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O come, all ye faithful – and fearful: Woody the talking Christmas tree delights, disturbs visitors at Nova S


Fresh off a flight from Calgary, Lauren Greengrove beetled down the hall of a Dartmouth mall, her husband, sister and parents in tow.

“Ohmygosh. He’sHERE. I’mSO excited,” she screamed when she saw the formidable triangular frame rising between the escalators.

Ms. Green grove’ s family, rolling their eyes ever so slightly, had travelled with her across the country to watch her receive her master’s degree in education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., earlier this month.

But before heading to the ceremony, the kindergarten teacher told her family they had to make a pit stop at the Mic Mac Mall. While studying online from her home in Okotoks, Alta., she had heard about the legendary-yet-often-ridiculed talking Christmas tree from her Nova Scotian classmates.

Woody, introduced in the early 1980s and revamped in the 2000s, returned with a less scary face after a 15-year hiatus when a local developer who took over ownership of the mall revived him in 2021.

Since then, the larger-than-life tree has become fodder for latenight talk-show hosts and spur red a cottage industry of swag that pays homage to Woody’s protruding face, which looks not unlike if Thomas the Tank Engine drove into a Christmas tree.

On social-media channels there are Woody selfies galore, Woody superimposed in a Maud Lewis painting and a woman wearing a homemade Woody sweater with one eye closed (from that time Woody had an eyelid malfunction).

Every day in December, groups of terrified children and snickering shoppers standby to watch his animatronic, Kardashian-lashed eyes flip open at noon. One by one, people converse with Woody’s giant set of pink, moving lips. (Woody, voiced in real time by what appears to be someone in a shed at his rear, listens from microphones mounted in the fake greenery, though mall spokesperson Tia Hathaway declined to comment on the logistics.)

“So, excited for Christmas?” Woody asked Ms. Greengrove when it was her turn. “Lauren, what do you like about Christmas the most?”

Since Woody’s comeback during the height of the pandemic, Haligonians have embraced him wholeheartedly. He’s been the destination for a marriage proposal, and a newborn baby’s first stop on the way home from the hospital. A Woody replica is the centrepiece of a Lego holiday exhibit at a provincial museum.

It may be that he conjures up nostalgia – memories of being dragged to the mall and waiting for hours in snowsuits to talk to a voice coming out of a ginormous tree. But for others who are discovering Woody for the first time, it’s a novelty, a character that has inspired “a perverse fascination,” said Erin Trafford, a former Torontonian who now lives in the Halifax suburb of Eastern Passage and runs a podcast network.

She learned about Woody last year when her friends posted on social media about him coming back to the mall. She had to see what all the fuss was about so she headed there with her daughter Piper, who was 6 at the time.

She returned again this year with Piper and her three-year-old sister Marigold, along with a colleague visiting from Toronto.

When Woody’s eyes flipped open under his top hat – a new accessory this year – the children fell silent, overwhelmed and maybe a little anxious. Ms. Trafford turned to her colleague: “Welcome to the weirdest Christmas tradition in Canada,” she said with a laugh.

Piper thought he was funny but also a little scary: “He just creeps me out, the way his lips move,” the seven-year-old said.

In 2021, the beloved Beaverton satirical website published a story about mall administrators assuring shoppers that Woody will consume no more than “3 to 4 kids, max” this holiday shopping season.

That same year, CNN broadcast a story on the return of the “creepy yet charming talking Christmas tree with a face.” On The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon likened Woody to a Christmas character on an episode of Squid Game.

Woody The Tweeting Christmas Tree, an unofficial account on X (formerly Twitter), has become the place for all the best Woody memes. “I’m back, birches,” says the site’s pinned post, with a retro image of Woody wearing a pair of sunglasses. “The mall rents me out as an Airbnb for raccoons overnight,” says another post.

In the mall, Ms. Greengrove giggled with excitement. “I was just like, ‘This is hilarious. This is so awesome,’” she said after meeting Woody and taking selfies with her husband and sister.

Afterward, she headed back up the escalator with her family, loaded with Woody merch from the gift store – a mug, a shirt, ornaments and green Woody socks for the whole family – the proceeds of which go to charity.

“That’s tree-ific,” said Woody from down below with his deranged giggle. “Tree you later.”





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