Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beware the Decorative-Compulsives!

Some people enjoy the beauty of nature so much that they just have to capture it...and then torture it to death with craft supplies. 

Some years ago, I was making my regular weekend commute on the highway one day in December when something off the side of the road caught my eye. Someone, apparently caught up in the holiday spirit, had festooned a small pine tree growing by the side of the highway with all the trappings of Christmas cheer: tinsel garland, icicles, ornaments -- the works.

 At first sight of the little tree all decked out, my immediate thought was, "Oh! How cute," but I started to wonder why I thought so. We humans enthusiastically admire the beauty of nature: we devote calendars, books, songs and stories to its exaltation. We are constantly plundering flowers from the landscape, and there's our funny tendency toward deforestation at this time of year -- I guess people, wanting to feel close to nature, bless 'em, find it more convenient to hack down some nature and haul it indoors, where it can be admired in carpeted, climate-controlled comfort. So, I'm struck by this question: if we admire nature so much we go out and kill some just to have it near us, what in the world possesses us to decorate it? 

After all, instead of just driving by, seeing the little pine growing by the roadside, and thinking, "Ah, what a neat little tree," as many of us, hopefully most of us, did, there was somebody driving by who thought, "Ah, what a neat little tree --I must hang shiny stuff all over it." And they were gripped enough by this thought, my friends, to follow up by actually purchasing said shiny stuff, driving back to the scene of the crime, and dedicating some time to the festooning process. This strikes me as Decorative-Compulsive behaviour.

You know the Decorative-Compulsives: they manifest all through the year, tying little hearts, then plastic eggs, then little ghosts on the defenseless trees in their yards; they carve faces in pumpkins, throwing away the useful food parts in order to make bizarre, perishable candle holders from the shells; they pick delicate, fragrant blooms and press them under heavy books, turning them dark, dry, and --well, flat. When they visit the seashore, they not only admire the beautiful shells washed up on the sand; they not only collect them to admire at home, as well; it's also necessary to glue them around a picture frame, perhaps accompanied by a spray of (flattened) flowers found growing nowhere near the sea.

Ah, but Christmas is the ultimate festival of 'enhancement'. So many little pinecones to coat with gold spray paint! So many poinsettia blooms to dip in glitter! Even a pine garland is nothing without a big red velvet bow, a string of intertwining lights - let's see, why don't we add some sprigs of plastic mistletoe, varnished holly, and -- hmm, yes, the gold pine cones! Perfect.

But the very best thing about Christmas is that it is the season of giving. What better time to show how much they care by presenting their friends and loved ones with these wonderful decorative items they have created? The Decorative-Compulsives spend many pleasant hours twisting, drying, dyeing, painting, gilding, glazing, flocking, varnishing, manipulating, molding and otherwise altering the natural wonders of our land with only one aim in mind, and that is to see the finished product in your house. Enjoy!

Photo from


  1. I am not a big fan of Christmas trees, either natural or artificial. In part because it clashes with my sense of aesthetics, but mostly because I find the idea of chopping down a perfectly healthy fir tree and decorating it for the holidays is an insult to nature.

  2. My Christmas trees have been fake ones for more than 20 years now. Originally, it was because I used to travel a lot during the holiday season and the real trees are a fire hazard when they're not watered, but now that I tend to stay put, I still do the fake tree - it's just so much more convenient.

    I do admit that I've sometimes wondered who the original German guy was that decided that an evergreen tree needed to be brought into the house at Christmas and decorated with candles - talk about a fire hazard!!! - but I never wonder why it caught on as a tradition. It just seems so obvious why - it's because it's PRETTY! ;-)

  3. I am glad to read you here, Ali, and I have learned something about you that I never knew.

    How do I sign up to receive notification of new postings/follow?? Maybe I'm missing something here?

    1. Hi, Coral! Thanks for visiting. I have added links at the bottom of the page to subscribe via RSS feed or follow via email. Thanks for asking--that reminded me they were needed!

  4. I've never had a real tree and don't really want one. I have no desire to kill a tree or to have the mess it will make with all of its pine needles, sap, etc. I grew up with lovely artificial trees and, when you use the same one over several years, it becomes part of the nostalgia-provoking tradition that I enjoy. For those who complain that artificial trees don't have the same smell, I'm sure that's true, but I prefer the smell of cinnamon or ginger in the air during the holidays anyway.

    Now, I am guilty of using pine cones, but in their natural, non-glitter glued state!

  5. Many people don't like the idea of decorating a real tree for Christmas. Most people are not like one of my bosses. He says he put up the tree and then planted it. I didn't know you could do that. (O.o) I have always had artificial Christmas trees. Mainly because I'm terrified I might burn my ow house down. :) Also, I don't like when people destroy natural things that are already beautiful, as if they are making it so much prettier.