I was horrified the other day to read that the management of the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi regretted the 11 million dollar Christmas tree it had put up in the gold-leaf covered rotunda of the hotel.
Less than a week before being struck by a bad case of modesty, hotel manager Hans Olbertz boasted that it was “the most expensive Christmas tree ever, with a value of over 11 million dollars.” The hotel had already contacted Guiness book officials, and in May had installed a gold vending machine in the lobby.
Olbertz clarified how the fake evergreen came to be worth 11 million: “The tree itself is about $10,000. The jewelry has a value of over 11 million dollars – I think 11.4, 11.5.”
The 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones hanging from the plastic limbs were provided by the Style Gallery. No word on who provided the security.
But in a tragic about face, brought on by questions about whether the opulent tree represented innocent yuletide cheer or fin-de-siecle decadence that would make Caligula blush, the hotel issued a statement saying it “regretted attempts to overload the tradition followed by most hotels in the country with meanings and connotations that do not fall in line with the (hotel’s) professional standards.”
Adding a further touch of backpedaling and flat out weaseling, the statement pointed the finger at the Style Gallery, saying the jewelry store, not the hotel, was solely responsible for creating and decorating the 43 foot tall tree. “The hotel is just a venue for exhibiting the tree,” the statement said.
Why the apology? Why the shirking? All the hotel did was take a dear American tradition – the commercialization of Christmas – to its logical extreme.
So let’s skip the tsk tsking and embrace our global neighbor’s decadence. After all, we are the country that invented the Snuggie so people’s toes won’t get cold awhen they leave their electric massage chairs during commercials to get a leftover piece of pizza with cheese injected into the crust while watching a “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” marathon.
And what of the countervailing myth, that is, The Charlie Brown Christmas tree?
Once you get past the tinsel and pink flocking and Patek Phillipe watches, aren’t we really just a down to earth people who love nothing more than to take in the world’s ugly, scrawny unloved misfits and shower them with care?
In my case, no: every year when we go to the Christmas tree lot I suggest to the fam that this is finally the year we really should buy that dried out little three foot fir tucked in unceremoniously between its grander counterparts. They think I’m joking. I’m not. But I never put my foot down.
(although with the prices of big trees pushing $100, I’m thinking of seriously buckling down – next year, Charlie, I swear!)
Meantime, I think we should take the Christmas tree tradition back to its roots. In 1584, German pastor Blathasar Russow wrote of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame.” Dancing women and burning trees? Now there’s some chaste Christmas restraint!