Decorating the Christmas tree

Our three lovely granddaughters came over to decorate the Christmas tree this week. By the time they arrived the tree was up. The spicy scent of pine needles filled the room. And the cardboard box full of Christmas decorations, which we have accumulated over the years, had been lifted down from a high cupboard.

Time has flown. It only seems like it was yesterday when they were pre -schoolers and loved helping us to hang their homemade Christmas decorations on the tree. Now they’re teenagers so we can step aside and let them take charge.

There was plenty of laughter and squabbles over which decorations should make it onto our tree this year. But once the tinsel was draped, the decorations hung, and the tree festooned with fairy lights it looked just great. There was just time to go for a swim next door to cool down before we set off for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Last year there was a Christmas tree disaster. The girls had spent a long time decorating the tree. That evening, after they had gone home, the two of us were relaxing with a glass of wine in the lounge. Suddenly the tree creaked ominously and toppled over scattering Christmas ornaments all over the floor. We spent the rest of the evening picking up the pieces and laboriously redecorating.

There was another year none of us will forget. One of the presents under the tree included some chocolates. When we woke up on Christmas morning the parcel had been ripped open and our Labrador had devoured them.

Chocolate is toxic for dogs and we had an anxious wait to see if there were any ill effects. Luckily not but edible presents are no longer left under the tree.

One year I got all designer conscious and decided to restrict the colours of the baubles and ornaments to red, gold and green. We added masses of tartan ribbons. The tree did indeed look very stylish but I felt it lacked soul. So the following year the old favourites were allowed back including a rotund tinny sheep wearing a Father Christmas hat (yes it’s up there again this year, it’s a perennial favourite) and a rather glum-looking wooden Father Christmas.

A lot of our Christmas ornaments are from abroad. Some of the most charming ones have come from the Trade Aid shop. This year I added a tiny guitar playing cherub from South America to our collection.

When one of my daughters made her first overseas trip to Europe she brought back a box full of cute little straw ornaments from Germany. These traditional folk art decorations are symbolic of the straw in the manger in which Jesus was born.

Later she worked in India for a few years and started a micro-enterprise where some local women could earn money from making little felt monsters and creatures. The sequinned yellow bird hanging from the tree was one of them. She also brought home Kashmiri Christmas stars from a tiny shop in Mussoorie. These were made out of paper mache and exquisitely hand-painted.

My best friend Hilary and I used to go on an all-day pre-Christmas shopping expedition each year. We always spent as much time in cafes and a wine bar as looking for gifts. Once we bought each other a Christmas angel. Sadly she is no longer with us, and it’s at this time of year that I especially miss her, but such good memories remain.

I am not sure which of the angels on our Christmas tree was the one she chose for me as there has a been a proliferation of angels since then. At least half a dozen have alighted on our Christmas tree this year.

When I was a child we had hardly any Christmas decorations. But we did have real candles clipped onto the branches of our tree which symbolised Christ as the light of the world and was part of our Dutch heritage. When they were lit in the evening their soft flickering light was just magical. A bucket of water alongside meant that any fire could be quickly doused.  Even so it was rather risky and I would never do it now.

Unlike many other people these days we don’t want to replace our Christmas tree with an artificial one. But is this good for the environment or are we being selfish? There are arguments for and against. I take heart from an article in the Guardian newspaper by Carolyn Fry who wrote:

“The first decision is whether to opt for a real or artificial tree. A faux tree may keep its needles intact, but will probably be made from a petroleum-based product and may well have been flown in from China. Among the materials commonly used in the manufacture of artificial trees are PVC, polyurethane foam and steel. Although you may reuse it for several years, if your tree is not recyclable the chances are it will eventually linger for centuries in a land-fill site”

The other alternative would be to grow a Christmas tree sapling in a pot and bring it inside once a year. But lifting it (in its pot) would undoubtedly put our old backs out! So we have a sound excuse for buying and decorating a real Christmas tree for a few years yet.

I would love some of you to take a walk down memory lane and share some of the stories about your Christmas Decorations.

By Lyn Potter

Lyn is an Avid Traveller (both local and international), always with a camera at the ready.

Read more by Lyn here.