C. and I bought an artificial Christmas tree today, another unexpected development in 2020. We haven’t celebrated the holiday in years. This wasn’t a conscious decision, more of a gradual drift as the hassle of storing boxes of ornaments and trying to guess what to buy one another faded into a preference for end-of-year travel or logging time in dim sum parlors and movie theaters. But these options are no longer available this year, and we need something to anticipate, so we bought a fake frosted spruce from the superstore, twenty-five percent off and fully loaded with faux pinecones and prewired lights. We even bought some Christmas tree perfume, a remarkably specific product that makes it smell like a real tree.

I admire the artifice of our Christmas tree, from its polyvinyl chloride leaves to its pine-scented cologne. It makes me feel very modern, simulating an ancient ritual with murky origins that can be traced to the Roman mid-winter festival of Saturnalia or perhaps the Viking worship of trees. Bring outdoor scenery indoors and push it to the brink of flames.

Domestic rituals of all kinds will be critical during this long winter.


Apex Twin – Tree

Selected Ambient Works II | Warp, 1994 | Bandcamp
Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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