Across the Christian world, from New York to Paris, Launceston to Lapland, I am the centre of attention, albeit briefly. I stand and wait obediently, bearing the weight of decorations and shadowy family tensions. I am the living, breathing and already slowly dying annual Christmas tree, dramatically severed at the base.
I am a role player, trying to soothe broken hearts and minds and create a semblance of calm amidst the enforced festive frenzy. It’s a difficult job but having kids around lightens the load, except when they pluck my fine fingers from my abundant arms.
The build-up to this once-a-year festival is frenetic and full of contradictory emotions. But much more striking is the post-festive ‘come-down’. It is mercilessly abrupt – like the chainsaw that felled me the first time. Now, once the festival of contradictions is over, I am forgotten. Wrestled from my hold I am unceremoniously and roughly dumped, usually on the nature strip, left to die a slow and lonely, yet at times strangely peaceful, death amidst the fresh green grass.
And that’s if I’m lucky. At other times you may find me torn limb from limb on the unforgiving sidewalk asphalt or, as humiliatingly occurred to me in Paris, left drooping and dejected outside a psychiatrist’s office.
I am left, abandoned and paralysed, to face the weather and suffer the ignominy of passing mongrels lifting their hairy legs to mark their territory – me. Now I belong to them, and the streets. Oh, what a fall from such ceremonial heights. From being the centrepiece, the beacon and the Mecca to which the worshippers of consumption make their annual pilgrimage, to now this – a forgotten, forlorn, ignored, shunned and even despised outcast. I am the post-Christmas Christmas tree, felled from great heights.
Needle by green-brown needle I lose my clothes until I am bare, barren, nothing more than skin and bone. My plentiful and once graceful fingers lie curling on the ground, strewn hither and thither by the winds and passing feet.
Occasionally there is an exception to this depressing end on the streets. The homeless folk along the Canal du St Martin in Paris kept me in good company for many weeks after one Christmas, appreciated and clothed in tinsel, living whilst dying amongst a flock who also know what it means to live and sometimes die on the streets. They gave me care, attention and respect, even if their canine friends didn’t.
But either way I s’pose we all end up in the same place. Hopefully I’ll eventually be mulched, to support my millions of growing but doomed cousins around the globe.