Christmas at the Woodward household lasts until March.
That, give or take, used to be when the last pine needle from the Christmas tree was swept or vacuumed up, officially ending the season for another year.
The staying power of those pine needles defied belief. Those on the floor around the tree were swept up and banished to the trash several times during the holidays. A supposedly “final” sweeping and vacuuming took place after the tree was taken down and left at the curb to be composted.
“That should do it,” I naively would say. “I think we’ve got them all.”
We didn’t, of course. Pine needles would continue to pop up for weeks afterwards. The tenacity of those pine needles was nothing short of astonishing.
A few days after taking down the tree, putting away the decorations and cleaning up the pine needles (supposedly all of them), more would be spotted lurking in a corner or communing with a baseboard. Get those up and more would surface in another part of the room. I’m not exaggerating in saying that it was March before the last of them finally were gone.
This happened every Christmas until three years ago, when we ended our longstanding practice of buying real Christmas trees and settled on an artificial one.
It was a long time coming. For years, artificial trees looked, to quote The Old Man in “A Christmas Story,” like they were made of “green pipe cleaners.” They got a little better every year, though. When we saw one in a store that looked almost real enough to be real, we succumbed and went artificial.
And never looked back. No more perusing Christmas tree lots, no more sawing off the bottom of the trunk and soaking it overnight in a bucket of water to keep the needles from drying out, no more wrestling the tree through the front door. And, best of all, no more pine needles with half lives measured in months.
All was well until this Christmas. That was when we discovered – reminiscent of Orange is the New Black – that glitter is the new pine needles.
No one who gathered at our house to unwrap gifts on Christmas Eve could remember so many presents that were wrapped using ribbon with glitter on it. Either glitter ribbon is enjoying a sudden surge in popularity or by sheer coincidence nearly everyone used it to wrap the packages that were under our tree this Christmas.
It wasn’t just the ribbon, either. Some of the wrapping paper and even some of the gift bags were decorated with glitter.
And the cards! At the moment, I am looking at a sizable pile of Christmas cards received from relatives, friends and acquaintances, and just under half of them are literally dripping with shiny, sparkly, superfluous glitter. (The stuff isn’t really necessary, you know. The cards would look just fine without it.)
No one thought much about all this until Christmas day. Cleanup with the Christmas Eve festivities still underway was limited to hastily putting wrappings in recycling bags and forgetting about them till the next morning.
That’s when the profusion of glitter became all too apparent.
“Look at this! There’s glitter everywhere.”
“I’ve never seen so much glitter.”
“It’s even outside on the porch.”
Glitter was under the tree, on the rug, the couch, the chairs, the coffee table, the stereo cabinet. It was as if it had fallen from the sky in a bomb-glitter cyclone.
We swept, vacuumed, dusted.
“There. I think we’ve got it all.”
In the days to come, glitter continued to turn up in one unlikely place after another.
It was on the carpets and other floors, despite repeated vacuumings and sweepings.
It was on the steps, the sidewalks.
It was in the garage, in the cars.
It was on our clothes, in the laundry, even in the beds.
This continued to be the case for days – even weeks – after Christmas.
How was this possible? Call me crazy, but I think the stuff was breeding.
With glitter seemingly everywhere around the house, I wanted to learn more about it and discovered that it isn’t merely annoying when you can’t seem to get rid of it, it’s terrible for the environment.
Much of the glitter used in everything from cards and wrappings to makeup is made of microplastic. Microplastics aren’t biodegradable. They last for thousands of years. They sink through the soil of landfills into groundwater and oceans. Birds and fish can die from consuming them.
There is such a thing, however, as biodegradable glitter, safe for animals and the planet. If you’re determined to use glitter in your makeup, wrappings or craft work, you can find it at https://www.todayglitter.com.
Other than that, it’s best to try to avoid using glitter at all. You’ll be helping the environment.
And saving yourself a lot of cleaning up.
Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on woodwardblog.com the following Mondays. Contact him at woodward email@example.com.