By Gerry Moran
Picking a Christmas tree, I often think, is like picking a partner. Some people like their partners tall and thin, others like them short and plump while more like them in between. I’m an in-between man myself. I like my Christmas tree, not too tall and not too small, but with enough body to hang a few decent decorations on.
There’s nothing as bad as a tall, thin tree that you can see through even though every Christmas decoration in the house is hanging on it. And there’s absolutely nothing as bad as a tree that tilts over, and collapses, when you toss a few baubles or a bit of tinsel on it. Most Christmas trees, I notice, have a tendency to tilt, to lean a little. In fact there’s only one thing worse than the trouble and strife of foraging for a decent Christmas tree and that’s watching it tilt over in front of your eyes, your wife’s eyes, your children’s eyes.
A good half hour you spend getting it to stand to attention and then just when you think it’s straight and steady it casually leans over and your youngest child chirps up: “Hey, dad, the Christmas tree is crooked.”
Now there are two good reasons for ‘crooked’Christmas trees: one, Christmas trees, I believe, by their nature are inclined to favour one side of the room to the other, usually the side with the crackling, log fire. And who could blame them?
The other reason for crooked Christmas trees, and at the risk of incurring the wrath of every feminist from Freshford to Fermanagh, is women. Christmas trees would never lean if it were left to us men. We men know how to make trees stand up straight. With a saw, some sticks and a few bricks we can make the hardiest Fir tree stand to attention. Granted the sticks and bricks don’t look too aesthetic, don’t look aesthetic at all, but your tree is straight. And will remain so for the duration of the festive season or at least until your neighbour comes around looking for the bricks you borrowed from his backyard that were earmarked for his new extension.
Women, understandably, want something dainty and delicate. They want the Christmas tree placed in the cutest little flowerpot that a geranium would feel claustrophobic in. And, of course, the use of sticks, and bricks, is strictly prohibited.
Is it any wonder then that your average Christmas tree tilts and leans? I mean how would you like to spend Christmas with your feet planted, if you’ll pardon the pun, in a tiny flowerpot? Believe me, you wouldn’t be long leaning or tilting or toppling over.
And have I mentioned fairy lights at all? Fairy lights are the most exasperating, infuriating invention ever. Designed, I’m convinced, to bewitch, bother and bewilder, they are a law unto themselves. Fairy lights will light in the box, they’ll light in your hands, they’ll light just about anywhere except on the tree. And then it starts — that frustrating ritual of tightening every little bulb until you find the one that’s faulty or loose. If you’re lucky. But for the fact that I’m a civilised, polite sort of person. I would tell manufacturers where to shove their fairy lights. And don’t tell me it can’t be done. If you can get a six-foot Christmas tree to stand in a six-inch flowerpot – you can do anything.
The gift of receiving
“A young man while roaming the desert came across a spring of cool, crystal-clear water. The water was so pure he filled his canteen to bring some back to his teacher, a tribal elder. After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student profusely for the water. Later another student tasted the water. He spat it out, said it was tepid and stale.
The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?”
The teacher replied: “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of kindness and nothing could be sweeter.” Worth remembering perhaps when we open our presents Christmas morning and discover a CD, book (or Rolex watch!) that isn’t quite to our liking!