Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Going completely off-topic

by Rick Blechta

Yeah, yeah, I know this blog is supposed to be about presenting thoughts about writing, crime writing in particular, but like Aline yesterday, I can’t think of anything particularly interesting to post about writing or reading or publishing or…

So I’m going to go off on a tangent — not like I didn’t also do that last week! My post has zero to do with the Type M “mandate”, but, well, I won’t apologize.

What is it with people’s Christmas trees this year (at least in the city of Toronto)???

The past two evenings, my wife and I have been out and about in the city in which we live, and of course, we look at people’s Christmas lights. Quite often, there’s a Christmas tree in their front window, too. The outside lights are generally very colourful, but it didn’t take long to notice that there’s something quite odd going on inside those houses.

The vast majority of trees we’re seeing — and I’ll get to numbers in a moment — are decorated with white lights. That’s it. Whether the tree is real or not is immaterial. There’s just this mono-colour decor thing going on.

So let’s get to the numbers. Last night, driving back from a band rehearsal (a rather long trip on smaller residential streets) we observed a total of 28 Christmas trees in people’s front windows. Of that number, 25 had white lights only, another had those light blue lights and only 2 had multiple colours. I don’t know what the numbers were last year, but I’ll bet it hadn’t swung this far or we would have noticed — which we did immediately this year.

Here’s another thing: none of the trees had any Christmas ornaments! I’m only talking for us here, but one of the joys of the holiday season is to take out our much-loved ornaments to adorn our tree. Many were bought in faraway places (Scotland, Vienna, Florence, Paris, etc.) or to celebrate the birth of children and grandchildren.

We still have three of the four my wife and I bought for our first tree together so many years ago now. All we had money for was 4 good Christmas tree ornaments. The rest of the tree’s decorations consisted of a dozen cheap, red glass balls, strings of popcorn and cranberries, red and green braided yarn and some pine cones I picked up under the trees at the nearby mall and decorated with glued-on sparkles. To us they are precious objects with many memories wrapped around them. All of our decorations are like that.

So why have Christmas trees descended into becoming mere fashion accessories? Did we miss some important news that all trees were to be white lights only? Did some fashion gurus mandate away our sort of decorations? What’s going on? Keep in mind that it’s been proven in bad economic times people tend to put up more outdoor lights rather than fewer. Does tree decorating have an underlying meaning?

Then I had a rather sad thought. What if this trend is indicative of the rapidly changing world in which we’re living? As society becomes more fractured and insular — and, well, colder, is this being reflected in the way we think of our Christmas trees, that they’re just an after-thought decoration but up mostly because “we should have a Christmas tree” rather than a link to our families and our past. Even our two thirty-something sons, hardened characters that they can be get all dewy-eyed when they spot special decorations they loved from their childhood and they still take delight in moving the other’s “First Christmas” decoration to a spot against the wall, while putting theirs in a place of pride right at the front (this happens several times as they come and go from our house).

Is the 2016 Toronto Christmas tree something that’s only happening here, or is it more widespread? I sure hope not!

And if it is widespread, is there a deeper meaning?


Sybil Johnson said...

Trees with only lights and no ornaments. Seems rather odd to me. I haven't noticed that here, but then I haven't really been looking for it. The large tree at Disneyland has tons of ornaments so I guess they didn't get the memo!

Rick Blechta said...

I'm worried that only cool people got the memo about white-lit trees with NO ornaments, and well, since we didn't get the memo...

Donis Casey said...

When we finally gave up on putting up a real tree, we bought an artificial tree that already had lights--and they happen to be all while. I do decorate the tree with so many ornaments that it's hard to see the branches. I do agree with you that multicolored lights are the best. I used to love those tinsel icicles, too, but we stopped using them after they stopped making them with tinfoil. Too messy!

Sybil Johnson said...

I never wanted to be one of the cool kids, anyway! So I'm okay with not getting the memo, but it does make you wonder. Maybe they're lazy and they just haven't put the ornaments on yet.

Anonymous said...

Could it have something to do with a shift to LED lights? Maybe coloured LEDs are harder to come by or much more expensive than the white ones? Though that still doesn't explain the indoor/outdoor thing or the lack of ornaments.

Rick Blechta said...

The price for white or coloured here in Canada is the same, since the colour (or lack of it) comes from a plastic sleeve that goes over the LED. I suspect it's the same in other places.

Thanks for weighing in, though!

Eileen Goudge said...

I'm happy to be one of the in-cool people who appreciates colored lights, homemade ornaments & edible ones like the gingerbread people my kids and I used to hang on our tree every year at Christmas. Revenge of the Christmas nerds!

Susan D said...

I think Donis has nailed it. The pre-lit trees come with white lights. Another reason I will never fall for that trick. Real trees for me, lots and lots of lights (of many vintages and colours), lots and lots of varied ornaments (oldest being from my mother's childhood, ca 1930s. Lots and lots of tinsel. (Uh, do I see tinsel on your tree, Rick?)

It's in the front window of my house in east end Toronto, so feel free to drive by. :^))

Rick Blechta said...

No, Susan. No tinsel. My wife loves decorating our tree once she and I have the lights up (a definite 2-person job). I just leave her to go at it and she's definitely not a tinsel fan.

I would agree on the white lights thing being due to artificial, pre-lit trees. One thing we've noticed is that the price of Christmas trees (the real ones) has remained the same for at least the past two years, if not three. That would indicate to me that demand is down.

My wife could tell you the origin of every one of our decorations. I could probably do about half. They all have special meaning. Our oldest one is probably from the early 1970s, but my brother has some of our family Christmas heirlooms on his tree and some of those go back to the 1870s which my grandparents brought from the old country (the Czech republic) when they emigrated. Those are gorgeous!

I will be in the east end sometime tomorrow or Wednesday. I'll look for your tree.

And an update for everyone: we were out and about in Toronto last night and saw 23 white-lit trees and 4 multi-coloured trees, and only 7 trees with ornaments!

Thanks for weighing in, Susan!