Harley Hay

Hay’s Daze: Too early for the tree?

It’s one of the most controversial subjects in the history of contentious topics. It has caused familial unrest, neighborhood apprehension and individual disquiet. And it’s facing us all again, right now!

Climate change? Nuclear war? Trump number two? No, I’m referring, of course, to that age-old conundrum: when is it too early to put up your Christmas tree?

So, there are some very good reasons that you sometimes see a colorful Christmas tree sparkling away in someone’s front window in, say, October. Perhaps a family member for whatever reason, won’t be there in December, so the family is celebrating early. Fair enough. Perhaps the people in the house are slightly over-applying Daylight Saving Time and have their calendars turned to the wrong month. Ok, I get it. Been there.

But what about those who sneak a tree up during the first week in October and don’t take it down until sometime in February, and they do it every single year? In fact, we have one of these in our neighborhood. Is it a case of adorable holiday enthusiasm or a diagnosable syndrome of Christmas insanity?

And while we’re pondering that particular quandary, have you ever wondered: what’s the deal with dragging a tree indoors and decorating the heck out of it at Christmas anyway? Some sources say it started with Vikings and Saxons who worshiped trees (it seems they were easily impressed) and/or the Scandinavians who decorated their houses and barns with evergreens to “scare away the devil”. It remains unreported why the devil would be scared of shrubbery, however.

The early Puritans in America – those wacky buzzkills – didn’t like any celebratory conifers at Christmas at all. In fact, people were “severely punished if they decorated in any way.” Wouldn’t they be gobsmacked (or perhaps god-smacked?) if they wandered into a modern home of any enthusiastic holiday decorator where it looks like Christmas threw up all over the house? (In a good way.)

But apparently, it wasn’t until 1848 that the idea of having a large evergreen coniferous tree standing there in your living room, decorated with shiny things and dutifully shedding its needles onto the floor became a widely embraced tradition. Why 1848? Because good old Queen Victoria and royal partner Prince Albert appeared in a colorful drawing in a popular newspaper of the day, standing around – you guessed it – Santa Claus! No, sorry, I momentarily mixed up Santa with the Royal Christmas Tree. The iconic picture was in fact, the royals prancing around a decorated fir tree and since people everywhere generally like to pretend they are not only rich, but royal, the big-shiny-tree-in-the-house thing really caught on.

How much has it caught on? Latest official statistics show that the number of people in Canada alone that put up Christmas trees is approximately “100 million gagillion” which on the surface is bad news for forests. The good news is that only a small percentage of Christmas trees are real trees grown for that purpose and that now the plastic artificial Christmas trees are all grown in artificial Christmas tree farms.

As for that person down the street with the tree glowing in the window whilst we are still mowing our lawns? Why not, I say. It’s not like it’s 45 meters high, like the world’s tallest Christmas tree. That’s in Enid, Oklahoma, erected in 2021, and that equates to a 13 story building! 20,000 LED lights, 10,000 ornaments. 75% taller than the former world’s tallest Christmas tree – the famous Rockefeller Centre tree.

It was “harvested” from a national park in California and lugged all the way to the Sooner State. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t find a big enough one at an artificial tree farm.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to harleyhay1@hotmail.com.

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