O Tannenbaum!

December 8, 2000

We own a fake Christmas tree. Those of you out there who, every year, brave sub-zero weather (or, if you live in my neighborhood, sub-forty Fahrenheit weather) to haggle over the price of a live tree cut down in its prime just so you can have an "authentic" Christmas should be ashamed of yourselves. If you’re not environmentally conscious, you should at least think of firemen who deserve Christmas off just as much as anybody else. (Besides, Christmas trees aren’t exactly authentic. As a tradition it only goes back a few centuries, and it has Pagan origins anyway.) What you’re really bringing in to your house is an authentic fire hazard. I happen to know that our fake tree not only won’t burn, it actually resists fire. Turn a flamethrower on it and the flames will be deflected onto the drapes. Apparently this tree is made of the stuff that airplane pilots drop on forest fires.

How do I know this? Let me tell you about setting up the tree: It comes out of its box in a mass of tangled plastic and a wooden stick. The base which holds up the trunk is usually missing. (It migrates during the year from the attic to the basement, with stopovers in the bedroom closet.) The branches which, twelve months ago were carefully organized by length, have formed a Gordian knot. Once separated, they’re easily organized by length because the designers put lettered labels on the branches. Simply sort them alphabetically from top to bottom–starting with Q and going through W. But then I have to remember that this tree was manufactured in a country where X precedes S in the alphabet. Fortunately the designers also made the labels different colors. Specifically, they’re nine shades of white. Every year I spend about twenty minutes just trying to sort out which branches are eggshell W and which are cream V.

This year I managed to find the base, sort the branches, and place the perpetually sagging top in a record time of three days, then discovered that I had accidentally inserted the Q branches where the T branches were supposed to go, and vice versa. It was at this point that I attempted to burn the tree down. Its flame resistant properties deterred matches, then a cigarette lighter. By the time I switched to an acetylene torch I was starting to feel guilty. Those of you with real trees can, after the season’s over, use the tree for firewood. Burning the tree before Christmas…well, it just didn’t seem right.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.


Not long ago and far away, Santa was getting ready for his annual trip…but there were problems everywhere. Four of his elves got sick, and the trainee elves did not produce the toys as fast as the regular ones so Santa was beginning to feel the pressure of being behind schedule.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa that her mom was coming to visit. This stressed Santa even more. When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two had jumped the fence and were out, heaven knows where. More Stress.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the boards cracked and the toy bag fell to the ground and scattered the toys.

Frustrated, Santa went into the house for a cup of coffee and a shot of whiskey. When he went to the cupboard, he found the elves had hit the liquor and there was nothing to drink. In his frustration, he dropped the coffee pot and it broke into hundreds of little pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found that mice had eaten the straw it was made from.

Just then the door bell rang and Santa cussed on his way to the door.

He opened the door and there was a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said: "Where would you like me to put this tree, fat man?"

And that, my friend, is how the little angel came to be on top of the Christmas tree.

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