For the holidays, fake is festive

KEVIN COWHERD

December 12, 2007

In the endless debate over real versus artificial Christmas trees, my position has remained the same for years.

To me, nothing says Christmas like a sterile, odorless chunk of polyethylene pulled from a cardboard box, assembled in color-coded pieces and tarted up with lights and bulbs.

But then, I'm a hopeless romantic.

Oh, you go ahead and rhapsodize about the supposed joys of real trees: the scent of an evergreen filling the room, the fuller shape, the softer texture of the branches and blah, blah, blah.

I'll come back with one word: overrated.

Look, I don't have to go traipsing around some freezing tree farm in the middle of nowhere with a rusty saw looking for my Christmas tree.

I don't have to deal with some gin-soaked guy in camouflage pants selling trees in the parking lot of a strip mall near a big sign that says "Any tree on lot: $20" and then, in tiny letters that you couldn't see without the aid of the Hubble telescope, it says: "Except Douglas firs, blue spruce, Scotch pine, etc." which cost $50 and up.

I don't have to deal with pine needles all over the floor, and sap all over my hands from wrestling the stupid tree into the tree stand, which always seems to go badly.

You real-tree fanatics, you can rhapsodize about that stuff all you want.

Me, all I have to do is put down my rum eggnog, go up in the attic and drag down the box marked "Christmas stuff."

You don't exactly have to be a structural engineer to put an artificial tree together, either.

Branches with red tips go in red slots, branches with blue tips go in blue slots, etc.

Fifteen minutes later, you're done and working on your second eggnog.

What could be easier? And unlike the real-tree fanatics, you're sipping your eggnog secure in the knowledge that you're not shelling out 50 bucks or whatever for a new tree every year.

That's a lot of money to pony up just for the scent of pine or spruce, isn't it?

Besides, isn't that why they sell air-fresheners?

Anyway, a lot of people must feel the same way I do about this subject, because a recent article in the newspaper said half the trees Americans put up at Christmas now are artificial.

And here's the hot new trend in artificial trees: pre-lighted trees.

Yes! Artificial trees with strands of lights already in place! Perfect for the person who approaches the holidays determined to make absolutely no effort at all.

Think about it: How lazy do you have to be to buy an artificial tree with the lights already in place?

Answer: really, really lazy.

So naturally I want one.

I saw a beauty in one of these home-improvement superstores where I spend so much of my life these days.

It was 7 1/2 feet tall and had 1,000 clear lights wrapped around its sterile, odorless polyethylene torso.

It had hinged branches that fold up for easy storage. It was flame retardant. And it had an added bonus: spare bulbs and fuses were included.

The price tag was $179 - a steal if you ask me.

I wanted it more than I've ever wanted anything in my life.

I almost pulled the thing off the shelf and sprinted to the cash register.

But then I thought: no, maybe I can do even better than an artificial, pre-lighted tree.

Maybe I'll hold off until they come out with an artificial tree that's pre-lighted and pre-decorated.

Imagine: You pull it out of the box and it's fully assembled.

And the lights are strung and the ornaments are shimmering and it has a shiny little star on top. It's all ready to go.

All you have to do is stick it in the corner and get on with your life, pour another rum eggnog and enjoy the holidays.

A man can dream.

And who knows?

With the strides being made by modern technology, maybe someday that dream comes true.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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