Tree-A-Culpa: Readers Bristle at Christmas Tree “Mistakes”
All right. All right. All right already. So my column a few weeks ago about “Seven Christmas Tree Mistakes (and their Fixes)” went over with many of you like a lead ornament.
Boy did I hear from readers. Even my husband said I’d stepped in reindeer doo. “A Christmas tree is not supposed to impress those on the outside,” he said. “It’s to impress those on the inside, and that means hanging a little ornamental sentiment.”
Fifty lashes with a wet candy cane for me.
Here I was simply trying to get people to give their boring old trees a refresh if they hadn’t changed them up in a decade, when the cast from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ burst out singing “TRADITION! TRADITION!”
Here’s a sampling from my mailbag, which, in sum, says: Marni, you can keep your concept designer tree, thank you.
I just read your article on Christmas tree decorating mistakes, and was really taken aback by the comments on "haphazard" and "lone ranger" trees. Why is it considered a decorating mistake to have a tree that reflects your family history or memories? In my home, decorating the Christmas tree is a wonderful family tradition. Hanging the different ornaments we've acquired over the years, including a few that our kids made in grade school (they're in their 20s now), always sparks happy conversation and fond memories. I have no problem with anyone who wants to have a themed Christmas tree. But please don't call it a mistake if you don't have a "concept" for your Christmas tree or it doesn't match your home decor.
San Jose, California
The Haphazard Tree is my favorite holiday tree! It's filled with an unedited collection of ornaments collected over a lifetime. Your designer shames that type of tree and suggests a color-coordinated-theme tree instead. Yikes, that sounds awful. Maybe in a hotel lobby or department store, but not a home.
If there is one season dedicated to family and togetherness it is Christmas. I want us to gather around a tree filled with happy memories such as the ornaments we bought our first married Christmas when my husband was stationed in Germany, the tattered handmade gifts from my children and grandchildren, that Irish setter ornament honoring Clancy who is long gone. The big, overriding theme or concept of my tree is my wonderful family.
Park City, Utah
I look forward to reading your column in our paper every week but the article on common Christmas tree-decorating mistakes missed the mark for me. My “lifelong, unedited collection” of memory ornaments is what I look forward to. Hanging each ornament, re-living the family memory that goes with it is a tradition now passed down to my daughter’s and son’s families as they create their own tree full of memories. Concept and themed Christmas trees seem a bit commercial.
I so enjoy your weekly columns filled with decorating ideas, humor and family life, but your recent tree decorating piece offended me. You used the word "perfunctory" to refer to an angel or star as a tree topper. Perhaps you have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. The angel hovered over the manger. The star lit the way for the three kings. That is the Christmas story, and those symbols will never be superficial or routine to me. Save the paper maché deer head coated with pinecone scales and adorned with gilded antlers for another day!
And finally …
Oh, not to offend you, but the whole article was ridiculous. I’m going to decorate my tree with the ornaments my son made 35 years ago in pre-school even if it doesn’t go with my “theme,” because it’s the memories not the “theme” that matter.
So I will wear the hair Santa suit, and offer this retraction and revised advice:
To call a family Christmas tree decorated with a life-long collection of ornaments a mistake is wrong. It’s simply preference. I’m sorry.
Public trees and private trees should look different.
What fundamental question here is do you want a tree that looks good or a tree that feels good. Maybe I’ve had too much spiced eggnog, but I believe you can have both.
Personally, I will always prefer a Christmas tree decorated with a sure hand, and I believe you can have one that is beautiful and meaningful. Here’s how: Have an underpinning of shiny ball ornaments in one or two colors (this year I’m going with red and gold), weave in festive ribbon for color continuity, and on top of that overlay all your sentimental ornaments.
As DC and I approach our third married Christmas, we don’t have decades of stored memories together to share. However, we’re making those memories now, and have agreed that our kids, their kids, our travels and our passions will all be reflected on our tree for years to come.
Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate, and thank every one of you who teach me more than I teach you.
CAPTION: Beautiful and Meaningful – This crown ornament, which the author and her husband picked up on a recent trip to England’s Tower of London, forms the foundation for a tree that will evolve over years to reflect their newly blended family, travels and passions. Coordinating ribbon and red ornaments give the tree unity. Photo courtesy of Marni Jameson.