Txmama wrote a thing recently about themed Christmas trees. You know, like an entire tree of only Italian-themed ornaments and red, white, and green striped ribbons. Or, like one I saw recently at a gathering, one completely done to evoke the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
I have contributed to charity trees before--there was a Victorian crazy quilt themed one that I did a little sewing for (and thus learned how to do paper piecing, but that's beside the point). I have nothing against themed trees, frankly--my neighbor Larry has a different theme in each room of his house (granted, he has too much time on his hands). But until I moved here (which probably is a time sensitive issue rather than a place issue), I never saw a themed tree in someone's house. Charity auctions, department stores, boutiques, only.
Steve and Jerry next store, alas, have moved to Amsterdam. Not that the replacement Steve who bought their house is a bad idea, but they were good neighbors and our block is less without them. Anyway, they had themed trees. I remember going to their Christmas parties and just staring at the frosted white tree in the front hall with the winter sports theme. Winter sports. Little ice skater ornaments and sleds and whatnot. I remember being really impressed, and then either more so or less so when one of their friends asked who'd done the tree. "Botanicals," Jerry told him. A FLORIST had come into their home and decorated their tree. Of course, they had a butler in a tux with chaps rented for the evening, too, so obviously, I was out of my league.
Soon after that first party, my mom sent me a quiz from the humanities course she was teaching--sort of a combination of English, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology--about socioeconomic class. It revealed, essentially, how class-based we really are in America on a day to day basis. There were questions about wide ranging topics like food purchases, transportation, family, jobs. For instance, I didn't know at that point how I might buy a bus pass, since I live in a city where very few people who don't have to ride the bus actually do (I know how to buy one now). But I wouldn't know where to go to find WIC forms. On the other hand, there were many questions about people who live in a higher income bracket than I ever have that were bewildering, too. I graded myself as solidly middle class, although that wasn't the point--the point was to show how stark the little differences between us really are.
One question was about Christmas trees. What does a Christmas tree mean, exactly? Does it mean a decorative object in one's house, to be themed and possibly arranged by an employee or professional? Or does it mean dragging out your great-grandmother's glass bird ornament collection and combining them with the little Snoopy ornaments you and your mom painted when you were 5 and the ornament-a-year club your godmother enrolled you in? The point was that the middle class uses the Christmas tree as a gathering place for sentimentality. The upper class uses it as a showpiece. I don't remember what lower class/working class Christmas trees were all about, although I vaguely recall the explanation of the question mentioning the lack of stability and/or storage space required to save 60+ years worth of ornaments.
That end of things didn't strike me the way the "rich are different" moment did. I had no clue that people didn't aspire to have a tree that looked like a collection of life. Now, about 9 years later or so, I know this backward and forward. Many of my friends and neighbors have themed trees--some are different every year. My mom mentioned recently that she'd like to get a second tree for the upstairs parlor with an Irish theme. In addition to the "normal" tree in the living room. And I'm sure, once they have the storage space and stability, both my sisters will have fabulously themed trees.
I just don't think I will. It wouldn't match my house, or me, really. My house, my life, is a huge collection of odd little things and everything, yikes, everything has a back story. I see myself turning into my grandmother bit by tiny cluttered bit, and it doesn't bother me much anymore. A themed tree in my front hall kind of would.