April 23, 2018, 12:34 am
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O, Christmas tree... O, Christmas tree...

LITTLE Christmas tree,
No one to buy you,
Give yourself to me....

No, forget it. I do not need a tree...I cannot afford a Professional Tree Decorator. Without one, well, you may end up with what the snoots refer to as Kitchen Sink Tree, an Anything-Goes Tree, an Ano-ba-yan? Tree, or worse. If you cannot afford a decorator, your Christmas tree has no personality, no class, no Oh!s and Ah!s. Someone without a professional decorator encircled her tree with a silver Christmas barbed-wirey strands. “Auschwitzy” they called her tree.

The Professional Tree Decorator studies the ambiance of the room, the magnetism of the family, the contents/worth of the home, and most important, the fee to charge. Then... decides on the motif, based on all of the above.

In my youth--which was not too long ago in the galactic scheme of things—we were happy to hang our favorite little toys, foil-wrapped candies and home-baked cookies, strings of popcorn, whatever pretty little things and colorful ribbons there were around. 

Papá always bought a Baguio pine tree. Imported plastic pine tree was the thing to have then, coveted, but too expensive. Pines were still plentiful, cheap (before pine plantations were denuded). I still remember the strong Christmas scent of the newly-cut pine, mixed with the smell of my mother’s freshly baked cream puffs, chiffon rolls; fruit cakes (baked in October, and aged with regular doses of brandy), Christmas cookies. And the traditional 22-ingredient Pamplina with lots of chorizo de Bilbao; sugar-burnt leg of Chinese ham ordered from Binondo. Mamá, you’re still the best foodie in my book.

The hope of Professional Christmas Tree Decorators is to out-do those beautifully decorated trees sold at Rustan’s. A friend self-decorated her tree with nothing but tiny boxes wrapped in red with wide gold satin ribbons. Bloomingdale [New York’s answer to London’s Harrod] uses red gift boxes and wide gold satin ribbons. Bloomie’s insignia--one for pure snobbery.

I once hung in my tree hundreds of capiz mini-angels, stars, balls, half-moons, plus tiny blinking white bulbs. The effect was dreamy. Words about it got around in my block in Berkeley, CA that strangers came knocking just to see my splendid tree.

Those professionally decorated Christmas trees in MM’s Villages have little resemblance to their origin in Germany when Martin Luther (1482-1546) first set a few candles in his yard evergreen tree. 

Pines have been used in ceremonies by Egyptians even before Christianity in their celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. When the ancient Romans observed the feast of Saturn, a part of the ceremony was the raising of an evergreen bough. The early Scandinavians did holiday homage to the fir tree. To the Druids of Europe, sprigs of evergreen in the house meant eternal life; to the Norsemen, evergreen symbolized the revival of the sun god Balder. Putting a bough outside the door started with the superstitious--hoping to keep out witches, ghosts, evil spirits and the like. Until about 1700, the decorated tree custom was confined to the German Rhine River district. 

During the American revolution, the tradition of the tree crossed the Atlantic with the Hessian soldiers. At Fort Dearborn, Illinois in 1804, Christmas Festivities mentions a decorated Christmas tree.

The evolution of the decorations: From 1700 on, lights were accepted; tufts of cotton and strings of popcorn on indoor Christmas tree branches represented snow. Apples and cranberries added color. Candies and chocolates were hung on trees to get them out of reach of prowling animals and children. Gifts of food were hung in the branches as offerings or sacrifices to the deities.

The best known Christmas tree is the one lighted annually by the President in Washington DC, which first began in 1924 when a 35-foot living Norway spruce was planted near the White House.

The Christmas tree with the greatest limb spread (110 feet) was a 300-year-old oak, approximately 90 feet tall and a trunk circumference of 15 feet at Wilmington, North Carolina requiring 7,000 colored lights and six tons of Spanish moss.

Now in a tree-less, empty nest, lots of warm wishes to my readers for a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018!


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