Christmas trees, a lovely tradition started by the Germans I believe, used to cost five or ten bucks. Some enterprising elf would set up in a vacant lot or on a street corner and have a supply of trees trucked in from God knows where. There was only one kind, Douglas Fir I think. You would wander down and find one that looked decent enough to haggle over. For a few dollars less, especially the closer you got to Christmas Eve, you could negotiate for the tree that had a bare side. Once home you could turn that side to the wall...who would know...and you'd be three bucks to the good. Now buying a tree is complicated. They have Christmas tree farms that grow a half dozen varieties, and all cost seventy-five dollars. They are all perfectly shaped so there is no bargaining with the tree guy around a fire blazing in the 50 gallon drum. Humbug.
Then comes the decorations. We used to dress up those scrawny trees with ornaments that had been in the family forever. The Christmas balls were beautifully made and sturdy. The colored lights were real bulbs that could be changed if they burned out. You could buy 4-watt bulbs or, if you lived not too far from the firehouse and craved adventure, the 9-watt babies. A few boxes of tinsel and a star would complete the job. Now tree ornaments are made so cheaply in China, and they break if you look at them too hard. Same for the crappy lights that come in a long string of 50 or 100. While safer to use, if one light goes, the whole set is useless. And the defective light never shows itself until the tree is up and fully decorated. And it is always the middle set of lights. Humbug.
It's a wonder there are any trees left given all the catalogs that start appearing in mailboxes around the holidays. I'm not exaggerating when I say we get at least 5 catalogs a day. Acorn Media sends me three a week in case I want another chance to order season 1 of the Inspector Morse mysteries. My favorite is the Hammacher-Schlemmer catalog that offers the most expensive yet wildly impractical gifts ever conceived by man, like the Porsche slot car racing set with precision detailed race cars for a mere $125,000. I also love the America's Heartland catalog that features outlandish items that I'm sure are found under many a redneck's Christmas tree..."three realistic duck decoys, two purple satin love pillows, and sweatpants that look like jeans." Humbug.
My final holiday beef is a musical one. Some radio stations in our area start playing 'all Christmas' music even before Thanksgiving is over. It sounds like a nice idea until you listen for a while. I'm going to throw out a number here, purely guess work on my part, that there are at least 3,000 Christmas songs available for play. When you consider that each one may have been performed by multiple artists, the number grows. My question is this: with all those songs to choose from, why do I hear the same few songs played over and over? Last Christmas, by George Michael, All I Want for Christmas, by Mariah Carey, and the much despised Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives. I swear one day I will drive over a cliff lurching for the radio dial every time one of these comes on. Humbug.
Don't misunderstand, I really love Christmas. I look forward to decorating the house, I watch all the mandatory Christmas movies, I even go to Christmas day mass even though I know my regular seat will be taken by some jaboney who shows up once a year. Maybe this year Santa will hear all my Scrooging and send the ghost of Christmas Annoying to visit me.
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