Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
December 17, 2000

This year we settled once again on the artificial Christmas tree

Every year my wife and I debate whether to trim a "real" tree or an artificial tree. Most years our choice has been the ones that God grows. But more and more we have settled for the convenience of the tree that can be taken apart and boxed up after Christmas. This year, with little argument, we settled on our six-foot artificial tree.

The subject of Christmas trees can spark a good debate. Why destroy so many trees every year when our environment needs trees? We cut down a perfectly good tree, use it for a couple of weeks, then discard it. To ease our conscience we recycle it to enrich the soil or toss it in a pond to make a bream bed. This makes little sense.

But there is the tradition, and what is life without our traditions? Grandpa walked out in the woods on a cold December day and chopped down a tree every year. We have always done it that way. It is quicker nowadays with a chain saw and it can be a nice "father-son" thing to go out to the farm and bring back a nice tree.

Some people insist on having a "live" tree; they scorn the very idea of artificial trees. But what you have when you cut a tree down is a dead tree, not a live one. It simply looks alive for a few days. We even play the sadistic trick of putting the dead tree in water, making the tree think for a little while that it has a chance to survive. How cruel can we get?

Then there is the cost factor. Cut trees cost more and more. Lately it is hard to find a good one for less than forty to fifty dollars. The nice artificial trees can cost sixty to one hundred dollars. But my wife and I reason that over a period of five years, the fifty dollar a rtificial tree will cost us only about ten dollars a year. So we save money and save the environment at the same time. A sensible plan.

But wait, we want life to be simple, right? Use the artificial tree and you must store it carefully each year and remember where it is. Use the cut tree and you simply throw it away; you donít have to remember where you put it. That, it turns out, is much simpler than storing the artificial tree so that a year later you can find all the pieces.

The older we get, the harder it is to find things that we have stored. This year we got our artificial tree down and the stand was missing, along with a few of the limbs. We managed to do without the missing limbs but we had to buy another stand. That upped our average annual cost.

An argument can develop when Grandpa and Grandma are assembling the tree. My wife, for example, is certain that she knows better than I where each wire limb should be inserted. So she gets the job of putting the tree together. With a cut tree there is no quarrel about where the limbs are to go; we just accept them the way God made them.

Stringing the lights on the tree is always a challenge for us. Somehow all six strings of lights wind up twisted together in the same sack. "Why," I asked my wife, "didnít you put each string in a separate bag?" "Simple," she replies; "you were in such a hurry last year that you put them in the same bag." Funny, I could have sworn she did it. While discussing whom the culprit was, we spent an hour untangling the strings. And we always manage to put one string on the tree which never come on when we plug them in.

Every year we have trouble deciding what to put on the very top of the tree. My wife likes angels, so she opts for an angel, a big angel. "Iím not sure the angel looks good there," she says; "what do you think?" I tell her I donít believe any self-respecting angel would ever sit down on the top of a pine tree. She agrees and replaces the angel with something that fits better.

At last we stood back and smiled at our tree and each other. Beautiful, we thought. We had adorned the tree with just enough bright red balls and tinsel to make ourselves proud. And we are satisfied we did the right thing by choosing the artificial tree.

Two more years and we will put up our fiftieth Christmas tree. That is a lot of trees to put up and take down. So we are thinking seriously about not taking this one down. Why not leave it decorated just like it is? We may simply wrap a sheet around it and store the whole thing until next Christmas.

Think of the time, energy, and money we would save, and the arguments we could avoid about where to insert the limbs. This would be simplicity at its best. Next December we could merely undrape the tree, plug in the lights, hug each other, smile, and sing "Oh Christmas Tree."

The real challenge would be to remember where we stored it. That is not easy for two old folks who have trouble remembering where we put our glasses down. But it might be worth a try.