December 1, 2008: “I’m here to apply for the job as Christmas Tree.”
Now that’s a funny reply within a conversation, and hardly the kind of response that would someday lead to thousands of dollars raised globally to benefit needy children. But in Norway a Christmas tree can humorously be anything audaciously colorful, and RL Norwegian Laks had just TP’d into SL’s Asian Teahouse for women wearing a dress that was over-the-top with color. She really didn't know that she was about to start a project that would become really generous.
We all know that our SL meta-world can encourage something creatively bizarre to morph into something unexpected and wonderful. So rather inauspiciously, Teahouse founder Sapphia Duccrat appointed Laks as her official living Christmas Tree. And oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree, stood dutifully at her post in the Teahouse.
Six years later, on December 20, 2014, was still standing for a little while, and on duty at the Teahouse in a dress custom-designed by her favorite designer Eliza Wierwright of Patron. These days while adorned in her pretty Christmas Tree dress, surrounds herself with presents and a tip jar to raise donations to SOS Childrens Villages International.
Hermann Gmeiner founded the first SOS Childrens Village in Austria in 1949 to help orphans suffering as a result of World War II. The charity has grown to include villages in 134 countries globally. In each center, children are afforded schools, health care, and other family-based services.
“I stood here all of December that first year, and thought of it more like an artistic performance. I was doing security duties as well of course.”
And the next year she did the same until someone suggested that she should have a tip jar.
“I figured I might as well do something useful while I was standing here, so I made this jar and the gifts and all. And I started emoting when the girls tipped me.”
That first year raised L$ 133,000 and donated it to SOS Childrens Villages at the end of the month. The Teahouse is now owned by Maia Mimulus, and the venue is still very pleased to have on staff. Maia donates all of the Teahouse December donations to the same SOS Childrens Villages charity. This month-to-date, and the Asian Teahouse have raised over $L 76,000.
Why did she pick her charity?
“SOS Childrens Villages has a very high reputation in Norway and I trust them, they also have less admin costs of any of the big charity organizations I know. They have websites in many languages, which is good in this multi-cultural virtual world. I have also visited one of their villages in Thailand, that's why I picked them in the first place.”
This year, is adding a gift to each person who donates in the form of an “I’m a Christmas Tree Hugger” tag.
“It’s my payback for standing here all year doing nothing but looking pretty,” she adds.
And so the charity continues inspiring each year. Christmas charm shines like the star that the original shepherds followed.
“People are drawn to her,” gushes Teahouse staffer Vivian Karfield.
Maybe we’re drawn to support and give to her charity as 'tis the season. Or maybe we're just in awe of the sweet girl in a Christmas Tree dress. Whatever it is you can't quite place, there is really something about that is really inspirational, or even part magical. Everyone who meets her believes.
Her smile is infectious through the words she chats, “One year I had a great tipper. She asked me how much I had so far, and then she put in the same amount on my last day. Miracles happen when I least expect them.”
Yes they do! And after my own donation, I can say that I believe too, and am officially privileged to be a Christmas Tree Hugger.