare you.
The first thing to awaken your seasonal misery is the removal of all the lights and ornaments from the tree. Taking down the lights and ornaments is an indisputable refutation of the theory of evolution, as it proves that disorder follows order–never the other way around. A major component of the scientific process is obligatory repetition of experimentation to validate the theory. I now have 30 years of accumulated research from oft-repeated studies which conclusively prove that everything does indeed go from order to disorder, from order to randomness and never the other way around. Unless self organization can ever be documented somewhere, Darwin’s theory will forever languish in a dreamy La La Land of impossibility. Every year I promise myself that I’ll put the ornaments and lights back in order neatly in their own little plastic windowed boxes originally packed by diminutive Chinese slaves with fingers the size of toothpicks and carefully inspected by # 8. Every year entropy triumphs as I end up jamming the strings of lights into plastic shopping bags from Safeway . Every year my collection of light strings grows bigger and bigger, as I can never find all the lights I purchased the year before till after I have purchased more lights to replace the ones I couldn’t find before the most recent trip to Ace or Home Depot.
Every year as I rewrap the “first Christmas together” ornament in increasingly yellow , 29-year-old newspaper, the sense of history is rekindled. I see the three-decades-old ads for ground beef and nostalgically ask myself, “Was a pound of hamburger really that cheap back then?” My kids look at the faded old newspaper and wonder what it is. Being of the e-generation they have never seen solid news and are unaware that words on paper can tell a story. To them, these paper thingies belong on Tatooine in some other galaxy long, long ago. I never tire of watching my kids get to the bottom of the column and try to figure out how to scroll down to the next page.
But the central misery remains the tree itself and its disposal. As the lights are harvested from the tree, needles plunge to the carpet in numbers so vast they defy humanity’s ability to count them. The only number that approximates the number of needles is how much money you will save by switching to GEICO. Of course, if you switch to Progressive you will also save a bundle. I am becoming exceedingly wealthy by switching my auto insurance back and forth every fifteen minutes and saving $483 with every switch. I’m saving close to $2,000 every hour.
Once the tree’s lights and ornaments are removed, it is time to pull the tree from its plastic base. This involves dad prostrating himself on the floor under the needle-shedding branches and trying to unscrew those impossibly small screws that have held the tree upright for the past month and which have now melded with it, become part of the tree. Of course you can only reach three of the four screws. The fourth screw is always on the far side of the trunk; and unless you can bend your wrist like a treble clef you simply cannot loosen the screw. Eventually after sufficient contortion, strain and a string of words best not used anytime near Christmas, the last screw is loosened and the tree flops over.
This only reveals a fresh problem. As the tree is lifted out of its base, a primordial soup with Darwinian potential for the spontaneous generation of life is revealed. Water, sap, pine needles and dog saliva have aged into a biohazard with major terrorist applications. The US Department of Homeland Security is for this very reason pressuring President Obama to issue an executive order banning Christmas. It is not President Obama’s predilection towards all things Muslim that is motivating his crusade against Christianity. It is love of country that is motivating him to keep Christmas tree water out of the hands of Islamic extremists. The Federal government in its entirety is opposed to missionaries spreading Christianity into the Middle East. As Muslims convert to Christianity and begin celebrating Christmas, Christmas tree water would quickly be discovered by America’s enemies and used against us in some sort of macabre tree-had.
Once the tree has been dragged out of the living room and the furniture returned to its proper place, one would assume the Christmas season to be officially over. No, that is not the case. For as long as you own your house you will be celebrating Christmas by picking desiccated and stiletto sharp finger-pricking needles out of your carpet, your socks, your sweater, the curtains, your sofa, and your kids’ Legos. Like a botanist counting tree rings, you will vividly recall your Christmases past as you identify the needles. “Look, Honey, a blue spruce needle. Wasn’t that Christmas of 1987?” “No, dear, we had a fir tree that year. Blue spruce was 1993.”
Christmas–“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”