Last week, a rangy, shifty-eyed beaver waddled into a Maryland dollar store, nosed around like a slightly bored Axl Rose surveying a $10,000-a-night hotel room, and went on to halfheartedly trash the Christmas aisle. After wreaking moderate havoc, the “suspect attempted to flee the area”—that’s the official statement from the local sheriff’s office—but was quickly and literally collared.
Remember, friends: No matter how eager, industrious, and adorably buck-toothed you may be, crime usually does not pay.
A deeper investigation into the Maryland beaver’s brief reign of semi-terror turns up few clues. Photo evidence, unfortunately, remains scant. Among the carnage, a box of “Christmas Fluff,” left strewn and askew mid-aisle, appeared to be hardest hit.
In classic dollar-store style, said box wasn’t even filled with Christmas Fluff, whatever that is, but what appeared to be an old bottle of dish soap, several unidentified knick-knacks, piles of random paper cups, and maybe even an ancient Christian relic or two mistakenly shipped in from the basement of Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace.
Cpl. Yingling had a unique call for service when the suspect, pictured, was witnessed causing prop. Destruction at a store in Char. Hall. pic.twitter.com/6qKlu7tqA7
— St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office (@firstsheriff) November 30, 2016
Who knows what kind of generalized wrath lurks in the hearts of beavers? In another photo, the beaver leans upward, crazily glaring at a cheerful stuffed Santa, looking like Jack Nicholson when he sticks his head through the door he just axed in “The Shining.” There was no rhyme or reason afoot. There was only pathos and clutter and that weird narrow rubber floor mat of a tail.
The most disturbing crimes, of course, are always the senseless ones. I suppose that’s why the media, using a common and elaborate coping mechanism, needed a villain to blame, and fast. Boy, did they find an old favorite: The noble, humble, majestic, and often-shamed fake Christmas tree.
“While authorities haven’t released a motive, The Washington Post made the astute observation that the forest creature acted out after finding that the store’s Christmas trees were all artificial,” reported the Huffington Post. Here’s the Washington Post’s headline: “Beaver walks into Md. Store, finds only artificial Christmas trees, and proceeds to trash it.” Adding insult to injury, here’s Mashable: “Rage-fueled beaver declares war on artificial Christmas trees.” And alas, et tu, Country Living: “Angry Beaver Trashes Aisle of Artificial Christmas Trees.”
Beavers Should Love Fake Christmas Trees
As a dedicated fake Christmas tree aficionado, this blatant bias and injustice breaks my heart. Also, it makes no sense! If you’re a beaver, and it’s your job to chop down real trees with your teeth—or patiently nibble until the trunk is barely held up by a tenuous thread of wood, so that some cartoon character can saunter up and try to crush its rival with one pinky finger push, only to have the tree fall the opposite way—you’d be thrilled with artificial Christmas trees. After all, the market for real Christmas trees—whether cut down en masse in factory-style or romantically stolen from the forest—wildly encroaches upon your beaver business model. But I digress.
After years of public shaming, it’s time to talk about the wonder of fake Christmas trees. Fake trees do not shed. They do not suck up water. They do not cause random fits of sneezing. They do not contain hitchhiking woodland creatures that might just jump out and get tangled up in your hair. They do not sap all over your floor. They do not create laughable scenarios filled with swear words in which you struggle to fit them through a series of internal doors in your house. They do not threaten to set your house on fire. You do not have to drive yourself Clark Griswold crazy trying to strap a fake tree to the top of your car.
Oh, and remember how I mentioned romantically stealing a tree from the forest? That almost never happens. It’s cold, and it’s miserable, and the kids want to go home, and oh, by the way, Audrey’s eyes are frozen, Clark.
In times of turbulence and chaos, fake Christmas trees remain the same. They’re like the Rock of Gibraltar, if the Rock of Gibraltar were a manufactured petroleum product. Unlike the uneven, threadbare, or Charlie Brown-style real trees that are sadly cut down, only to be left abandoned and un-purchased on the savage beauty competition that is the Christmas tree lot, my tree is warmly welcomed each year. Like an old friend, it emerges, Hollywood fresh: A few branch fluffs, and we’re ready to go.
Also, thanks to modern technology, it is an amazingly realistic fake tree! It is the ultra-lifelike “WestWorld” robot host of artificial trees, except it’s never going to rise up and rebel.
If you look deeper into America’s fake Christmas tree disdain, some seem to ascribe a certain spiritual or cultural deficit to the hosts of artificial trees, as though the presence of a live tree robbed from its natural home is better than a permanent, slightly kitschy holiday friend. A fake tree is simply not aligned with the spirit of Christmas, they say. It’s lazy, they say. It’s superficial, they say. It’s tacky, they say. In sum, it is against tradition.
To which I say: There are a lot of weird traditions out there! People used to place lit candles on Christmas trees, giving each family at least a 75 percent chance of burning the entire village down. Ukranian tradition honors the “Christmas Spider,” with celebrants placing fake spider webs all over a real tree. In Austria, young children are scared silly with the traditional tale of the Krampus, a monster who beats up naughty children with—wait for it—real tree branches.
In short, let’s celebrate this glorious holiday season with a magnanimous spirit to all, regardless of their choices in tree. Perhaps you treasure your family’s Christmas tradition of bundling up, heading out, and wrangling a giant tree into your living room. (I suspect you treasure it even more if you’re smart enough to avoid doing the wrangling.) Meanwhile, I’ll be over here, with a cup of steaming tea, hugging my giant, manufactured Christmas tree. We fake tree people can do that, you know, without a single worry of sap.