O Christmas Tree


O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
Not only green in summer’s heat,
But also winter’s snow and sleet.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!

That is the first verse of “O Christmas Tree,” or as it was written in its original German by Ernst Anschütz in 1824, “O Tannenbaum.” It’s also the national anthem of cats in any home celebrating the Christian holiday.

For people, the gifts are the many packages placed under the tree. For cats, the tree is the present. And what a present it is. One day you have the same old room, arranged in the same old way; then the next day, a tree appears!

“What did I do to deserve this manna from heaven,” cats around the world wonder; assuming they understand the concept of heaven or manna.

But wait, it gets better! Upon said tree is placed a cornucopia of items cats love to play with. Tinsel, ribbon, ornaments of every size and shape, plus hundreds of shinning lights which may flash on and off. You’ve basically built a cat casino playing on the psychological weaknesses of your feline.

I hope you feel proud of yourself for feeding your cat’s addictions. The only thing missing is a cocktail waitress serving free catnip to your pet.

And after you’ve erected this giant cat toy, you have the audacity to be shocked that your furry friend wants to climb the tree and paw at everything hanging on it. Shame on you. What did you think was going to happen, that your cat would comment on the decorations and symmetry of the tree?

“I appreciate the theme of your sapling,” your cat would begin. “But did you consider hiring a professional to decorate it? It’s so gauche. Frankly I would have gone with additional mice and bird ornaments; the more fragile and easier to break, the better.”

After its sincere critique, your pet would commence with the annual Christmas tradition of doing everything he/she could to destroy your evergreen or faux tree up to and including, tipping it over for maximum effect. If your cat thinks of it first, it might text or email all the other cats in the neighborhood to come over for some holiday cheer and destruction.

Only a person in a total fit of rage could equal the primordial urge of your cat to wreak havoc upon O Tannenbaum. Assuming you are a sane person who doesn’t ravage your home, why would you create a situation that does just that? The only thing worse is if you own more than one cat.

I can envision the Hallmark Channel airing its latest Yuletide special from your home entitled, “A Very Vandals’ Christmas.”

Now that I’ve lectured you on having a Christmas tree and a cat under one roof, let me also acknowledge that our abode has the same situation. Mea culpa on the pot calling the kettle black.

Our first cat, Emma, was attracted to our Christmas tree as a moth is to the light.

I swear I heard her shout, “Hallelujah! Hosannah in the highest and I’m climbing that tree!”

We tempered Emma’s pure joy by re-decorating the evergreen. This involved removing all breakable items, especially the ornaments that were family heirlooms of my wife, Genifer. Then we had to block off the two entrances to the living room where our tree was located. This involved attaching plastic snow fencing to the passageways that was high enough to make it difficult for Emma from jumping in to the promised land; not that this always worked.

Emma in her youth could clear the fence with little effort. If we were smart, we would have fastened concertina wire on top of the blockade. It was only as she got older that we didn’t have to worry about her getting inside, unless we forgot to secure the fencing.

The only time Emma was allowed in the living room during the Christmas season, was if a human chaperone was there to keep watch. It had the feel of a prison movie where the search lights from the towers are trying to prevent a jailbird from escaping, except in this case, it was to keep one out.

While Emma loved the tree, our current feline, Chester, is ambivalent to it.

Chester chilling under the Christmas tree.

When we first put the now fake tree up, all he did was sit underneath it, never showing any inclination to climb the totem of Christmas. After we decorated the tree, nothing changed, much to our relief. No more snow fencing and keeping a vigilant eye out for an attempt at breaking and toppling.

I was under the mistaken notion that all cats had climbing DNA in them. Not Chester, he is the classic scaredy cat but also a smart one who must have realized the possible danger of making a mad dash to the top.

British mountaineer George Mallory was asked why he was trying to summit Mt. Everest, “Because it’s there,” he famously responded. In 1924, he died on the mountain during his third attempt to reach the highest point on Earth. I bet Chester read about Mallory and didn’t want history to repeat itself.

That doesn’t mean Chester isn’t prone to getting himself into trouble. Instead of focusing on the Christmas tree, he likes to knock off the plastic candle lights we place on the window sills.

Some of those fake candles are located right by locations Chester likes to sit; the windows next to the couch and the rear kitchen window where he has a chair to watch the birds. When the action at the bird feeder isn’t up to Chester’s standards, he turns his attention to the candle.

Chester, caught with the evidence.

He gives the plastic decoration a quick stare, the eyes narrow, ears move sideways and then he bats it off with his paw, sending the object crashing to the ground. Eventually they break, as happened the other night. On the floor were a few pieces of the base with the flame part missing. None of us could find it, indicating Chester used it as his newest toy. One day I’m sure, when we’re moving furniture, we’ll discover it.

Another activity Chester likes to do during the holiday season, is to sleep in a wooden baby crib Genifer’s father designed. The crib is filled with pillows, blankets and stuffed toys such as Rudolphs, snowmen, penguins and other figures; though I don’t remember those in the nativity scene.

Chester climbs into the baby crib to join his holiday friends.

Thanks to COVID, we had an abbreviated Christmas Eve service at our church. The next day, as we have done for several recent Christmas days, except last year, we went over to our next-door neighbor’s home to celebrate the holiday along with some members of their extended family. It’s an enjoyable day of laughter, eating and some libations. That means my family; wife Genifer and daughters Grace and Lily, have our own Christmas celebration on December 26th. Oh, and Chester too.

As was the case when we put up the Christmas tree, Chester didn’t pay too much attention to the opening of presents. Our previous cat, Emma, loved to join us in the living room and sit among the torn wrapping paper and poking her head in all the boxes.

Chester’s lackluster attitude to Christmas presents changed when we opened his gift for him to look at. It was a new scratching post, necessary after he destroyed his previous one.

Laying under the kitchen table, he gave it a tentative look, then with Lily’s encouragement, came over to his goodie. Upon inspection of the bestowment, he laid next to it placing his paws on either side of the scratching post, indicating both acceptance and claiming it as his own property.

Chester is pleased with his Christmas present.

We moved Chester’s newest toy to the family room where the previous one had been. Chester gave it some good scratches and then went upstairs to sleep for the rest of the afternoon. Except for that brief moment of exertion, Chester hadn’t done anything else except woof his morning kibble down. It’s tough being a house cat.

Following a delicious dinner for the people, it was time to unleash a second present for Chester, natural catnip. Genifer tapped out some of the Nepeta cataria around the base of the scratching post, then we waited for the action to begin.

A few sniffs, then a few more, got Chester down on the floor. He then started to eat the catnip while also trying to snort it like cocaine. You could see his transformation from a state of normal consciousness, into a psychedelic one.

When he wasn’t eating, sniffing, snorting or rolling around in the catnip, Chester would give a few wild leg kicks to the scratching post, then lick his butt, spreading Christmas joy from cheek to cheek. Then he would stop and just stare into the empty void. Only he knew what was going on in his cat brain.

As I watched Chester’s glassy look into the unknown, all I kept hearing in my brain was the Jefferson Airplane song, White Rabbit;” not to be confused with Irving Berlin’s season appropriate hit, “White Christmas.”

Whether Chester’s psychedelic journey to la-la land is the definition of Christmas spirit, I leave that up to you. But watching our tabby trip, did provide us a good laugh and a nice end to the day. And isn’t being joyful one aspect of the holiday season?

Is Santa Dead?

That question came to mind after reading an opinion piece by MSNBC’s Hayes Brown, titled, “NORAD’s Christmas Eve Santa Claus tracker needs to end.”

I wasn’t so much interested in the main point he was trying to make, that the U.S. military needs to decouple “St. Nick from the world’s most powerful military,” and then explaining why, but because of a question that was raised. What would happen if the U.S. military accidentally targeted Santa Claus and killed him? Would the Pentagon’s public relations machine successfully coverup this dastardly deed?

Then I wondered if America’s or any other military could pull off such a feat.

Dr. Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State, worked out what it would actually take for St. Nick to deliver all those presents on Christmas Eve. What he came up with is probably where Chester’s mind went after going on a catnip trip.

Silverberg postulates that Santa bends space/time with the use of a relativity cloud.

“Relativity clouds are controllable domains, rips in time, that allow him [Santa Claus] months to deliver presents while only a few minutes pass on Earth. The presents are truly delivered in a wink of an eye,” Silverberg said in a 2009 interview with dndainfo.

Silverberg goes on to say that Santa would use a hi-tech sleigh and that his reindeer would be propelled by jetpacks powered with cold fusion.

Astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson, who’s become a celebrity talking about the cosmos, agrees that it’s possible for Santa Claus to deliver all those presents in one night with the help of worm holes, because if the big guy could travel at the speed of light, he and his reindeer would burn up.

Santa Clause enters a worm hole as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.

What these two distinguished scholars are saying, is that Santa has a greater grasp of physics and technology than any country on earth. No matter how advanced U.S., Russian or Chinese militaries are in hypersonic or laser weapon systems, they have no chance of shooting down Mr. C.

The U.S. Navy recently did a test firing of a military laser on the USS Portland, aimed at a replica of Santa’s sleigh. Though the Navy claimed the test a success. It’s obvious it could never hit a moving Santa. Additionally, all the sailors onboard received coal for Christmas.

Thank goodness all Kris Kringle and his elves want to do is make toys for children. If Santa was a megalomaniac, he would rule the earth, and don’t assume that would be a good thing.

Christmas is special because it’s once a year. If Santa wanted (and he would), there would be Christmas every day of the year. The elves wouldn’t put up with that and they would all retire to the French Riviera leaving the rest of us to pick up the toy making slack. That’s 18-hour days, no breaks, seven days a week. Don’t think about unionizing, the elves already tried that.

Meanwhile Santa subcontracts the delivery process to Amazon, because they don’t need worm holes or relativity clouds to get the job done; but haven’t those employees suffered enough?

You would also be forced to listen to “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs continuously every day. Conversions to non-Christian religions or atheism would skyrocket.

Also, what psychological trauma would befall children around the world if they see Santa going way beyond kissing their mothers underneath the mistletoe? This is the doomsday scenario and all the world’s military powers combined can’t stop it.

So, to answer the original question, you can’t kill Santa Claus so there’s no need for a coverup, and depending on the mood the fat guy is in, that might not be a good thing.

Merry Christmas.

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