In times long past, the evergreen was a symbol of eternity. It was a tree that did not fade, and fall barren in the harsher months, sustaining its jade hue all year long. In the eyes of our forebearers, it was a life that did not die, but existed in a state of perpetual youth. Perfection.
Today, few still carry such sentiments. The evergreen is a tree like any other. It’s another in the legion of holiday symbols, interchangeable with Santa, reindeer, and snowmen.
And so like so many other emblems of the old world, tossed into the coagulating confines of America’s melting pot, the evergreen’s meaning remains lost in the conceptual limbo somewhere between the superfluous and the divine.
For better or worse, this leaves its definition in the hands of the individual. Myself included.
The more’s the pity for the evergreen.
So, what does the evergreen represent to me? That is a convoluted answer, like all of my answers.
I think my view of the word is deeply colored by the term “green,” which has long been synonymous with the amateur, the rookie, the beginner. To be evergreen would therefore mean to forever be an apprentice. Never master. That in and of itself would imply a sort of permanency, a different sort of eternal state. However, I’ve cut down Christmas trees in the past. I’ve crawled across the needled ground that surrounds their trunks, a porcupine patch of earth.
I know that the evergreen sheds its “leaves” the same as any other tree. It too goes through seasons. It too ages. It too grows. It’s not immortal. It’s just a lot more modest.
To me, the evergreen is symbolic of the ideal mindset; Ever Green.
Be it a sapling or a thirty foot giant, the evergreen spends its entire life presenting itself the same way: as a perpetual student, never a master. Equally accessible, adaptable regardless of season, placement, or age.
The evergreen represents neither the eternal nor the perfect. It represents honesty, openness, and ultimately acceptance. And regardless of denomination or creed, I think that’s as good a symbol of the holidays as anything.