The smart shopper, according to one commonly shared line of reasoning, hits the big-box store the day after Christmas and snatches up holiday bunting at drastically marked-down prices and then stashes it away for 11 months.
I always thought that approach was indicative of some sort of mild personality disorder akin to obsessive compulsiveness or hoarding.
But one year, maybe three or four day-after-Christmases ago, I was talked into investing in an artificial, made-in-China tree that purportedly assembles in minutes. I was not immediately convinced it was the right move, but the savings were so great, my persuasive friend said, it would be almost like making a profit at the store's expense.
I wrestled the boxed tree into my back seat and brought it home. As I slid it into a nook in my garage attic above the foosball table I have ignored for years, just to the left of the sprinkler control box, I considered all the entirely valid justifications I might offer a skeptical traditionalist when I pull the thing out again next December.
No more treks to the tree lot to select a sappy, lopsided fir that will refuse to stand up straight in its base.
No more sprawling on the floor to dip my finger in the little metal basin to make sure the tree still has water.
No more worrying about whether I might inadvertently spill water out of the basin and onto the living room's wood flooring, creating a water stain that will refresh my Christmas spirit every time I look at it for years to come.
No more worrying if the tree will dry up from lack of attention and spontaneously combust while I'm out of town at grandma's house.
No more trails of pine needles out through the front door of the house, down the walkway and out onto the front curb come Jan. 2.
No more chopping the thing up to fit into the green-waste bin or hauling it to the parking lot over at the college to be recycled or mulched or whatever they do with brittle, abandoned Christmas trees.
It all seemed so clear to me now. Why didn't I make the move to artificial years ago?
But now, 11 months have passed and it is post-Thanksgiving weekend, time to get busy and do holiday things again. By the time you read this, I will have slid my aluminum ladder over to the assorted-holidays section of my garage and paused to consider my options one more time.
One hundred percent plastic PVC, made by Chinese workers earning $3.15 an hour, eventually destined for the landfill?
Or a slightly leaning sap-bomb primed to explode like a Molotov cocktail if an open flame gets within 6 feet?
Do I support the increasingly vulnerable oil industry of Kern County by investing in a petroleum product made from the aforementioned polyvinyl chloride, the production of which emits carcinogenic dioxin, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride?
Or support Oregon agriculture, which produces a crop, more limited in supply this year and therefore marginally more expensive, that may introduce mold, dust and traces of pollen into my already sterility-compromised home?
Ah, Christmas, that most wondrous time of the year.
I'm gonna need ambiance for this decision. Allow me to pause while I hit the play icon on this recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
OK, I'm back. What were we talking about? Oh, yes, environmental irresponsibility and social injustice vs. potential allergic reaction and the specter of fiery chaos.
I'm going to opt again for the live tree.
The tradition, the piney scent, the realistic imperfection, just keep outweighing the "insert branch J into slot J" assembly process of artificial.
I must admit my decision was influenced by my visit Wednesday to Frosty's Forest, a tree lot at the corner of Coffee Road and Brimhall Road, almost in the shadow of a Westside Parkway overcrossing.
Mike Olson, who for the other 11 months of the year works as a firefighter, has been selling Christmas trees for 23 years, including 10 in this spot behind the Chevron station. I was pretty sure I had purchased a tree from him before, although I couldn't be sure; I'm fickle when it comes to tree lots.
I interrupted him as he supervised workers trying to stabilize one of his lot's huge, white canopies, which strong wind had shifted the previous night.
What, Mike, does Frosty have to offer that Chinese PVC does not?
He tried to appeal to the environmentalist in me. "Buying green is about as real as you're gonna get," he said.
But I'm cheap, I told him. An artificial tree will last for years.
He shook his head in mild disgust and noted that past customers at his lot receive discount coupons in the mail right about this time of year.
That very evening I went home, checked the mail and found a Frosty's postcard coupon addressed to me in my own handwriting. I knew I'd visited before, just not that recently.
It was almost like I was obligated now.
Which brings me to the actual topic of today's column.
For sale: Artificial Christmas tree, new and never opened, made by earnest, hardworking Chinese citizens. No pine needles to clean up, no water levels to check, no standby fire extinguishers necessary. Make an offer.