Oh Christmas Tree


No wonder I rarely got a tree.  It’s just too much work.  Going out to buy it.  Schlepping it home.  Carting it inside.  Pine needles everywhere.  Finding the box with the decorations in storage.  Untangling the lights.  Discovering that only some are still working.   I’m not that together.   I have zero organizational skills.  Hey, if magical elves appeared in my home to set up the tree, and I didn’t have to go to the lot or do anything, I would reconsider.

And then, of course, there is the religion factor.  To get a tree or not to get a tree. Since half of me is Jewish and the other half vague, it’s easier to just call myself a Jew.  A tree never seemed to bother other Jewish families when I was growing up in Beverly Hills.  This time of year, everyone became his or her own Hollywood set decorator.  Each family outdid the next.  Talk about keeping up with the Joneses –only in this case the Jimmy Stewarts.

Me in 1971 in front of friends Xmas tree

Me in 1971 in front of friends Xmas tree

Lets’ face it a Christmas tree is an indicator of taste.  Pink-flocked ones seem a bit “Liberace” to me.   But I like them.   A very close friend growing up lived in a home with wall-to-wall white shag carpeting and lots of gaudy gold-trimmed fixtures.  Her prematurely blue-haired mother always matched their blue-flocked Christmas tree.

These days, it’s a full time racket.  I get tons of business cards from companies like Homes for the Holidays that will decorate your house for you.  AND, each year the turn in seasons seems to come faster.  This year was especially so.  Literally, the day after Halloween, homes in my neighborhood were fully lit up in bright reds & greens.  My street looked like a landing runway in Christmas colors.

Going to the lot to pick out a tree is a ritual many families really look forward to.  If it were a ritual in my life, I would be a last-minute person.  I’d head out on Christmas Eve in a complete panic to purchase one.   And the Jewish side of me, my father’s side, would want to get a “good deal” on it.   In fact, Christmas Eve would be the perfect time to get a good deal.  The day after Christmas would be even better.  Some people do the exact opposite of what they grew up with.   I knew Jews who grew up without trees, and when they got their first home, ran right out and started a new tradition.

My mom didn’t have that presentation gene needed to set the perfect table or decorate a tree.  Her Christmas tree “tradition” was sort of schizophrenic – a one-year on, three years off sort of thing.  I inherited my mother’s Christmas spirit.  Only with me it’s one year on, fifteen years off.

I took a very informal survey on Facebook and got at least 75 quite passionate answers about getting a tree if you are Jewish.  The word secular came up a lot.  It means non-religious.  But when I hear it, my eyes glaze over and I start having a math phobia flashback.   Another word that came up was pagan.  That one loses me too.

Here is what I do love about a home with a Christmas tree.  That pine smell.  The fragrance is intoxicating.   And natural.  Not a chemical smell like some perfumes.  It brings back memories of childhood.  In my twenties, I tried to be PC and bought the live trees.  They were small and manageable and easy to decorate.  The point of buying a live tree in a planter is to replant it.   But I always ended up killing it.  Months later, I would look across the room and notice how brown it was and realize I had forgotten to water it.

I am the laziest person.   So years ago I came up with this piece of modernish art that sort of resembled a Christmas tree.  It’s a green felt spiral that stands a bit taller than me at just over five feet.  It cost next to nothing because a store in my neighborhood was going out of business.  I adorn it with blue lights for Chanukah to signify that I’m a little of both, and put presents at the base.  It’s the saddest excuse for a tree.   Yet, year after year, I pull it out of my storage room, take a lint brush to it and pretend I’m a real holiday enthusiast.

I hate shopping so I don’t go into stores, then I scramble to get a few gift cards or even just cash for my kids.  I think my husband’s bah-humbug mentality wore off on me.  He gets depressed each holiday season and it doesn’t lift until January or at least Boxing Day (not that there is anything to box back up ) when it’s all behind us.  At first, I hated this doom-and-gloom attitude, but then the part of me that is lazy got right in synch.  Now, we are Mr. and Mrs. Scrooge and when someone says they are dropping a present off, I say, “Please don’t because I have nothing for you.”

My husband grew up in New York and is very anti-tree.  I noticed Jews raised on the East Coast were a bit more militant about not having trees than the West Coast.  Of all the Jews that answered my survey, it seems more than half had trees and a few had the compromise of a Chanukah bush.  Some would put a Star of David at the top.  One Christian friend, calling himself the token goy, said he rarely had trees in his home growing up.   That answer pulled at my heart-string-of-lights and made me want to get him one.

I think I’m retiring my bullshit tree this year.  It will serve a much better purpose as my cat’s new scratching post.  There’s always next year to get a real tree.  Maybe a live one.  And maybe someone will water it.  And maybe after New Year’s we’ll put it in the car, drive it to Topanga State Park, and replant it.  Yeah, right.

I loved my friend Linda’s answer.  Her family never got trees and she’s always wanted one, so she’s putting it on her bucket list.  Great idea.  Me too!!

Watch a Christmas themed Hallmark commercial I’m in below!!


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7 Responses to “Oh Christmas Tree”

  1. Doreen Ringer Ross says:

    I love everything about the ritual of having a Christmas Tree. It makes me happy….especially sitting home in the glow of a lit up tree and a fire in the fireplace. It’s the childhood I dreamed of that I create for myself. If it’s not your thing….you know what your dad would say. Love you.

  2. Hoov says:

    Huge smile wakko. To be or Not to be is the question? Some weirdo writer of past. Aloha and I just hide now. Just to much blank for me. Hoov

  3. Pauli says:

    I totally agree with Doreen. As for Jews against trees …I’ve never gotten that. But I also never got the no bacon thing either. We had a tree and bacon in my house because my mother didn’t have anything to do with it. Love this story so much. Brings back memories of flocked trees…❤️❤️

  4. jennifer dudley arbaugh says:

    I am married to my very own personal elf.. My husband.. He LOVES EVERYTHING Christmas. I. Not so much.. 35 years of huge xmas trees, ornaments, lights, stockings,….. u name it.. The outside of the house looked like a Hallmark Card. The Jimmy Stewarts’ had nothing on Mr Jolly Holly Ed!

    This will be our first Christmas in Venice Florida.. Wouldn’t ja think he’d ease up. We are decorated to the maxxxx… OY VEY…

    and to all a good night!

  5. gari says:

    i love christmas trees and used to love the ritual of picking out the perfect tree and going home and making it pretty ~we had boxes and boxes of old ornaments and pulling them out each year was so exciting and looking at the ornaments that i had not seen for a year that my mom had collected from when i was a little girl was so much fun! putting the lights on and arranging the ornaments so i thought they looked perfect was so fun and putting tensile on to finish it off and then to turn on the lights and look at the finished tree was breathtaking~it was just my mom and me so it was quality time spent together as she worked so much and it was time to just enjoy doing something together and then to sit back and enjoy our work~we would turn off the lights and put on Its a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street drink some eggnog and look at our beautiful tree~cleaning up the pine needles was nothing because the joy of the tree made it all worth while~love christmas~

  6. Linda says:

    It’s a Wonderful … Blog. We had a tree growing up … as a Presbyterian, but really Jewish … and now I live vicariously theough Doreen. I do continue the cookie tradition …

  7. Linda says:

    I loved our tree growing up … but haven’t had one for years, despite having ornaments (new … the old ones disappesred in one move or another) tucked in a plastic storage tub.

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