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Sherman Says: Real or artificial, Christmas trees all lack one important feature

A few weeks ago, I voluntarily accompanied my wife to a nearby home improvement store. As we walked across the windswept parking lot, heading toward the automatic glass doors, I asked, “Tell me again: Why are we here?”

She told me she wanted to look at “the Christmas stuff.” All I remembered was that I wanted to purchase a new all-weather cover for our outdoor gas grill. I had even measured it in advance; a big accomplishment for me.

It was no coincidence that an army of inflatable and/or illuminated holiday creatures were waiting for us, just inside the door. They hovered above and behind us, creating an eerie, yet seasonal, glowing phalanx that was difficult to ignore.

Stacked at eye level on the sale floor was the selection of artificial evergreens. Some came complete with twinkling white lights, while others stood proudly in as natural a state as something crafted out of plastic and wire could.

A new artificial tree was not on our shopping list. But, suddenly, one of the pre-lit models took on a life of its own.

Our artificial tree, which we fold and stuff into a box at the end of the holidays each year, has served us well, for many years. We did experience an issue a couple of years ago, when not all of the provided lights worked. The entire string was cut from the sterile boughs faster than you can say “Tannenbaum.” That gave new life to old, forgotten strands and forced the purchase of new ones.

None of our artificial trees has ever tipped over or had to be tied to a staircase, to keep it upright. Real trees, purchased in a picturesque, snowy lot or cut down in a muddy field, never seem to have the perfect trunk that makes for a satisfactory base. In addition, it seems rather dangerous to water a tree that is covered in electric lights.

As my wife enjoyed the selection of trees and holiday creatures, I excused myself, to find the grill covers. They were easily located, just a few aisles away; upon my return to the Christmas display, I found my spouse talking to a sales associate. That spelled trouble.

Two trees were vying for my wife’s attention. The “needles” were different in both color and texture and one model was pre-lit. When asked for my view, I preferred the tree that featured skinny needles and its own set of lights. We agreed on it as our intended purchase, but could not locate one in the collection of cardboard boxes beneath the display.

The sales associate scanned the bar code on the oversized price tag and determined that the tree on display was the only one of that style in the store. She checked other stores in the area, only to discover the closest one in stock was in a store approximately 18 miles away. The thought of navigating the Thruway for 25 minutes with a 5-foot box in the back of a Toyota did not appeal to me.

There was no box for this display item, so we had to dismantle the three-section creation, disconnect its lights and stow it in the truck and back seat for the 3-mile drive home. It looks great in our house.

But I could not help thinking that nowhere in the immediate vicinity of the trees, wiry reindeer and wobbling snowmen were any religious figurines. No mangers, no magi and no shepherds. No star in the East. No angels. No babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

The manger we display each year was built a long time ago, by my father. The bisque figurines were purchased primarily from the F.W. Woolworth Company and, each year, another lamb or two was added to the flock. My mother delicately glued sequins and glitter to the wise men’s attire and the gifts they bore.

A tiny round hook on the back of an angel allows her to float above the peak of the rustic family heirloom. On her sash is a single word.


David Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at

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