Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


What A Christmas Tree Salesman Taught Me

What A Christmas Tree Salesman Taught Me About Christmas

by Mark W. Anderson
December 22, 2004

On Dec. 11, 2004, I turned 41 years of age. The very next day, I bought my first Christmas tree.

Now it may not seem to some that buying a Christmas tree should be that big of a deal. After all, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (yes, there is such a group), Americans bought an estimated 24 million real Christmas trees this past holiday season, making it the second year in a row the number of trees purchased went up from the previous year.

Until this year, however, I had not bought one. In fact, until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even celebrate Christmas at all.

Didn’t get a tree, didn’t send out Christmas cards, didn’t buy presents for my family and friends.

Instead, year after year, I simply pretended Christmas didn’t exist.

And for years, my friends—and, later, my wife—put up with my little seasonal eccentricity.

They didn’t have much choice, seeing how I would regularly rail against what I saw to be the hypocrisy of the holiday.

Thrust a gaily-colored Christmas cookie in my direction, and you’d probably hear me rant about how ludicrous I thought it was that people got together to celebrate a season of fellowship and kindness only once a year.

Buy me a present, and you’d likely hear how I thought supporting multinational corporations that made billions in profits from sweatshop labor was morally wrong.

Try to corner me under the mistletoe after a few too many eggnogs and you’d run the risk of getting a lecture about the gender inequalities inherent in dominant social structures of late-stage capitalist societies.

OK, OK—very few people actually tried to corner me under the mistletoe. But you get the idea.

All of that may be changing, however. This year, I have embarked on a journey to make peace with Christmas.

Some of this is due to my wife, who, having suffered through enough holiday seasons with her collection of antique Christmas ornaments safely tucked away in boxes, finally decided to make me confront what I was avoiding.

Some of it is due to the numerous friends who love me enough to ignore my embarrassment at receiving presents and buy them for me anyway.

And some of it, thankfully, has come from the realization that just because millions of Americans pervert the true meaning of Christmas for themselves doesn’t mean that I have to.

Millions of people may celebrate Christmas each year by going on an orgy of crass commercialism, blaspheming a religious holiday by decorating their lawns with inflatable Jesuses and using the idea of Santa Claus as a bargaining chip to control their unruly children, but that doesn’t mean I have to do the same.

Nor do I have to spend the season trolling the aisles of some brightly-lit shopping mall, desperately searching for the perfect gift while listening to piped-in Christmas carols and running up credit card bills.

And I don’t have to feel guilty because I won’t squeeze myself into an overpriced airline seat for hours on end to visit relatives I don’t like, or berate myself for not getting around to writing thank-you cards for presents I didn’t like or never used.

Instead, I’ve come to realize that Christmas can be what I want it to be, and not what others think it should.

That means if I want Christmas to be nothing more than a quiet holiday of good friends, good food and a reflection on blessings received—along with dreaming of a more just, secure and hopeful world of the future—then that’s what I’ll do.

And buying the tree was an important first step.

As it turned out, an early test of my newfound belief came only a few minutes after my wife and I stepped onto the Christmas tree lot, tucked away in the back of our local flower and garden store.

While we were looking at trees, a young man who worked there came up to us, bright smile on his face and cheerful lilt in his voice. Dressed warmly against the biting December wind, he seemed to know an awful lot about trees and soon became our own personal tree shopper.

Picking up tree after tree, he helpfully spun them around, showing exactly how much room each type of tree would take up in our front room.

When we couldn’t decide, he took us back again and again to those trees we thought we liked, answering our basic questions about how to care for them without rolling an eye or looking like he was only interested in getting to the next customer.

Finally, after almost half an hour, we were stumped, unable to choose between the Noble Fir and the Scotch Pine.

Right around the time I began to think he was going to push us to buy the more expensive Noble Fir, which he described as “rare” and “beautiful,” he gave us that look that made it seem like he was going to tell us a secret.

“Uh-oh,” I said to myself. “Here it comes—the sales pitch.”

“You guys look like you’re cold,” he said, putting the tree down and pointing toward the warm store across the parking lot.

“Why don’t we take a break? There’s coffee and cookies inside. And I’ll be here when you’re ready. No reason to get frostbite just to buy a tree, now, is there?”

And, at that moment, I felt some of my cynicism begin to melt away.

Looking him straight in the eye, I believed him. To my surprise, someone was being nice to us right around Christmas, and he wasn’t worried about whether we would buy something from him.

Instead, he just wanted us to be happy and warm.

And there were cookies involved.

After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?



Mark Anderson is based in Chicago. Visit him at

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


The Conversation: Old wine in new bottles – why the NZ-UK free trade agreement fails to confront the challenges of a post-COVID world
When the sales pitch for a free trade agreement is that “British consumers will enjoy more affordable Marlborough sauvignon blanc, mānuka honey and kiwifruit, while Kiwis enjoy the benefit from cheaper gin, chocolate, clothing and buses”, you know this is hardly the deal of the century... More>>

Philip Temple: Hang On A Minute, Mate
Peter Dunne quietly omits some salient facts when arguing for retention of MMP’s coat-tailing provision that allows a party to add list seats if it wins one electorate and achieves more than 1% or so of the party vote... More>>

Cheap Grace And Climate Change: Australia And COP26

It was not for everybody, but the shock advertising tactics of the Australian comedian Dan Ilic made an appropriate point. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a famed coal hugger, has vacillated about whether to even go to the climate conference in Glasgow. Having himself turned the country’s prime ministerial office into an extended advertising agency, Ilic was speaking his language... More>>

Dunne Speaks: Labour's High Water Mark
If I were still a member of the Labour Party I would be feeling a little concerned after this week’s Colmar Brunton public opinion poll. Not because the poll suggested Labour is going to lose office any time soon – it did not – nor because it showed other parties doing better – they are not... More>>

Our Man In Washington: Morrison’s Tour Of Deception

It was startling and even shocking. Away from the thrust and cut of domestic politics, not to mention noisy discord within his government’s ranks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could breathe a sign of relief. Perhaps no one would notice in Washington that Australia remains prehistoric in approaching climate change relative to its counterparts... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Melbourne Quake: Shaken, Not Stirred

It began just after a news interview. Time: a quarter past nine. Morning of September 22, and yet to take a sip from the brewed Turkish coffee, its light thin surface foam inviting. The Australian city of Melbourne in its sixth lockdown, its residents fatigued and ravaged by regulations. Rising COVID-19 numbers, seemingly inexorable... More>>