â€œWe have to buy an ARTIFICIAL Christmas Tree!?!â€ The simultaneous shock/groan/whine from my 10 year old daughter, wife and myself was just too painfulâ€¦ My entire adult life I have had live Christmas trees â€“ whether as a new graduate in a tiny studio apartment in New York, a budding consultant in the wilds of Jakarta or Singapore (they have wilds there?) and head of a small nuclear family back in Manila. For the past 9 years we have been buying our tropical pine trees (actually 3 or 4 trees bound together to make a seriously bushy and full 9 foot tree) from Mang Serafin who sets up shop early each December in the heart of the Makati subdivisions. Every year we haggled with the pleasant thin old man that apparently grew his own trees on some farm in Batangas. He would deliver the trees in his jeepney and set them up in your living room to ensure that they fit and looked just right. They had heft, they had dark green needles, they had the right heightâ€¦but no fragrance. This year he seemed to be running late and I told my wife he would be there by Thursday, the 8thâ€¦
He wasnâ€™t. And the guards nearby conveyed the sad news that they think he passed away. Oh my gosh! How sad. I really did feel that I knew him a bit even though we only interacted for 20 minutes a year. I felt bad for his family. Then panic set inâ€¦ Good grief, no bloody Christmas tree?! What was wrong with his kids?! Had they all had a collective nervous breakdown and ignored this manâ€™s plantation of trees that he had been nursing for 15 years? Did they not know that dozens of Makati homes would be thrown for a serious loop when they found out they were without their Batangas pine? Such wonderful stately homes, modern apartments, humble abodes with no live trees from Mang Serafin??? Marketman had to make quick decisions, to react and overcome this hurdle and prevent holiday disaster! My wife and I scoured the malls and department stores and spotted just one sorry tree at Landmark that was 9 feet tall and decorated in outrageous Filipino poinsettia motifâ€¦”weâ€™ll take it, I said, half-heartedly.â€ I figured I better act quick before the hoards of Escada and Ferragamo clad moms came to snatch it away from Marketman. â€œRemove all the crap on it and put it in a box ,â€ I said.
Now, I personally have nothing against people who have artificial trees â€“ they are reliable, practical and economical when amortized over time. But there are some things that I really do like and a live Christmas tree is one of them. And I donâ€™t like them smallâ€¦they have to be at least 9 feet. The one we got is a 9 foot â€œSequioa Pineâ€ which is a really strange name since a Sequoia, while a conifer, is not a pine but rather a cypressâ€¦but thatâ€™s splitting hairs during panic time. Back home last night it was assembled in a flash and my brilliant elves made sure it was standing ram-rod straight and all 2000 plain white Christmas lights were put on. There is a method to this and it is taken seriously around these partsâ€¦ the lights must also be in the inner part of the tree, not just the edges. I learned several things from my brother-in-law and one that is permanently hard-wired into my brain is the need to have an â€œinner glowâ€ to the treeâ€¦ not sure we achieved this with the artificial one but it isnâ€™t half bad really.
Next, come the ornaments. We decided on red and clear crystal and glass and some silver and mirrored ornaments. One of my pet peeves is huge fake poinsettias that have sprung up on all these trees in the mallsâ€¦obviously an easy way to decorate but it lacks character not to mention itâ€™s a bit out of placeâ€¦but Iâ€™m an old fogey. We have invested heavily in building our stock of ornaments. Not so much cost but volume. Every year we try to add a few ornaments and the time my family spends together hanging the ornaments is one of my most treasured memories every year. With over 400 ornaments on this year’s tree, we needed help from everyone in the house. At this point, we are still tweaking it so there is no overall picture…that to follow soon. There is something about putting up a favorite ball or Santa and remembering where we got it, what presents we associated with it, its twin that broke the previous year, etc. With Christmas carols from the ipod and the initial panic over, things are looking pretty good againâ€¦