Some memories don’t go away. Of all the Christmas recollections I have, one of the most powerful is also the most disturbing. We were invited to a neighbourhood family’s Christmas party. There, in the middle of the room, tickling the high ceiling, stood a statuesque tree. The lights twinkled in time to carols playing softly in the background. Officially, I was a little too old to be awestruck, but fascinated I certainly was.
Then, to my surprise and horror, the needles and branches soon began to droop. In a week, the tree looked tragic. The family took down the decorations and pitched the tree out on the pavement. It lay there a few days before someone dragged it away. The sight of a majestic tree, six to 10 years old, reduced to ruin is something I can’t forget.
For years, the controversy around bringing home hacked Christmas trees has been brewing. According to Wikipedia, America alone gobbles up 33-36 million Christmas trees every year.
According to another source, about a hundred years ago almost all Christmas trees were brought in from forests. Things have changed since and most are from tree farms. Farmers argue that they replenish one cut tree with two or even three more.
Also Read Planters’ Club previous columns
Some say they cut the tree to a stub so that a new branch pushes through. So technically, the tree is not being cut but pruned.
A tree, unlike a creeper or a climber, is a slow grower. When you cut a tree, you hack with it the home and habitat of birds, animals and insects. When you trash a tree, you set the earth’s tree bank back by many years of time, energy and other resources. Trashed trees land up in already overflowing landfills and garbage dumps. If you incinerate or burn trash, it adds to air pollution. You could, of course, chop them up and use them as mulch for your garden, but what a waste of a good tree!
GET TRULY GREEN
Once you decide on what not to do, it’s not too tough to decide on what to bring home. Do you want to set up an artificial Christmas tree? On the minus side, you encourage the trade of non-biodegradable trees. On the plus side, they can last a lifetime if they are kept away with care once you’re done with the season.
Or, get a true tree that grows with the kids. There are several Christmas trees to choose from. Fir and pine trees are a good choice. You could also pick up a juniper, casuarina or cypress. If you’re bringing home a pine, remember, the needles it sheds can take a little maintenance.
Or, if you love plants, any plant you truly care for will do. Says plant enthusiast Anita Roy: “We bring in a different plant from our garden each year and decorate it. You can relate to plants that you have personally cared for and that have been with you for years.” One year, 11 winters back, it was the turn of the cactus. They were told that the plant would bring bad luck. “But we loved it as much as we did the other plants. I had grown this cactus from a cutting a few inches long. After about seven years, it stood a few feet high.”
Try and shed plastic. Try to ensure the decorations you string on the tree are from natural material. Pine cones, ribbon ornaments and stuffed cotton stars, for example, can look as snazzy as the artificial decorations. Keep the tree lights minimal since you wouldn’t want the leaves or needles to get singed.
REAL PLANT, REAL ORNAMENTS!
Thinking of bringing home a plant as a Christmas gift? Search the nurseries for the Christmas cactus (Schlumberger). Depending on where you live, this cactus breaks into fuchsia pink flowers any time from December to April. The late bloomers are also locally and mistakenly called the Easter cactus (‘Hatiora gaertneri’)