It amuses me how everyone else gets Christmas wrong when it comes to putting up the decorations and such.
No, I’m not trying to be arrogant. It is just a desperate attempt to get someone to read this rambling nonsense. I know there is no right way, but it does rather depend on how things were done when you were a kid when it comes to defining what Christmas should look like. My mother was a big Christmas fan so it was usually quite early when the battered old artificial tree would come down out of the loft. Last year’s January newspaper would come off and we would then have to twist the wired branches into some kind of semblance of a tree. Finally, the big tins of decorations would come out. Not lights in our house but lots of baubles and, well, bits of stuff. A pair of sugar tongs in the shape of hands. A small plastic Spanish dancing girl (and no, I have no idea why she was on the tree). There was a plastic fruit that had been filled with sherbet and then rolled inexpertly in glitter by my juvenile hand. It was a mess really, a growing collection of seasonal detritus that were greeted like old friends every year.
It is a bit different now. We have a real tree for a start and I am not sure I would do without the lights, providing they are the flashy LED ones. I think by the time Christmas is over I have probably managed to hypnotise myself. But I’ve held onto the growing collection of nostalgic decorations. In fact the unseasonal Spanish lady and the sugar tongs have made it South to our tree, although slightly spookily I am not sure how that exactly happened. They just kind of arrived and have been since added to our Titian unicorn and the whelk shells rolled inexpertly in glitter by my now adult hand a couple of years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the opposite idea of decorating with a new colour scheme every odd year which seems to be the other approach. That appeals on the grounds of keeping it fresh and elegant. But while the Lovely Wife could certainly qualify, elegance is not really part of my makeup, while routine and nostalgia certainly is. When I strap the Christmas Duck to the top of the tree every year I know it is indeed Christmas once again and I can start to feel Seasonally happy rather than seasonally depressed, which is pretty much the only other option. That said, I probably do now need Noddy Holder to scream ‘It’s Christmaaaaas!’ on Radcliffe & Maconie’s 6Music show to be able to legitimately able to break out the bubbly. Yes, I can collect traditions as well as tat.
Talking of traditions, I learned this weekend that at Wrest Park Gardens we may have the oldest living tree used as a Christmas tree in the UK. It’s a Wellingtonia, and absolutely massive. It is 158 years old and in its early life used to be dug up, shoved in a pot and brought inside to do servitude as the Christmas tree for the house, before being put back out again for another year. They are currently appealing to find out if there is an older one still living.
All this just makes me think is what it was like at the point when the gardening staff, caps in hand, maybe suggested politely that ‘if sir would be a minding, could we have a new tree this year, seeing that Mr Ford has just done his back in trying the dig the bloody thing up, pardon my French.’
What the Wellingtonia thought about it at the time is unreported. Quite possibly it gave a heartfelt sigh of relief that the endless cycle was over and it could get on with the very, very slow process of growing very large. Or maybe it was actually a bit sad; left outside in the cold while the family celebrated and laughed around some youthful newcomer. I would like to think that the new attention it is now being given is helping redress the loss a bit.
Read about the tree https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/britains-oldest-christmas-tree/
(Although as you can see so far the star is only part way up the tree as it is quite so tall!)