I noticed the first one several years ago. At a quick glance, it looked like a Christmas tree someone had forgotten to pack away, at the end of a long corridor cutting through long rows of identical gray cubicles. I wondered idly as I walked by on my way out of the building after work why this one department hadn't been able to get it together enough to pack up their Christmas decorations, when everyone else had.
But soon I realized that wasn't a Christmas tree at all. Somewhere between December and mid-February, it had morphed into a Valentine tree, given a seasonal sprucing up by postmodern office Druids. Up close, it had an unexpected, goofy homemade charm. A big red construction paper heart topped the tree, and in addition to the LED lights, smaller red hearts, ribbons galore and miniature cupids graced the artificial boughs. The metamorphoses continued throughout the year. An Easter tree soon followed, and after that there were other themes to mark the passing seasons: Memorial Day (a smiling yellow sun on top, wearing shades), Fourth of July, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and back to Christmas. It's gotten to be a real thing now, and other departments have joined in.
Seems to be part of a larger trend, judging from stories in the news media and tips on the web like the following:
Be creative and nontraditional. There are lots of heart-shaped items that can be hung on a tree. Inexpensive pendants, little pillows, foil-wrapped candies, children's costume jewelry, and homemade decorations can all find a place on your display. Sew or glue a loop of ribbon on the item and hang it.That's from "How to Decorate a Valentine Tree," and you'll find a lot more tips at the link. And if you want to track the tree at one workplace through the entire year, check out the holiday tree page at the Purdue Physics Theory Office website.
Not sure what's behind this move toward year-round holiday trees in the office. Safe artificial trees with LED lights probably have something to do with it. They're hard for facility managers to attack as fire hazards. And once you've got an artificial tree up, it's not going to shed -- why not hang different things on it as the year goes by? The increasing commercialization of all our holidays probably plays a role as well. Holidays are just another marketing opportunity, and if people are going to buy seasonal decorations, they have to put them somewhere. At the same time, these modern Druids don't seem to take themselves too seriously, and the ironic touch this gives their trees qualifies them for the postmodern tag.
Mostly, however, the trend simply seems to be one more way people are trying to fight the deadly boredom of modern corporate life. A nation of Dilberts, with nothing to lose but their trees.