This morning I woke up and bought a Christmas tree. Berlin, as usual these days, was a mottled, cotton-ball gray and drizzly. But I had plaited my hair for the occasion, and we all know that there’s nothing more festive than a Christmas plait.
The walk to Südkreuz from Schöneberg isn’t a particularly pretty one. It’s not a far walk, but the Sachsendamm is a wide, industrial stretch of road, along which you pass the giant furniture warehouse with its America-sized parking lot, a long, low sports center, and the car-crammed entrance to the highway. But I’m especially good at pretending during Christmastime, and as I walked, I imagined myself in a dark green forest, surrounded by tall pines and lightly falling snow. I saw my future self lugging my little tree up the apartment stairs and decorating it as I sang along to Perry Como and sipped on hot chocolate swizzled with a candy cane.
I love the romance of Christmas – its clichéd images of rosy-cheeked children and sugar cookies, Santa hats and snowball fights, warm and cozy comfort foods. Though truthfully, I can’t remember the last Christmas I had that fit into such a glittering, glistening box. I haven’t had a white Christmas in years, so there’s been no sledding, no snowball fights, no bowls of homemade snow ice cream – the stuff my childhood holidays were made of. Most of my Christmas shopping involves feeding my credit card number to the internet and every time I try to listen to Christmas music I have to navigate a sea of bad Wham.
But I’m changing all that with this Christmas tree.
I almost didn’t get one. I’m leaving here halfway through December, and I wondered how worth it it was to lug a tree through Berlin and up my four very long flights of stairs for 15 days of enjoyment. That’s not even a month of Christmas tree enjoyment. But every year I say, This is the year I’ll get a Christmas tree of my own, and every year there’s some logical reason why I shouldn’t get one. So I don’t.
But this year, I’m creating my own Christmas cliché. As I carried the little baby tree through Berlin’s wet and foggy streets, its evergreen perfume made me happier than being in quiet, green, snow-filled woods. And after I finished carefully hanging decorations on all the best branches, I even sang along to “Last Christmas” when it came up on shuffle.
Darkness comes early to winter Berlin, but for once I don’t mind. The white lights twinkle on my tree, reflecting off the golden ornaments and tinsel. My little Räuchermann is smoking away on his pipe and I’ve got a mug of hot chocolate beside me. I don’t have a candy cane to swizzle it with, but in my new Christmas vision, what I’ve got is just what I want.