The Christmas Tree As 2020 Therapy

by Kevin Burton

   The Chicago Tribune says people put up Christmas trees early this year as a sign of hope in light of the pandemic.

   Not department-store early, like mid-October, but before Thanksgiving in many cases.

   For the first time in as long as I can remember, my family won’t be putting up a tree this year. That’s because we never took the one down from last year.

   My season of discontent began last November when my cat Mex, a friend of 19 years, died. Some of you read my five-part series about her, which ran Nov. 7-14. 

   We were late putting the tree up last year because of my grief. We usually take it down at halftime of the Super Bowl. I got permission from my wife to keep it up a little longer because of that.

   Then the virus thing hit.

   From there, my story is much like yours. Whatever mental wires we have that keep us together were stressed to the maximum. If you weren’t stressed at least a little, you weren’t paying attention.

   For this generation anyway we’ll divide life into pre-virus, during-virus and (we hope) post-virus.

   There is no tree in the world that can do anything about that level of anxiety and isolation. So why put it up early, or keep it up longer?

   First, this is a Christmas tree and thus a reminder.  Despite what the retailers or the “X-mas” people would have you believe, this whole thing is about God’s plan of salvation.

   God came to earth, incarnate, in the form of a baby named Jesus, to sojourn with us for 33 years and to die as the sacrifice required for forgiveness of our sins.

   For me, the tree has become the symbol of the season, that season.  

   For a little extra fun, remind the “happy holidays” people you know that “holiday” is a shortened form of “holy day.”

   But the Christmas tree just symbolizes happy times. There is a secular meaning to it that I would never deny.  So up with the tree and let each decide what time is the right time. 

    “If there was any time that I needed a little extra warmth and coziness, it was spending Thanksgiving by myself,” Jaclyn Jermyn told the Tribune, explaining why her tree went up early.

   As a much-needed distraction, Jessica Cabe of Chicago bought a stocking for herself, with a J, and for her cat Gene, with a G. She bought new lights. She bought a new tree and put everything up a week early.

   “I spent my Sunday listening to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album and just sort of going nuts,” Cabe said. “Whatever we have control over, make yourself happy.”

   Since our tree was already up, when the time came to put up a tree, we took inventory of our decorations. We dug through five plastic tubs worth of memories, gave some things to my stepson and his family and tossed some things. We finally have it all organized and have two empty tubs.

    Under the headline “Christmas Crackers,” The Sun, a tabloid newspaper in the United Kingdom, told the story of 47-year-old knitwear designer Dawn Hurd, who never ever takes her tree down, virus or no virus.

   Hurd says Christmas every day is her lifestyle. The most wonderful time of the year is every day.  She eats a big turkey dinner feast on June 25 to mark the half year. During Christmas season she has a tree in every room.  

    She told the Sun she makes “Christmas crackers” with personalized messages in them.  From this I gather that what they call crackers, we call fortune cookies. 

  Here we are as Irish writer George Bernard Shaw said, divided by a common language. “Crackers’ of course carries that double meaning of “crazy” in both dialects. 

   “Both friends and family think I’m insane and regularly tease me – as well as tagging me in early Christmas posts on Facebook,” Hurd told the Sun. “They joke I have ‘OCD’ – obsessive Christmas disorder.”

   Well I don’t have that malady, I promiseWe plan to take the tree down on SuperSunday. By then I pray life is at least headed back toward normal, albeit a new normal.

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