Sunday, December 23, 2012

Of Christmas Trees and Their Skirts

Guess what we were doing this time last year..... 

An embarrassed tree
          Hubby and I were in The Home Depot, America’s answer to B and Q. He was insisting that we really needed to get a Christmas tree skirt. Now, I had lived happily in Britain for many years and never heard of a Christmas tree skirt, let alone invested in one, so I was a bit bemused. No good American home, however, would be seen dead without a Christmas tree skirt. I suppose it’s another of those things that separates us, like not having a Boxing Day and eating roast beef or ham rather than turkey for Christmas, most of the nation’s gobblers having already been despatched at Thanksgiving. And perhaps it says something about the slight coyness of some American attitudes – just like Victorian piano legs, the bottoms of trees need to be covered up. Maybe that’s why Americans also like euphemisms like “rest room” but I’m probably reading too much into it.
  Anyway, we got the least garish tree skirt we could find – a fetching bright red velvet with sequins, although we still hadn’t got a tree to put it round. We usually buy one from a local  farmers’ market, inevitably choosing a day when the winter gales and blizzards are just starting to get up steam and you have to yomp round the rows of trees at lightning speed, teeth chattering, with little time to be finicky about whether the tree’s wonky or not.  Then we bring it home, balanced on top of the car, still covered in frozen snow, so we have to leave it on the porch to dry out. 
  Americans go big on interior décor for Christmas, wreaths on doors, lush green garlands over mantelpieces, imitation frosted fruit and scented candles everywhere. Most of it can be quite cosy and tasteful, though I think only an American can really master those garlands. (I tried my best one year with fir-tree branches from the garden and wire but the whole thing started to sag and collapsed ignominiously before Christmas had even got going.)
   Speaking of tasteful, while we were at The Home Depot, hubby suddenly chortled, “Only in America!” He was pointing to one of those candlewick sets to fit on top of, or tuck around your various – er restroom fittings. This one had a rosy-cheeked Santa Claus logo and said “Merry Christmas”.  Well at least it didn’t say “Happy Holidays”.  Privately, I wasn’t sure about “Only in America” but I kept that quiet.
   I find an invaluable source of cheap Christmas baubles is what we call the Dollar Shop. Everything in it is a dollar and it’s about the most popular place in our local town before Christmas. You can find some quite sophisticated-looking  things lurking in there and I take great pleasure in getting a bargain that would probably be ten dollars in some snooty Gift Shoppe. What is especially nice is that they ask people to pay an extra dollar for a toy from a box on the counter, to donate to a crate of gifts for needy children.  This is hardly an affluent area and the people who frequent the Dollar Shop are probably the least affluent of all but I notice that the crate is always full.   

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