The quiet crusade against cutting down live Christmas trees has reached the point when it can be declared a full-fledged social movement--Saturday Night Live has done a sketch about it. On a recent episode, ultra-PC Lilith Fair troubadour "Cinder Calhoun" (Ana Gasteyer) sang a song called "Christmas Chainsaw Massacre." Even as early as last year, on Friends, Phoebe was appalled at Joey's holiday job on a Christmas tree lot--she regarded him as a collaborator in mass murder, until he convinced her he was helping the trees "fulfill their Christmas destiny," at which point she frantically joined him on the lot, pushing the scrawniest trees on the customers.
It's probably Queen Victoria whom the pine tree has to thank for its status as an American Christmastime icon. Although the traditional German Tannenbaum was introduced to this continent by Hessian mercenaries during the Revolutionary War, it was nearly a century later that the custom was popularized, largely because of an illustration in Godey's Lady's Book, a 19th-century women's magazine that led the drive to make Christmas the most important of our national holidays.
Godey's published a reproduction of an engraving depicting Queen Victoria enjoying her Christmas tree, a custom she had picked up from her German husband, Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Godey's version of the picture was retouched to remove Vicky's tiara, so she appeared to be American gentry. From that point on, Christmas trees quickly became the thing to do in Yank households. But with a growing societal distaste for the frivolous taking of any life, the Christmas tree tradition has begun to shift again.
Even those of us who don't place the issue on the level of, say, cockfighting, still may find the gratuitous harvesting of a living thing for use as a house decoration not entirely conducive to the holiday spirit. Of the several obvious alternatives, the tackiest--an artificial tree, preferably one in a color not found in nature--is also the safest. But for tastemongers, trees with their roots left intact, suitable for transplant to the soil after the holidays, are also available. That, it need hardly be said, is the option that the various Valley nurseries would prefer you take.
Both Whitfill Nursery, 824 East Glendale Avenue in Phoenix, and Moon Valley Nursery, 14025 North Seventh Street, report a surge in sales of live pines. Especially popular, claims Rory at Whitfill, are "Mondale and Goldwater pines, the best desert pines you can get. Some people want to plant them at school, or at church, or in their own yard after the holidays. You know, rather than using a cut tree."
If you are among those who still prefer to help a severed tree fulfill its Christmas destiny, at least go the extra step, and make sure it also fulfills its post-Christmas destiny as mulch. The City of Phoenix is again offering to collect trees from city residents for recycling at any of 14 parks, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, January 9, and the same hours Sunday, January 10. Trees should be unbagged, and denuded of all their decoration, nails, stands, etc.
Collection sites include Deer Valley Park, 19th Avenue and Utopia Road; Paradise Valley Park, 40th Street south of Union Hills Road; Sereno Park, 56th Street and Sweetwater; Cactus Park, 3800 West Cactus; Mountain View Park, Seventh Avenue and Peoria; Marivue Park, 55th Avenue and Osborn; Washington Park, 23rd Avenue and Maryland; Madison Park, 16th Street and Glenrosa; Los Olivos Park, 28th Street and Devonshire; Desert West Park, 67th Avenue and Encanto Boulevard; El Reposo Park, Seventh Street and Alta Vista; Mountain Vista, 48th Street and Knox; Desert Foothills Park, Desert Foothills Parkway and Chandler Boulevard; and El Prado Park, 6428 South 19th Avenue.
To recycle your tree earlier than the dates above, take it to A and Z Equipment Rental and Sales at either of two locations--4050 East Indian School or 15634 North 32nd Street--between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, December 26. To donate a living tree, call 262-6386.