By Suzanne Sparrow Watson
People may not agree on much these days, but I think everyone believes that life as we know it has become more stressful. Over the past couple of weeks I noticed a strange manifestation of that – lots of people put up their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving. Almost seems sacrilegious to me, but then I’m a big devotee of pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes so I don’t like anyone messing around with a holiday devoted to eating. Still, I get it. If an Elf on the Shelf or Hanukah menorah brings some joy to the world then I say go for it. That said, I read the other day that the latest trend in decorations is the upside down Christmas tree. I got to wondering … why? Why mess with a perfectly good tradition that has held us in good stead lo these many years? So I did some research, only to discover that upside down trees are believed to have been a “thing” dating back to ancient times. History on this is a little sketchy since there was no official paper of record back in the Middle Ages but I’ll try my best to capture the genesis of this rather odd custom.
The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St Boniface journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God. He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town believed to be the birthplace of the Christmas decoration industry. So we can infer that Hallmark’s original corporate headquarters was, in fact, in Germany. I think Thuringia is also known for beer but that’s a subject better covered by my brother. It is believed that while St. Boniface was in Thuringia he used the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity as he tried to convert the pagan population. One can only imagine what the native peoples thought of a guy trying to tell them that the local conifer had something to do with the Creation. But apparently he was the Steve Jobs of his time because the converted people started to worship the Fir tree as God’s Tree. By the 12th century it became a custom, especially in Europe, to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees also signified that the household was one that practiced Christianity. That’s the best history has to offer us on the upside down tree. The real history behind the hanging of Christmas Trees upside down still remains vague. Nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt. Hmmmmm, given the current social climate, maybe that’s why the upside down tree has become popular.
In any event, my very limited search for upside down Christmas trees resulted in a very surprising discovery. Walmart is selling a large variety of them this year online. That wasn’t the surprising part since Walmart seems to sell everything. The shock came when I looked at the price. The most expensive one sells for an astounding $910.00!! Apparently wanting to say “up yours” with your Christmas tree is not an inexpensive proposition. The cheapest one was $150.00, which still seems like a lot of money for a fake tree. The larger conundrum is WHO at Walmart is buying these trees? If photos on the internet are to be believed, most Walmart shoppers wear holey sweat pants and muscle shirts with stains on them. Definitely underwear is optional, and if worn, is usually peeking out of baggy pants or spandex tops three sizes too small for the wearer. But who am I to question the marketing geniuses at Walmart? I’m just not sure that the typical Walmart shopper wants to fork over a week’s paycheck on a tree when they can furnish their entire house if they hit the blue light special just right. Then again, I may be underestimating just how stupidly people can spend their money. As for me, I’m on my out to buy “A Christmas Story” leg lamp. Now that’s a smart investment.