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.