Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fake or Forsake?

Which is worse: a fake tree or no tree?

I've lost my objectivity, my perspective, and don't know whether I've cleverly adapted to my surroundings, making do with what's available to me, or sunk to a new low.

My first year in Turkey, I went back to Canada for Christmas, where I enjoyed my family's real tree -- which my father had sawed down himself -- and all the wonder that comes with it, good and bad: the wonderful scent of the pine, the needles on the carpet, the dripped candle wax.

My second year, I got lucky: even though I'd started the job I have now, that gives us foreigners only one day off at Christmas, it fell on a Friday and I went to my brother's in England for a few days, where I enjoyed sevent-two hours of snow and Christmas cheer, and even a traditional Weihnachtsmarkt courtesy of Birmingham's twin city, Frankfurt.

But by my third year, I was stuck: Christmas fell mid-week and I was going to be stuck in this Mediterranean city, snowless, family-less, Christmas spirit-less. So I decided enough was enough; if I wanted to truly call this place home, I had to recreate Christmas for myself and my new Turkish family.

So I hunted down a small potted fir tree of some sort, a few baubles and twinkle lights, and set them up in my tiny living room, extremely satisfied. It wasn't the traditional Christmas I'd grown up with, but it was better than the guilt I'd have felt, had I relied on my expat friends' efforts to create some holiday atmosphere. I was able to host a few lovely get-togethers around the tree, replete with Christmas music and mulled wine; I even put presents under the tree!

But the little potted tree was unhappy, and eventually died. I also felt silly for having paid as much as I did, and for the number of people I'd had to involve in my quest to find it in the first place. I'd felt like I was the only person in all of Turkey looking for a Christmas tree, and was puzzled to see all the Turkish households with ''New Year's trees'' of their own, bigger and better than mine.

Of course they were all fake; but the effect was lovely nonetheless, and so this year, I rethought my own strategy. I considered using my baby's December 24th due date as an excuse to let Christmas pass by unobserved; but I thought that was no way for a responsible parent to behave! My multi-cultural family was depending on me for the western, Christian part of our blended traditions!

And so I've just bought and erected my first ever fake (gasp!) tree. And I have to say, the effect is not all that bad. I think I'm wise not to stubbornly insist on hunting down a real tree in a semi-tropical area of the world; I think my fake tree is an intelligent compromise, allowing me to be efficient with my energy. Now I have time to make eggnog and mulled wine and bake gingerbread cookies, things I can't just run out and buy!

Or am I just deluding myself?


  1. We always had a fake tree growing up. Putting it together with my Dad was our favourite tradition! We'd pass my dad the boughs, and he'd put them in slots in the wooden trunk. It was so fun! The first year my mom suggested getting a real tree, we all rebeled!
    So, a fake tree is a tree nonetheless!

  2. That makes me feel much better! My kids may not grow up with a nostalgia for the smell of pine, but they'll love our tree for different reasons! Am so proud of myself for having a tree up for Baby's first Christmas!