I came across this discarded tree with wreath on my walk the day after Christmas.
This year, we did not get a Christmas tree. In fact, last year we didn’t get one, either. But I do love a Christmas tree, a real tree. In years past, we normally get the tree on the first week of Advent and decorate it with ornaments collected over the years, so full of memories and meaning, each bringing back a moment of joy, and then we wait until the Feast of Kings before undressing the tree. I always feel saddened as we carry it out our front door into the cold, after so many weeks of receiving pleasure from the scent and presence of the Spruce next to the warmth and glow of the fireplace in our living room.
The day after Christmas, early in the morning, I went for a walk and was shocked to see our neighbour’s still healthy green tree already tossed out into the sidewalk. There was something sad and forlorn about it: Christmas cast away, ended, disposed of, no longer wanted or needed, after the stroke of midnight; the celebration over with one of its ubiquitous symbol thrown out in a hurry. But why the rush to get rid of it? On that same walk, I came across other trees that, equally loved until Christmas Night, were now lying naked, cut, abandoned, and already waiting for Pick-Up day. No doubt they will be shredded to provide good mulch for the soil, but the thought of these trees, grown explicitly for one night of glory, unsettles my conscious.
Perhaps I am too sensitive to the plight of Christmas trees, but maybe my unease comes from seeing something much deeper and disturbing about human behaviour: our ease and ability to proclaim undying love one day, to praise with a sense of wonder, and then to quickly cast off, or even destroy, the very person or thing we no longer need or want the next day because we are fickle and tire easily of sameness.
My mother tells me the story of an old neighbour, a Senhora Conceição, who in those old days, would knock at the door and remind my grandmother to save the Christmas tree trunk for her. “A vizinha há-de me dar o tronco.” She asked for the trunk so that she could make little vases out of the wood, which she would then paint and give to friends as decorations. It was a kind of artesanato, my mother reminds me – folk art. And I felt glad to know that my family’s Christmas tree had been, so long ago, transformed into something new, something of whimsical beauty to last beyond Christmas day. I admired Senhora Conceição, even though I don’t know who she was. If she was my neighbour, I would surely save my tree for her transformational magic.
I am thinking that maybe, despite my ecological leanings, I might just feel enough nostalgia next year to get another tree, but I know that I will never be able to toss it out unceremoniously, not without a feeling of regret that I am discarding something beautiful. Perhaps this is the lesson the Christmas tree exhorts me with: to hold on to the good things of life and the beauty therein, until the end, the very end.
Merci pour ce texte Emanuel
I think I do share your feelings about getting rid of a Christmas tree; as a child, I missed the scent and colour of the tree after it was gone. Which might be the reason why we got an artificial one in 1993 when our first-born celebrated his first Christmas.
Hi Emanuel: your text touched very much.
I don’t understand why people no longer respect the tradition of the 12 days of Christmas, today being the last one, January 6th, the Feast of Kings.
It’s such a reductionist view and practice of the festivities: a long shopping season, starting after Halloween, culminates in one day, the 25th, and then it’s over. The little tree is disrespectfully dumped just when it was at the height of releasing its scent and of gladdening our post-climatic hearts and stressed out minds and bodies from the rush of Christmas. Thanks for this lament.
Dear Emanuel, before having the privilege of walking in the forest where lots of beautiful baby pine trees grow, I also felt sad for the short lives of “Christmas trees”. I feel different now. When we choose our tree, we make sure to take one that leaves space for the others to develop. And I think that if I were a tree preventing my “brothers and sisters” to grow because we were born all so close together, I would feel rewarded to have been chosen and being able to give happiness even for a short period of time. I look at it differently now, without guilt.
Thank you Emanuel, I very much enjoyed reading your tribute to the Christmas tree. I have now taken down my evergreen friend. I too wait for the passing of , ‘little Christmas ‘ before devesting our guest. Before parting, I thanked her for the kindness of her soul that brought warmth and joy to our home during the Christmas season.
I believe that a real tree, brings joy and love to those who listen with their hearts. 🙏🎄🙏
P.s. Thank you Ilda for Sharon ng
The Magic of “Christmas Mourning”
This beautiful reflection evokes a poignant memory of Christmas past, reflected in the interesting play-on-words in the title.
The piece first reminds me of a botanical version of Gail Sheeny’s “Passages”. However, as is the case with so much of Melo’s writing, beneath the outer picture of an abruptly discarded Christmas tree, deeper observations about human nature soon bubble to the surface. Rather than Sheeny, I now think of “Christmas Mourning” more in terms of philosopher Martin Buber who, in his famous work, I and Thou, creates a clear distinction between relating authentically to life in an aware and sensitive way (which he terms I-Thou) or to choosing to relate inauthentically by objectifying and thereby devaluing life (an approach he defines as I-it).
Such a distinction constitutes much of the reflection in this piece. The full-on destruction of the Christmas tree is an act of objectification. It fulfills only the letter of tradition, not the true spirit of life, the latter exemplified by the “old neighbor” who perpetuates life by creating tree-trunk vases that then go on to hold more life.
Whether the relationship is with our loved ones, neighbors, friends—or a tree, the choice is always clear—to alienate and objectify, or to nurture the spirit that assumes as many different shapes…as the branches on a tree.
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