It’s suddenly December, and before I was even prepared for it decorations have appeared out of nowhere, Christmas music fills the air, and we’ve all begun to be inundated with those stupid Lexus $50K-SUV-with-a-red-bow-on-top ads. Ah, yes, it’s time for that uniquely cacophonous five-week period of American culture known as the Holiday Season.
For my part, there’s a good deal to love about this time of year. Give me Nat King Cole singing the Christmas Song, a genuine blizzard, and societally enforced generosity, and I’m happy. Also, I have a soft spot for the Christmas aesthetic—what can I say? Glittering lights and Advent candles, stockings and ornaments and Nativity plays can do little but warm my heart.
The other day, while sprinting through Union Station to catch the train home from work, I spotted out of the corner of my eye a large red platform near the station entranceway, with a sign on the front which read: “Norwegian Christmas Tree: Coming Soon!” As I thought about this (after I’d made it onto the train), I became rather excited, because (1) as I mentioned, I like Christmas decorations, and (2) of all the countries you could select to provide a smashingly impressive Christmas tree, Norway would have to be at the top of the list. Seriously, when you think of Norway, don’t you think of massive pine forests covered in snow? The pungent smell of sap emanating from a pleasantly burning fire? And all of it taking place near lots and lots of fjords? With Karl Knausgaard reading quietly nearby? Doesn’t that sound idyllic???
Perhaps I’m just an ignorant American (I am!), but those are the things I thought of while pondering the imminent appearance of the Norwegian Christmas tree. So I looked forward to the moment when I’d be able to see the tree in all its glory. Instead of the smell of rot and cigarette smoke that normally wafts through Union Station’s outdoor foyer, I anticipated an overpowering scent of fresh pine; in place of trash and discarded flyers, we’d see a floor littered with beautifully sharp green needles. God jul, Washington! Merry Christmas, Norway!
Two days ago, we emerged from the bowels of the station….and there it was! A huge, towering, perfectly pyramidal Norwegian Christmas Tree! Carolyn and I gazed upon it with awe. We moved closer, to get a better look, and saw the dark green branches. The sap shone in the morning light, our noses were overpowered by the….but wait. Wait a minute. We didn’t see any pine needles; instead, trash still crumpled underfoot. We didn’t smell the scent of fresh pine; no, the cigarette smoke assaulted our nostrils as usual. And then we realized: this was no Norwegian pine. This tree was FAKE.
“Really, Norway?” was my first thought. I was stunned. More accurate to say: I was deeply disappointed. This was supposed to be a lavish gift bestowed upon our nation’s capital—or better yet, a boon to its legions of poor, tired commuters! I had envisioned a Statute of Liberty-type operation, with skilled Norwegian woodsmen hacking down the finest pine tree, two or even three hundred feet tall, from the country’s northernmost fjord; shipping it in a vessel (probably a military-grade cruiser) commissioned specially for the purpose; down the Potomac, and finally out onto the front lawn of our great nation’s central hub.
Instead, we saw a tree of the type that Carolyn and I could buy (but will definitely choose not to) for $18 dollars at Walmart after we run out of better options.
I was crushed. We were crushed. As I think about it now, it occurs to me that Christmas, on occasion, does feature some cheap presents. But c’mon, Norway. You can do better than that.
(You can read more about the bitterly disappointing Norwegian Christmas Tree here, at Norway.org*)
* The article linked above notes that the tree will be festooned with polar bear ornaments, thereby raising awareness of, as the Norwegian ambassador so delicately put it, “climate issues.” Some of you clever readers might note that chopping down a true Norwegian pine and schlepping it all the way to DC would be detrimental to the environment, and thus flout the theme of this fake tree. I don’t care. I want my Norwegian pine.