Saturday, November 26, 2005

O Tannenbaum

The Balabusta has Christmas on her mind. (We're in the middle of making family holiday plans, plus yesterday she took a bus across San Francisco in the middle of the seasonal shopping madness--downtown was PACKED. And she's begun to see cars with Douglas Firs strapped to the top tooling around El Cerrito. So I'm thinking about Christmas trees...

In the beginning, we had one. I don't remember when we began, but there was a period of my childhood when we had a Christmas tree. I assume it was those years when we did not go to my aunt in San Diego for the holiday.

I loved it. I really really loved having the tree, and the ornaments, and the lights and the presents, and that TREE smell. I doubt I would have cared a whole lot if we didn't have one, but I did like it a lot.

What I didn't like was having to deal with all the dreck this churned up at my local Reform-shul Sunday school, where they were trying as hard as they could to form us into a little anti-Christmas tree brigade. I'm not saying that I support Jewish homes putting up trees, I'm just saying that asking ten-year-olds to do something about it is maybe asking a little much, not to mention the wear and tear on those of us with Christian relatives. We got these stories about little kids who sat on their parents' steps in the cold until the tree was thrown out. Cheery inspirational stuff like that. Plus, I know that wreaths represent the Crown of Thorns, and that gingerbread represents something else really bad that at the moment I can't recall...

We had a tree until we got a dog big enough to knock over a tree. And that was that for a while. I used to get some fir branches from the local tree place and bring them home to get that piney smell.

Then there was college (where we had the Festival of Light and Dark (and I got to be part of a team that once swept down the aisle to do the Chanukah lighting, fighting the whole way and waving books at each other for proof, about whether it was permitted outside of the actual holiday of Chanukah--most authentically Jewish experience we could have given that crowd)), and then there was rabbinic school, and a year or so working in the community (distressing), and then I ended up in the business world for several years.

Man, I tried. I worked at a place where the receptionist had traditionally been in charge of the HUGE Christmas tree they planted by the door. (Something which is common in every business downtown not actually owned by Lubavitchers, which makes me kind of skeptical about Falwell and his "Friend or Victim" campaign.) I thought I would make it a little event, so I bought some cookies and made cocoa, and invited everyone in the office by e-mail to come and help me decorate.

I got one taker, so she and I decorated the bloody tree. It was gorgeous. I showed it off to our office manager. At some point, I could see the realization that he had asked a Jewish receptionist to do this cross his face. "Uh, did you ever decorate a tree before?" he asked, cautiously.

Then there was four months of working for a Jewish magazine run by a liberal rabbi with a large ego, and then it was back to the business world. More receptionist work. Christmas parties. And my entire little island decked with shiny red and green STUFF.

When I moved in with the fella, we had a tree for, I think, two years. The needles never really went away, I would clean in June and find some more dried needles lodged in the carpet. At some point it dawned on us that neither of us really wanted a tree, we had been each carefully getting one for the other one.

I LIKE trees. I think they're pretty, and the smell is incredible. But the fact that they're on every square inch of the world right now is yet another reason why I'm not all that sold on the idea that Christmas displays are being fiercely attacked by the ACLU, or the NYPD, or whoever it is that Jerry's afraid of...


Barefoot Jewess said...

Thanks for a post that really resonates for me.

My pride and joy was the tree- an aesthetic extravaganza. I shall have to dredge up my post from last year. I have such fond memories- especially of the cats flinging themselves onto spruce branches in ignorant abandon. And, ooooh, the fragrance! But I also found Christmas oppressive- the timeline, the giftgiving, erk.... just too overwhelming. Even tho I was a huge fan of lights.

Last year, I was granted the boon of being in Israel around Christmas time. Oh, gosh, what a relief!!!!!! But frankly, I am not that thrilled with Chanukkah either. All of my associations with it so far are so deeply sad. I'll be glad when the entire circus is over.

I so look forward to Purim- a time of cleansing. Heh. Go figure.

Keep the faith!

Jack's Shack said...

The tree thing just rubs me the wrong way.

The Jewropean said...


Do you also find Pesach oppresive?

The back of the hill said...

Liberal Rabbi with a large ego?

That's the first time I've heard him described in such neutral terms.

I don't know him, but I know of him.