The ritual is ages old: moments after the Thanksgiving table is cleared, a sawed-down pine is hauled through the front door, fixed to a stand filled with preserving fluids, and primped and preened in ceremonious fashion. The glowing, star-topped pine is, and always has been, the centerpiece of a proper Christmas.
I get it, it truly is an anchor—a baubled, tinseled, garlanded, and candy-caned beacon around which to gather in festive ritual. Its freshly cut aroma is the olfactory backdrop to the season. Gifts are tucked away under its manicured form until it becomes a trove of anticipation leading to the big day. As a kid—and up until now—the Christmas tree was the distillation of the season’s spirit. It was so it. But do I need "it?"
While I consider sipping spiked hot apple cider at the tree farm a sacred practice—and wandering through rich, tangy-scented pines always delivers those heavy nostalgia feels (cue the Beach Boys’ "Little Saint Nick")—chopping down a fresh tree that I’ve painstakingly chosen only to awkwardly drag it curbside days later feels somehow so un-modern. Witnessing streets lined with lifeless, discarded trees post-holidays has somehow gotten to me.
Maybe it’s because for the last two years I’ve been away from home for the holiday, gathered around someone else’s tree, imagining my decorated, unlit, dying Douglas in the corner of my cold, dark apartment.
So this year, I'll skip it. However, like a recovered alcoholic who orders the virgin model of their choice cocktail, I’m still 100% headed to the party—and I might just throw down a bit harder. In lieu of bedazzling that solitary conifer at my house, I’ll stick to the trimmings: pine boughs, candles, fire-lit nights, stockings, wrapped presents, milk, cookies—all that Santa Claus jazz. As long as the spirit’s there, it’s Christmas.
Am I dooming myself to a drearier version of the most joyful holiday? Can my joy meter really take an accurate reading without the traditional centerpiece? Ask me next year. As for now, the bells are ringing.
Duncan Nielsen is a surf-addicted writer, musician, and ex-cowboy who occasionally still wears the boots.
Every week we sound off on the latest news and trends in design and architecture. Have something you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Lead photo by Mourad Saadi on Unsplash
Get the Dwell Newsletter
Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.