So Christmas is a little over 2 weeks away and Mercedes and I haven’t put up a tree yet. She likes them fancy with all the streamers and ornaments and decorations and stuff. Having experienced that in my youth with my mother and having to clean up all of that stuff on New Year’s Eve every year, I like to keep it small and simple. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Juan Thomas Christmas tree.
How I first came across this moment? Back in December 2012, I was living in Pyeongtaek, South Korea during my final Air Force assignment. I was hosting dinner before some evening ice skating in Downtown Seoul and my date for the evening said “you don’t have any holiday cheer here…you need a Christmas tree”. I laughed it off. But later that evening, as we were in Seoul Station, I grabbed one of those disposable air freshener trees from the Mini Stop. She inquired and I told her it was my Christmas tree. I copped some stickers out of the arts and crafts store on base and voilà. Just like that, I had holiday cheer in my flat.
What it meant to me then? In the immediate moment, it meant absolutely nothing to me. I was in a foreign land by myself on a short-term military assignment. I saw this as no different than my deployment to Iraq, where I spent Christmas in 2007. I didn’t give a damn about Christmas trees or having holiday cheer in my spot. Hell, besides me, only 5 people even got across the threshold of my flat in South Korea—and 2 of them were my landlords on Day 1. It was literally a spot to lay my head and use the Wi-Fi Calling feature on my HTC Sensation. I simply saw it as a small gesture towards the woman I was seeing for a brief spell.
What it means to me now? I took a picture of the tree and posted it on my social media before trashing it when my maid cleaned my spot on New Year’s Day 2013. In keeping the photo, I post it every year as a joke. But, in all seriousness, I think it’s representative of my true self regarding the commercialization of national holidays. I don’t think Christmas trees are necessary to display holiday cheer. You can do that in ways that don’t require running up your electric bill with lights and sounds or having thousands of pine straws all over the place. Mercedes may very well put up some razzle dazzle tree but as for me, the tree in the Featured Image is my go-to. It doesn’t cost me anything and it conveys the same message.