My apartment in Paris is a third of the size of my New York apartment. At only 258 square feet, or 24 square meters, there is not a sliver of space to spare. And I’m not alone, since tiny abodes are the norm in old European cities. So why, on my most recent stay in Paris earlier this month, was I surprised by the Lilliputian Christmas trees on sale at the local shops?
I get it: tiny apartments; tiny trees. Logical, sure, but I’m from the land of big, big, big! It doesn’t matter that the average New York apartment is only 650 to 700 square feet—every year, the Canadian Christmas tree sellers descend upon our fair city with their six- to nine-footers. It’s Christmas, dammit, rearrange your furniture and hoist the giant tannenbaum! If the star doesn’t graze your ceiling, you are not embracing the true feeling of the season. To buy anything smaller than five feet is to admit defeat. Smaller than three feet and you start hearing the term, “Charlie Brown tree.”
But in Paris, it was Charlie Brown trees everywhere I went, and there was no shame in it. I became obsessed with the tiny creatures, snapping photos like a gawker at a freak show. Many of the trees were no taller than two feet and came mounted on a log. Some were neatly swaddled in netting, and with their little log feet, resembled woodland gnomes. Other than their diminutive stature, the ready-made log stand was the most puzzling feature of the Parisian Christmas tree. Apparently, there is no need to water it; just set it and forget it. Once it crumbles into a heap of needles on the floor, Christmas is over. Yeah, not very fire safe, but that’s life in Paris—charming, but impractical. Well, except for the size of the Christmas trees.