Home & Garden

All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Fake Trees!

An ode to the Southern art of holiday overdecorating

Photo: Helen Ellis

Ellis's artificial gold Christmas tree.

My husband and I spent last Christmas quarantined in our New York City apartment with Covid-19 and a tree that was such a tonic we swore the next year we’d get a second. And we most certainly did.

The tree we’ve had for five years is faker than a parade wave and more metallic than a bag of almond Hershey’s Kisses. It’s midcentury modern on mushrooms. When the sun hits the windows, it lights up our apartment like a sparkler inside a candy cane tube. On the streets you can see it from two blocks away. It’s as understated as a disco ball in a manger. It solicits attention from balsam firs in neighbors’ windows as if to shout, “You’d better believe one of these things is not like the others. You can call me Marilyn McCoo because I am Solid Gold!” 

Our new tree is Hubba Bubba bubblegum pink and retro-chic like a paint-by-numbers ballerina. It’s narrow—only three feet wide because we have to put baby in the corner away from the windows because that is where a radiator fumes like a 1970s stop-motion Heat Miser and I don’t like the idea of the branches melting into a Pepto Bismol–colored puddle. 

photo: Helen Ellis
Ellis’s newest pink Christmas tree.

My husband and I favor fake trees because they’re pre-lit, shed-proof, and we can put them up in five minutes. It’s the fluffing that takes time. In our marriage, I am the fluffer. While my husband drags empty tree boxes back to our building storage cage, puts two loads of laundry in the communal washers, and then runs errands, I tug all the twigs and branches up and out, teasing the needles, as I listen to conspiracy theory podcasts. 

Is Big Deodorant bilking us for billions? Fa la la la la, la la could be!

And no, there was never a question of: Do we have enough ornaments for both trees? We have enough ornaments. I’m festive, which is Southern Lady Code for If it all fits on the tree, it ain’t hoarding. Before we added a second tree, our one tree looked like Liberace’s cape rack, a bedazzled Jabba the Hutt, or Richard Dreyfuss’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind living room sculpture if he’d made it out of flocked wreaths and reindeer. Take your pick.

There was also never a question of: Will two trees be too much? Just like there is never a question of: Will two complimentary upgrades to first class be too much? Or: Will two squirts of Calgon be too much? 

photo: Helen Ellis
Pink Christmas cards from Key Circle Press.

My husband and I felt so confident in our decision to adopt a second tree that we custom-ordered Christmas cards to look like birth announcements from my friend Kathleen Roth, who runs Key Circle Press (the best letterpress ever) out of her home in Birmingham, in my home state of Alabama. The cards are blush (or bashful) with fuchsia ink that reads, “We brought home a second tree. And it’s pink.” 

This season, even though we appreciate that we’re healthy enough to go anywhere, we find ourselves making excuses to stay home with the new arrival.