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How I learned to stop worrying and like the tree
Our Christmas tree has a few days left to glitter in the front room. On these short days, it makes sense that nearly every culture summons up a festival with lights to beat back the winter gloom. But this tree – as pretty as it is (and as pagan in its origins) – has not been easy to swallow.

I have gone on before about the brand assault of Christmas. And unless you live in a monocultural community, it’s probably occurred to you that  there is no opt-out for this holiday. From the steady stream of shortbread cookies at the office, to chipmunk caroles out of every speaker, to day-glo light displays on neighbours' houses, to fragrant themed coffee blends at your local coffee chain – it’s a holiday that tackles every sense the moment you walk out the door.

And for the most part I like the festive moods and generosity of the season. But the traditional tree - often the most attractive of all Christmas tropes - I never thought it would be in MY house. Christmas Trees. More than bacon (which most Jews I know consume with impunity), more than mayo with deli meat on white bread, more than retail shopping. The Christmas Tree in the home is widely considered the last line of Jewish defence and the final step to full assimilation.

Full disclosure: I have sung in TWO Christmas choirs. I went to Anglican all-girls’ school. I have strung popcorn and cranberries before a roaring fire. In other people's homes. But even if I was going to intermarry, I promised myself I would never DO Christmas at home. And NEVER a tree!

Chris sent me into the Ikea lot on a cold night to pick a tree and I came back to the car empty-handed. “They all look the same!” I complained. Subtext: “Please let me be passive in this experience.” I had thought it would be a cheerful outing among fragrant conifers, but I ended up feeling kind of anxious and nauseated.

We didn’t put up the tree until after our Chanukah party. And when we did, I circled it apprehensively. I didn’t want anyone to DO anything with it yet until I had figured out away to make it completely our own.

“I don’t know, Adina – when you said you wanted to do a tree, I thought we’d get a big, full one. I’ve had real trees and fake trees. I’ve had punk rock trees. And Charlie Brown broken-down trees. I’ve had them most of my life. What do YOU want to do with our tree?”


“You’re NOT getting a Christmas tree!” I'd said on the phone to Jackie a few years back. I actually thought she was joking, But she wasn't and wouldn't you know, Sydney, who was less than two at the time, marveled at the beautiful tree. Once I recovered from the shock, I asked: “How did you decorate it?”

I think every Jew I know has ideas of what they would do if FORCED to bring the Christmas home. I mean, if they had to, they would go with “x” types of ornaments and “y” types of lights. Not that anyone asks our opinion.

As kids, Lisa and I used to have earnest discussions about what we would do if we HAD to have Christmas. “I would have classic egg nog in a punch bowl and a tree with just white lights,” she announced at 16.  

FACT: Only Jews have brought us ornaments. Very tasteful ones at that, from the MOMA and the AGO. They go well with our white lights. I've discovered that the tree is the perfect place to hang all the dust-gathering sentimental tzachkes from our travels. And a couple of ornaments from Chris' childhood. And, naturally,  the robots and monkeys and dinosaurs we have strung up to keep them company.
So here is a pic of our tree on Christmas day. Gabriel is standing in the foreground wearing his great-aunt’s annual polar-fleece Christmas creation. You like?

That's a wrap for analyzing the symbols and significance of the tree. For this year. It’s very pretty and smells like the forest. And I am just going to enjoy the cozy light.

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