Why are we so skeptical of the things right in front of us? “Turns Out It’s Pretty Good” is a series that examines the path from resisting the well-known to wholeheartedly endorsing it.
I was raised Jewish, but I’ve never felt all that bad about partaking in commercial Christmas: holiday-movie watching, eggnog sipping, gingerbread-house decorating. But I always drew the line at buying a Christmas tree. Installing a giant homage to the holiday in my home seemed in poor taste, not to mention something that would make my grandparents roll over in their graves. Which is true. But boy, was I missing out.
Maybe it was because I spent last holiday season alone in the same cramped studio I’d spent all of lockdown in, or maybe it was being confronted with our collective mortality and suddenly feeling more of a zest for life, but this year, I thought it might be nice to give this tree thing a shot. Mostly, it was just because my boyfriend and roommate both wanted one. Except that, somehow, I ended up deeply, inextricably involved.
Here’s the thing about getting a Christmas tree: it is an event. Never did I think this large, decorative object was so labor intensive. It turns out this is the appeal. You can’t just toss the thing onto your floor and call it a day; getting a Christmas tree requires commitment, patience, a little muscle, and some tolerance for being poked with needles.
Another thing I’m learning: Christmas trees must be watered? I thought “evergreen” translated to “never needs care,” but okay. Now that my education is complete, it’s time to buy a tree. My boyfriend and I stumble across a Christmas-tree stand on the side of the road, where a friendly man named Chris (coincidence? I think not) helps us select a eight-and-a-half-foot monstrosity of pine and straps it securely to the car.
Next stop: ornaments. Have you been to the Christmas aisle of Walmart? Let me tell you, it’s fucking jovial. People are recommending the best ornaments. One woman is helping us figure out if we’re buying enough lights. (Spoiler: We weren’t, and we had to go back for more, which turned out to be a task because my boyfriend is strongly against colored lights, and, as you may have heard, there is currently a shortage of high-demand products such as Christmas lights.) Amid this convivial energy, we decide to go with an all-gold theme, mostly because I still need to draw the line at putting red next to green. After loading up our cart with gilded baubles and shiny bells, we wave good-bye to our friends in the Christmas aisle and are on our merry way.
Once you get the tree home, you must cram it into its stand, the most challenging and least glamorous part of the experience. (Here’s where I remind you to buy a stand in advance or buy one from your local tree dealer.) But once that is done, the arts-and-crafts-meets-home-improvement project begins. There is netting to be snipped away. There are little pins and strings to be looped through ornament holes. There is the issue of spacing it all out evenly. A long-dormant corner of my mind in which lanyard key chains and friendship bracelets once lived is aglow again thanks to this Christmas tree.
And after you wrap your tree in all its little accessories, it thanks you by giving back. It gives you a warm, cozy glow that I especially appreciate as someone who despises overhead lights. And the smell! Oh my GOD, the smell. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but these trees give off a heavenly pine scent that hits you the second you walk in the door.
Leaning into the Christmas spirit is always a little embarrassing because, yes, it’s silly and mostly for kids and more about convincing people to buy things than anything else. But cynicism is virtually impossible when it comes to Christmas trees. You can’t go into this endeavor half-heartedly, and you can’t pretend you’re there out of obligation. It’s like diving off a cliff into a sea of holiday cheer, an occasion to be unabashedly giddy about crappy string lights and glitter that is going to stick to your carpet for the next decade. And you know what? When a stray piece catches my eye next August, I’ll remember that sometimes a little commitment to a big, stupid thing is totally worth it.