Tuesday 6 December 2016

Traditional or trendster: What does your Christmas tree say about you?

Judith Woods

Published 02/12/2016 | 10:39

A scene from Elf.

Real or artificial? Colour co-ordinated or freestyle? The way you decorate your Christmas tree reveals a lot about your personality, writes Judith Woods

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Christmas tree sellers around the country are gearing up for their first big weekend of the festive season, and they’re expecting it to be a lucrative one.

According to a survey commissioned by the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association (ICTGA), 400,000 Irish-grown trees will be sold this year, with 44pc of Irish people choosing a real tree over an artificial one.

The ICTGA, who recently launched the #lovearealtree campaign, also discovered that there is a growing trend for smaller, neater trees, while the average spend is ¤43.

The real–versus-fake debate isn’t the only way that Christmas tree tastes differ. Decorations are just as contentious, if not more so. From the traditionalist to the trendster, here’s the Christmas tree tribes you’ll encounter this festive season. 

1. The bang-on trendsters

This achingly fashionable tribe has done it all: black trees, white trees, upside-down trees. If it’s in vogue, or indeed in Vogue, it will be in their sitting room.

A slavish need to stay on top of esoteric Yuletide trends — neon, minimalist, Tupperware — might sound exhausting, but it’s just the way these bearded hipsters roll.

For them, the tree isn’t so much a cosy addition to home and hearth as a cutting-edge style statement. Ironically, for a tribe that dresses its French bulldogs in Christmas jumpers, this is an irony-free zone.

Do say: Wow, cool

Don’t say: Have you seriously given your tree a man bun?

2. The colour co-ordinators

Relentlessly tasteful is the rule of thumb when it comes to this Christmas cohort. Red and white is the classic combo, but blue and silver is also permissible.

The man of the house is expected to carry the tree — but not choose it. Not since the year he made the fatal festive error of using his own initiative and buying an eight-foot Nordman fir that looked perfectly fine.

He now knows that “perfectly fine” simply will not do. Perfectly perfect is the benchmark because, as he also now knows, an asymmetrical tree really does ruin everybody’s Christmas.

All decorations will be standardised, matching and cannot be hung by a civilian. The lights will be white; changing the setting from gentle twinkle to manic flashing is punishable by death.

Do say: I have never seen a more tasteful tree in my entire life. Ever

Don’t say: It’s a bit corporate; did you nick it from a Travelodge?

3. The tree traveloguers

This tree tells a story, or rather a great many stories. Every trinket has a tale to tell and each bauble represents an adventure.

This tribe typically picks up decorations and gewgaws on holiday. If you’ve ever wondered why those all-year Christmas shops exist in far flung locations, it’s for this lot.

If they’re not buying golden Eiffel Towers with red Santa hats in Montmartre, they are stocking up on kitschy Christ the Redeemers in Rio de Janeiro.

The result is splendidly idiosyncratic, if random. But never make the mistake of wittily gifting this tribe a Christmas decoration from one of your trips.

They will think you really weird and wouldn’t dream of hanging your luminous Statue of Liberty on their tree because they don't care where you’ve been, just where they’ve been.

Do say: What fabulous mementos!

Don’t say: What’s a hand-blown red pepper got to do with Jesus?

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4. The family-first tribe

The beauty of this tree is very much in the eye of the beholder — the beholders usually being doting grandparents.

Everything is home-made. That’s home-made as in genuine slapdashy home-made by the children, not home-made as in control-freak mummy snatched it away, did it properly then attributed it to the school of her genius offspring.

There are crayoned snowmen pictures perched on the boughs, badly painted red and white salt dough decorations and tipsy cut-out angels enthusiastically strewn with glitter.

To those without children, it might look a bit messy, embarrassing even. But every parent will immediately clock the passive-aggressive oneupmanship of a tree that screams We Love Our Children More Than You Love Yours.

Do say: It’s all about the kiddies

Don’t say: Isn’t art therapy wonderful?

5. The die-hard traditionalists

Great Houses give rise to historic traditions which must be stoically passed on, along with the moth-eaten tapestries and the crippling death duties. The tree is another such legacy.

Grown on the estate, it will be a towering 18-footer, slightly austere and festooned with venerable poisonous lead decorations and objets trouvees from battlefields.

Channeling Alan Clark’s disdain that Michael Heseltine was the sort of chap who had to buy his own furniture, nothing must pre-date the abdication of Edward VIII.

The children hate it and long for something new and glitzy but as with the house itself, they eventually grow to first respect then love its damnable continuity.

Do say: Splendid show

Don’t say: Imagine if you could afford to switch on the Edison bulbs.

6. The trash aesthetes

There’s a school of thought that Christmas trees have no business being tasteful but should be festooned with every possible colour.

From the garlands of tacky tinsel to the garish strings of flashing coloured lights, if this plastic tree could talk it would scream Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.

Whether you consider it a triumph or a travesty, this is a tree that demands no apology. An explanation maybe, but not an apology; there’s a certain undeniable integrity to its anaphylactic tawdriness.

Do say: Now there’s a tree

Don’t say: Do you want to talk about it?

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