The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn, with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

Christ­mas tree, oh Christ­mas tree, how saggy are your branches? Quite con­sid­er­ably, I’d imag­ine, es­pe­cially if you were one of those peo­ple who couldn’t keep their fes­tive pow­der dry this year and put your tree up more than a fort­night be­fore the Big Day. Be­cause of the tra­di­tion in this coun­try of putting trees up at week­ends, there are peo­ple out there — and you know who you are — who are right now star­ing at the pa­thetic skele­ton of a tree that they put up A WHOLE MONTH AGO. If you are amongst them, then you might want to take note now that Christ­mas Day will fall on a Wed­nes­day this year. If you can’t hold your nerve, then you might want to con­sider go­ing the ar­ti­fi­cial route.

It’s not an op­tion for us, though, be­cause I’ve al­ways found ar­ti­fi­cial Christ­mas trees pro­foundly de­press­ing. If you’re go­ing to have an ar­ti­fi­cial tree, then you might as well wrap up empty shoe­boxes to place un­der­neath it and or­der a rub­ber turkey. Even now, look­ing at the shadow of a tree that has ceased to be, I still can’t con­tem­plate un­fold­ing an an­nual ap­prox­i­ma­tion of a tree and fluff­ing it a fort­night be­fore Christ­mas. It’s this sort of thing that would have Prince Al­bert — the man who brought the Christ­mas tree to th­ese parts — turn­ing in his grave, if his ru­moured body pierc­ing didn’t make such a ma­noeu­vre dif­fi­cult.

Be­sides, I would ar­gue that a real Christ­mas tree is es­sen­tial for keep­ing the dra­matic ten­sion in a mar­riage. One of my favourite ever sto­ries in­volves a neigh­bour — a mild­man­nered, rea­son­able, Clark Kent sort of a fel­low — ven­tur­ing out of his house one morn­ing in De­cem­ber and cheer­fully hail­ing an­other (male) neigh­bour with the words, ‘I’m just go­ing out to get the wrong tree.’ I know other (fe­male) neigh­bours who have sent their un­for­tu­nate spouses back to Christ­mas-tree pur­vey­ors drag­ging a just- pur­chased tree be­hind them with a thick ear and in­struc­tions to get one that’s ‘fuller at the top’. In our own home — and I can only men­tion this now be­cause it is sev­eral weeks af­ter the event — we had the most se­ri­ous ar­gu­ment we’ve had all year over our Christ­mas tree and, more specif­i­cally, the dec­o­rat­ing (or lack thereof)

‘You’d think I’d be happy to see the sorry tree go, but a lit­tle part of me dies along with those fall­ing pine nee­dles’

of the same. Suf­fice to say that, in an un­usu­ally mild De­cem­ber, there were a cou­ple of de­cid­edly frosty morn­ings in th­ese parts.

You might think, then, that I would be happy enough to see the back of the sorry tree, but the truth is that a lit­tle part of me dies along with those fall­ing pine nee­dles. You could say I am the NRA of Christ­mas trees: from my cold, dead hands, etc, etc. For the last few years, a lo­cal waste- dis­posal com­pany has col­lected our tree for a small fee that goes to my GAA club. As it hap­pens, there is very lit­tle that I wouldn’t do to raise funds for my club (though if the or­gan­is­ers of the white-col­lar box­ing are read­ing this, then the an­swer is still no) but a few weeks ago, the club sent around a mail to say the tree would be col­lected on Satur­day 5th, a whole 48 hours be­fore eti­quette dic­tates that it has to be dragged into the front garden. To me, get­ting rid of the Christ­mas tree yes­ter­day would have been the equiv­a­lent of Mary and Joseph pack­ing up and head­ing for home be­fore the Three Wise Men had even shown up. I will agree that the fes­tive sea­son some­times starts too soon, but that is no rea­son to snip away at the other end of it. It. Is. Still. Christ­mas. Which means that my GAA club’s cof­fers will be down a fiver this year.

It also means that we now have no way of get­ting rid of our lovely, briefly di­vi­sive, saggy Christ­mas tree. Grow­ing up, I once called on a friend at the end of Jan­uary and found that their Christ­mas tree was still in place be­cause, as his mother ex­plained, ‘I just love it so much.’ I know how she feels. And while there is a fine line be­tween un­sea­sonal sea­sonal cheer and those slightly creepy peo­ple who ap­pear in Take A Break mag­a­zine cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas ev­ery day, I’m will­ing to take my chances for just a lit­tle longer. Be­sides, when the time comes, I see that Christ­mas tree-throw­ing is a sport grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. And pre­sum­ably, if you really want to work on that postChrist­mas up­per-body strength, then there is al­ways the op­tion of toss­ing your spouse into the air, still at­tached to its with­ered trunk.

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