As I got out of the house yesterday, I was greeted with the first surprise of the new year — the white blanket covering everything, a première this winter (we had a sort-of-blizzard in December, but that doesn’t count as it only lasted half a day or so). I’ve always enjoyed the child-like state almost all adults get into when there’s snow around, as well as the calm, serene atmosphere that descends upon a city when the playful little ice-crystals make an appearance. I’m not a big fan of what happens next (slippery side-walks, traffic mayhem, delayed trains) but the first few moments are always nice.
That being said, there was something sad about the past few days as well — all over the place, discarded Christmas trees have been popping up, thrown away with the trash. I’ve always found he whole idea of “cut a tree from the forest, keep it for a couple of weeks and then throw it away” a bit strange and illogical, but tradition is a powerful force in every age.
Looking at these sad, dried-out symbols of the holidays, I couldn’t avoid wondering: wasn’t there a better way? As it turns out, there are actually several choices that don’t imply wasting perfectly good trees:
- You can buy a living tree in a pot and grow it in your garden or even on a balcony/terrace if it receives enough light. They are quite small and grow slowly, so even after several years won’t take up that much space. Once they become too big, you can arrange to have them planted in a local forest.
- Getting an artificial tree is always an option — of course, plastic does not look that great and for some reason no manufacturer could replicate the smell yet (maybe a business opportunity?); on the other hand, you do get a virtually immortal contraption, and let’s be honest — with all the kitchy lights, globes and tinsel spread over it nobody will notice.
- In some places (including Amsterdam) it’s actually possible to rent a Christmas tree and have it delivered to you over the holiday period; it would then be taken away and re-planted at a nursery, patiently waiting for you to get it back the following year. This could go on for 6-10 times depending on the size of your dwelling and the health of the tree.
If all else fails, we should at least do what was common in the old days and people living in rural Netherlands still do today: build a huge heap out of all those old trees and set them on fire. It’s a great social event, it ties up the community and fire itself creates not only warmth but also a soothing atmosphere ideal for storytelling.
As for me, I took the first suggestion at heart and actually bought a live tree this year (not a fir but a related species of smaller size). It’s sitting proudly outside, covered in tinsel and snow, and I look forward to seeing it grow a little bit every year…