In a holiday season that could use some extra cheer, the tree twins are making everyone they encounter smile.
A married gay couple who prefers to keep their true identities a secret, the tree twins have spent the last five Christmases going around the Bay Area, bringing Christmas cheer to strangers and expecting nothing in return.
The twins told TODAY via email that they waffled about whether it was going to be feasible for them to be out and about during the coronavirus epidemic, but they ultimately decided that their special brand of cheer was needed now more than ever.
"We really debated whether we should do this, and once we decided that we needed it as much as others do, we did a lot of research to make sure we could be safe," tree No. 1 told TODAY. "We wear clear, FDA-approved masks, we have sanitizer and we socially distance. We also monitor our temperature every day and are as concerned for others as we are for ourselves. There aren't that many people out and about, honestly, and many nights we are waving and dancing for cars and busses, which is almost as much fun as meeting people. In general, 2020 was stressful for all of us, and this is the most purely silly and joyful way to put it behind us."
The idea for the tree twins came out of costume party that the couple attended.
"We love absurdity. We love weirdness. We love drag. And we love Christmas!" said tree No. 1. "We started making costumes, including an early tree prototype for a local show called Dance Party on KOFY TV in San Francisco. They had a Christmas episode, and since wearing a Christmas sweater is never enough, we went as a tree and a stack of presents. We didn't get much screen time, but the reactions we got from people and fellow dancers made us want to push it further."
The pair were also inspired by Marian and Vivian Brown, aka the San Francisco Twins, known for appearing on talk shows and commercials in matching outfits.
"We used to see the fabulous San Francisco Twins at the holidays, always dressed alike and very sweet, and we thought, let's do something as indescribably delightful as that. They have since passed on, but those kind, sweet ladies really inspired us to interact with the city," one of the trees said.
The tree twins want the lore behind their costumes to include that they came from the North Pole, where all the trees there dance around wearing high heels and lipstick. The reality, though, is that creating their costumes involves a lot of hard work.
"The inside story involves lots of felt, weeks of cutting, sewing, hot gluing and tedious days of hand-tying each thread of lights," said tree No. 1. "This year we started in July, and finished right before Thanksgiving."
The twins said that the public reaction to their attire is mostly positive and that people love to play along with them.
"In previous years, we've had children run up and jump into our arms or hug us. The things that keep this going are people who tell us that they miss this kind of spirit in the city, and they express such happiness and thanks that we are doing it at all. People really need to feel connection, and it makes us feel connected to the legendary spirit of San Francisco. We hope this goes on for a long time to come."
Keeping their true identities a secret is crucial in order to get folks to drop their guard and enjoy an "innocent, pure, fleeting moment with us," said tree No. 1. "We didn't want people to focus on who we are or think that we were doing this for personal fame. We never drink in costume, no shade to SantaCon, and we don't take tips. We want to be easy and joyful to anyone. Surprise and delight, and pass it on!"
Although the twins like to surprise people with their appearances, fans can follow their Instagram account to see where they might turn up next.
"We plan to announce daily where we'll be each night until Christmas Eve, when we meet Santa at the Golden Gate Bridge to return to the North Pole," one of the trees said.
The tree twins, who've been together for 27 years and married for seven, enjoy working together.
"We absolutely bicker, and we have a wickedly funny sense of humor with each other in our real lives, but as trees, it allows us to just be simpler versions of ourselves," said tree No. 1. "We both think it's a project that helps keep us working together, and we both contribute things to it. Tree 1 is very creative and sets the vision and makes everything, but is more of an introvert. Tree 2 cuts the felt, is extremely outgoing and positive, and has really mastered the art of rhinestoning with a hot glue gun! We work really well together as a team!"