It just doesn't seem right, but many vegetarians will spend the holiday season wracked with guilt again this year. For these folks Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a tree. But the thought of chopping down a perfectly good evergreen, just for their holiday decorations, is something they find most distressing.
Guilt over Christmas trees isn't limited to vegetarians, of course. For some reason lots of people—even those who don't give a second thought to what (or who) might be on their dinner plates—are troubled by the annual slaying of the conifers. But it may be worst for vegetarians, especially when we consider that having a tree may mean at least temporarily putting aside some of our vegetarian values—you know, those pesky little values like environmental sensitivity and not wanting to kill things.
Is there a solution to this problem? If you're starting to feel guilty just reading this, can you rationalize your way out of this dilemma and still enjoy the holidays? Of course you can!
In fact, there are at least six ways that you, the sensitive vegetarian, can have a Christmas tree this year, and you shouldn't feel guilty about any of them. (Well, not too guilty anyway.) Here are your options:
Option #1—The Real Chopped-Down Tree. Yes, you can join the multitudes and purchase a real, beautiful, made-out-of-wood tree that someone will be happy to chop down for you for a price. You can bring it home, decorate it, and watch it turn brown and die before your eyes (and maybe even catch your house on fire). You won't feel guilty about any of this if you keep a couple of things in mind. First, even if Christmas tree farming wreaks wanton environmental destruction, this destruction pales in comparison to the good environmental deeds you do all year long just by being a vegetarian. Really!
And you needn't feel guilty about chopping down this poor defenseless conifer either. Remember, you became a vegetarian because you think the lives of plants are inherently less valuable than the lives of animals. By necessity you chop down plants all the time to nourish your body. Nourishing your soul is equally important.
Option #2—The Real Live Tree. Okay, maybe the rationalization you have to go through for a cut tree is just a little too much. The simple way to ease your guilty conscience may be to buy a live tree this holiday season, and then plant it out in the yard after New Years.
While this sounds great in theory, there are some potential drawbacks. Live trees are small, expensive, and heavy (roots, you know), and you can't keep them inside too long. Then, of course, there will be all the work involved in planting a Christmas tree in your arctic, frozen yard on January 2. Digging through granite might be easier.
Since you're planting this tree in the middle of winter it's likely to die by February. Will you feel guilty about that? Extremely. But hey, at least you can say you tried!
Option #3—The Phony Christmas Tree. If you're still feeling guilty about a real tree, you can always opt for the aluminum or plastic variety, and that's fine too. Sure, there's even more wanton environmental destruction with a phony tree, but that's okay—remember, you're good the rest of the year. Anyway, this baby will last forever, so your grandkids will still be enjoying its "beauty" (I use that term loosely) in the year 2068. Heck, by that time someone will have figured out how to recycle it.
Option #4—The Benson Branch. A few years ago one of my very clever vegetarian friends (or was it her husband?) came up with a very clever idea. She found a huge branch that had fallen off a tree, brought it home, and decorated it to the nines. It was gorgeous. If you're adamant that killing shouldn't be part of your holiday tradition, and you're particularly good at decorating things (there's a lot of empty space in a dead branch) this may be the option for you. As long as you avoid the aluminum tinsel, there's no guilt here. No-sir-ee (Bob).
Option #5—The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. The Christmas special featuring all those zany characters from the Peanuts comic strip has been on TV every holiday season since the Revolutionary War (although many of us would swear we've seen it more often than that). Remember when Charlie Brown picks the mangiest little tree on the lot that nobody wants? Remember how the children decorate it with all the gaudy ornaments from Snoopy's doghouse, and then everybody decides they love it, and it symbolizes the real meaning of Christmas? Well, this could be you!
This year you could go out on Christmas Eve and buy one of those poor scraggly trees still left on the lot that you always feel sorry for. (I bet the Christmas tree person will want to get home early, and will even give you a discount.) Then you can take this poor little tree home and have a wonderful Christmas Eve with your family decorating it, drinking soy "egg"nog, and getting into the spirit of the season. And instead of feeling guilty, you'll feel good about yourself, because you'll know that if you didn't buy that little tree it would have been chopped down for nothing, and would have gone in the dumpster the day after Christmas.
Option #6—Someone Else's Christmas Tree. Being inherently lazy as well as a cheapskate, this is the option I usually choose. It just makes sense. Why go to all the trouble and expense of putting up your own tree when someone else will do it for you?
That's right, you'll enjoy the holidays more this year if you spend quality time with your friends' and neighbors' trees!
To make this a reality, all you have to do is schedule a few "chance" encounters at the supermarket with folks you know during the month of December. During each of these "chance" encounters you will say something like this: "Gail, what a surprise to see you! You know, I was going to invite you and Jim over for a holiday party, but with everything going on at work and with little Johnny having that foot disease, I just haven't had a chance to decorate. Boy, it sure would be great to spend some time with you guys…"
Now, if Gail is any kind of a decent human being at all, you know she's going to invite you over to her house, where she'll have a beautifully decorated tree (not to mention a fire, food and drinks) that you can enjoy without feeling guilty. Play your cards right and you'll be getting four or five invitations like this every week. You won't even notice that you don't personally have a tree.
Isn't sharing wonderful? Isn't this the true spirit of the season?