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Communique: Christmas Tree Fashion ... And Safety | Commentator Shane Fernando

Vintage ad from Reynolds Aluminum

What's old is new again, even regarding holiday fashion. Commentator Shane Fernando contemplates Christmas tree style--and notably, some Christmas tree safety

An aluminum pole. A low tripod stand. Perry Como Christmas songs in the background. Now, this might sound like a snapshot from George Costanza's father's life with his homemade holiday from Seinfeld, Festivus," but this list also hearkens back to the mid-century atomic era of everything shiny, sleek, and Jetsons. Yes, I'm talking about the aluminum Christmas tree.

This space age relic toss the nostalgia of the Victorian Christmas out onto the curb. Pine-scented branches replaced by silver-toned, porky pine-like stems jutting out from the central aluminum tinted pole. Each stem dancing with shiny aluminum needles. Twinkle lights, and candles, gave way to the electric color wheel that rotated on the floor, projecting the primary colors onto the dancing silvery surfaces. By the mid fifties, they began sweeping the nation their popularity peaked in 1965. 1965 also marked the quick end of the aluminum Christmas tree fad due to no other than Charlie Brown.

In the Charlie Brown Christmas special that aired that year, Charlie spurns the shiny aluminum trees in the department stores for being a blatant product of commercialism and opts for the wispy real tree, pathetic in stature, but with soul. By the 1980s, these trees could be found at yard sales for a quarter. But over the past decade these babies all but fly off the virtual shelves of Ebay. I remember back in the 1990s I saw my first just aluminum tree in person in an antique shop downtown. It dropped right off the stand to me. I had to get it.

Speaking of jumping trees, a few years later, I was helping with the new year's gala in town and the dance room was decked out in retro decor. I filled the back mirrored wall with aluminum trees for stunning effect. However, after I left to get dressed or the event, a not so helpful, volunteer decided to place strings of lights on the trees. And while lights on these trees may look beautiful, it is highly recommended--no, rather required--that no electrical item touch, let alone get wrapped around one of these conductive aluminum creatures. That night as I walked in, I saw the strings of light generously ladled all over the trees and my stomach went into knots. Any of those trees could be electrified. As I briskly headed across the room, a man in a red and green plaid sports coat brushed by one of the trees and it came to life like Frankentree, sparking and dancing around the room as Chubby Checkers' "The Twist" roared out across the dance floor. The sports coat man panicked and ran out of the room. The tree continued to Shimmy and dance and shower sparks in all directions like a lawn sprinkler.

As I ran toward the tree, a smart soul picked up a banquet chair and threw it at the tree as if protecting a child from a rabid dog. The force of the flying chair knock the electrical cord out of the wall and all in the room applauded and jumped back in to finish "The Twist." I standed guard of the remaining aluminum tree time bombs while a technician went to flip the breaker for the outlet so they can be unplugged.

So whether you're going green and sappy, shiny and sleek, or no tree at all, please remember where the lights should go or not.