Archived Story

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree.

Published 10:04pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When I was a boy, we would erect and decorate a real Christmas tree. For the pleasure of the scent the Christmas tree provided, we put up with whatever amount of needles fell from the tree. Yes, we kept the Christmas tree watered, but no matter how much water the Christmas tree was given, needles fell off.

I preferred the Fraser fir. When I would first detect the aroma of a Fraser fir, Christmas immediately came to mind. If I close my eyes and concentrate, my mind summons the aroma of Christmas trees past.

The great majority of Christmas-tree lights these days are of the small, twinkling type. In those days when I waited for Santa Claus to pay a visit, the Christmas-tree lights on the Christmas tree were of the large, screw-in bulb type. Each bulb was about the size of a pecan. I don’t recall those bulbs every twinkling.

The first time I saw twinkling Christmas-tree lights, I though they were the best invention since the Slip ’N Slide by Wham-O, one of the great toymakers of all time. Wham-O was the source of many of my Christmas presents.

The first artificial Christmas tree I recall seeing was the one my maternal grandparents had. It was about 4 feet tall and all silver. Its needles looked like they were made by shredding tin foil. It wasn’t the artificial Christmas tree that drew my attention as much as the device that projected colors on the artificial Christmas tree.

A color wheel — red, blue, green and orange-yellow — spun around and around as it was positioned in front of a strong light. I would stare at the artificial Christmas tree as it changed from red to blue to green to orange-yellow. That would not happen with a real Christmas tree, but that artificial Christmas tree had no intoxicating aroma.

Growing up in the South, having snow at Christmas was a rare occurrence, especially when we lived in Florida. If we wanted snow on the real Christmas tree, we put it on with help from fake snow coming from an aerosol can. The fake snow helped make the real Christmas tree look better, but there was no doubt the snow on the real Christmas tree was fake.

I do recall going to buy a real Christmas tree when I was in the third grade. Arriving at the lot where real Christmas trees were sold, I noticed that some trees looked as if it had snowed on them. Then I noticed that a young man was at the back of the lot, spraying fake snow on some of the real Christmas trees. His fake snow looked much better than the fake snow that came out of an aerosol can, and he had a choice of several colors — light blue, white, silver, gold and even pink — to choose from.

Well, thanks to the marvel of modern chemistry, that aroma associated with real Christmas trees is available in aerosol cans.

I’d rather have the real thing — a Fraser fir emitting the aroma unique to it — even it that means cleaning up those pesky needles that fall from a real Christmas tree.

Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He’s been spending time at Christmas-tree lots giving him an olfactory treat.


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