Sunday, December 10

Jewish Pine Embargo

What? You haven't heard about the Jewish Pine Embargo? Don't you read the papers? Well stay tuned, then.

Hoo boy. If you thought the idea of ownership of words was perplexing, I've got a humdinger for you. And here it is. Smells. Smells are owned. I's unbelievable. And obviously, if it's appearing here, you guessed it--I don't get it.

No, I'm not kidding. And I'm not talking about highly priced fragrances attached to outdated visual images of formerly glamorous film stars, because that's not hard to get at all. Someone invented a scent, bottled it, and patented it (or whatever) and now they own that smell. Makes perfect sense. No problem.

I'm not talking about those smells. I'm talking about regular old smells. The kind that can't be patented or protected or branded or copyrighted or trademarked. And the culprit in this case? We might call it eau de conifer. The fragrance of the forest at dusk. You know: Christmas tree smell.

Special note: Those readers who have artificial Christmas trees should probably excuse themselves and retreat to another room for the duration of this entry--and yes, I know it's more ecologically and environmentally sound, don't get me started, that's not what this is about. This is about smells, so go have yourself an egg nog or something and come back later.

Here's the deal. Christmas trees smell good. Really good. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Can't you smell the tree in that picture? I can (note--please to wipe the smear off your computer screen from pressing your nose up against it to smell the tree. You're welcome). Rosie O'Donnell even argued about it the other day in her diatribe against Barbara Walters' owning an artificial tree (and don't ask me why I was watching The View--it was only that one day, I promise, I didn't like it, I haven't watched again, and yes, I do have better things to do). For lots of people, that's a big part of why they have a Christmas tree. Because it smells good. And it smells like Christmas, whatever that means. Of course, in reality, it smells like a tree, a smell which is abundant in certain natural locales, but most people only bring that smell inside once a year, so associations will happen. I get that.

But here's the deal. Jews can't have Christmas trees (or other associated pine or fir decorative elements). Oh, I can hear you already. "Of course Jews can have them--what's stopping you?" "What about interfaith families? They're Jewish and they have Christmas trees!" "Why not?" "Haven't you ever heard of a Hanukkah bush?" "Isn't it a pagan custom rather than a Christian one anyway?" "Doesn't your own sister have a Christmas tree?". Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah. I know. And you know too. Jews (for the most part, at least in singularly Jewish homes, and with all caveats and exclusions and stipulations, blah blah blah) don't have Christmas trees. And you guessed it, my friends: that's me. Heck, I grew up in a home with two Jewish parents (and three Jewish sisters, though that's not the point here), and for a short time when I was young we even had Santa (I still don't get that) and stockings (see what I mean?) and even green and red metallic wrapping paper (you get the picture), and we never, and I mean never had a tree. Nope. Not a needle.

We pause here briefly for you to go get a tissue and dab your eyes. I know. It makes me misty too.

See, here's the deal. In the past, I have shared homes with people who celebrated Christmas (I don't, just in case you don't know) and have had Christmas trees in the living room. I am not a total hermit, so I also (believe it or not) have friends who have Christmas trees and/or wreaths and/or boughs and who (believe it or not) sometimes invite me over during the month of December. I love the smell. And I can't have it because it's not "appropriate". I hate that, and far worse than hating it, I don't get it.

And I like the ornaments too (gasp!). But that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

So explain to me. How exactly would it change the Jewishness of my house for it to smell like a pine forest? How does a small clay form in the shape of a moose that says "Glacier National Park" or some such thing, hanging from a great-smelling branch violate my religious tradition? I DON'T GET IT!!!!

And my not getting it is made far more acute by the facts (don't you hate when facts mess up a whole systems of beliefs? Sure ya do). Christmas trees, are, in fact, a pagan custom associated with the solstice (which, for some reason, Jews can celebrate, no problem) not a Christian tradition. It seems some fundamentalist and other Christian sects even oppose them, based on a quote from Jeremiah. Take a look for yourself:

So, you's the rub (a little to the left, thanks - ha!). It's not even a Christian symbol and I can't have it because it's a Christian symbol (even if I call it a solstice tree, because everyone knows better). Now I ask you: do you get that?

I know. I'm an anarchist. I'm a self-determination kind of gal. I know. If I like the smell, I should just go out and get one (although if you think that, you don't really get the Jewish thing, and see, there I am standing up for the "other side"!!!). Maybe I should start a movement. "Take Back the Christmas Tree" (anyone up for a march with candles on our heads?) I know. Words and symbols are only words and symbols and can be reclaimed. So what's the big deal? I don't know. You tell me. What's the harm in having a house that smells like a forest, and what does that have to do with Jesus? It's a nature. And you know what? Here's the clincher: If I wanted to put a pine bough in my house in February or burn pine cones in the fireplace to have that smell in the house, none of that would be a problem--so apparently, the ownership is not only exclusive, but time-sensitive!!!

For the moment, I will say this. Let it be known (as if you didn't already know it): I am flatly opposed (what does that mean? flatly?) to smell ownership. I'll even go out on a limb (hey! a limb! get it?) here and oppose all smell ownership, even the legitimate kind. I'll start a movement. Take Back the Smell. Odors (or for the more traditional among us..Odours) R Us. Our Noses, Ourselves. (Hey--that's a catchy name for a book).

It's a revolution, I tell ya. For my first act, I'm gonna go out and buy that "Christmas Tree Smell" spray and dab it behind each ear on my way to the Hanukkah party. What are you going to do?