It’s sentimental I know…but I just really like it (to quote Tim Minchin).
I really like lots of things about Christmas, but like many people at the start of building life as a new family, creating our own rituals is part of the fun, and something I particularly looked forward to. The Perry Como-heavy Christmas playlist which is put on as we decorate the tree. Making mince pies while listening to Carols from Kings. Visiting the Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square, because my mum was taken there by her father in the late 1940s, when it was a new tradition.
But most of all, for me, it’s about the tree itself. We don’t drape the entire house in holly and paper chains – too much dusting – and I’m aware in future years the house will be swamped with Christmas tat based on the demands of small humans, so for now, I’m keeping it simple. We have the wreath, of course, and a big bunch of mistletoe, but the focus has always been the tree.
As I wrote last year, my decorations used to be all silver and purple, very cool in a geometric and snazzy disco way, but not very ‘me’ now. And most of those decorations all came from one place – Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road, round the corner from my old office – so they had no ‘tale’ linked to them, no real sentimental value apart from the fact they’re pretty, and I suppose they do remind me of the years I spent living and working in that area, but they are made of glass, and not very practical now.
So when I bought my old house, and had my white walled living room with red rug and red sofa, I decided to match my Christmas decorations to the room, (I even had a ‘red party’ for my first New Years Eve, where everyone had to wear red), and in the following years I added to the collection on my travels.
Now, at last, I have some decorations that actually remind me of places and happy times, and this year I’ve even had time to make a few things myself. Here are some of my favourites.
Icelandic felt bauble
This is a felt bauble I bought in Reykjavik in November 2009, my birthday weekend. Christmas decorations in an Icelandic tourist shop cost an arm and a leg but I couldn’t resist buying some from there, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle!
Ampelmann from Berlin
Earlier that year I went to Berlin, and was charmed by the Ampelmann, the quirky little silhouette used by the East Germans in their traffic lights (and is a useful way to remind yourself which part of the once-divided city you’re in, if you are a wandering tourist). I found these decorations in a tourist tat shop just near Checkpoint Charlie (this is the Green Man, but I obviously have the Red one too, to make sure they aren’t lonely).
Gisela Graham star
This gingerbread Gisela Graham star was part of a set given to me by an old friend as a housewarming present and went on my first tree that year.
This cheeky snowman came from our holiday in Newfoundland in 2011. I think it was bought in the delightfully-named Rocky Harbour, where I ate cod tongues – don’t knock ’em till you’ve tried ’em – and partridgeberry pancakes.
Later that year, we went to Vienna for a weekend (last trip abroad pre-baby) and I bought this rocking-horse from the gift shop of the Spanish riding school (the one with the prancing white horses).
Wooden decoration from the National Gallery
This wooden decoration came from the National Gallery shop in 2011 – we had gone to look at the Trafalgar Square tree, and with a bit of time to spare before, I’d gone into the gallery. I discovered to my surprise that nice decorations were already being reduced, before Christmas had even happened, so I snapped up some bargains. We went back again this year and found exactly the same thing – so that’s my London-insider shopping tip for Christmas, go to the National Gallery.
This is one of my new decorations in 2013 – made by me, using a kit from my Crafty Creatives Christmas box. I used items from the same kit to make the stocking below…
I also used the contents of my button box to decorate this felt tree.
Finally, I have to share with you what goes on the top of the tree: this is the one item which survives from my original silver and purple collection. Back then, I added a fluffy, sparkly felt fairy as an ironic touch to a sophisticated silver tree, but she fits in now with the new tree, with absolutely no irony at all. And the final tree tradition I have is that she gets added last of all.
Fairy on top of the tree
I could go on writing about my tree decorations for hours more – I haven’t mentioned the squirrel and hedgehog, or the gingerbread house, or the baubles and bells (there are plenty of both), or all the things with heart motifs. Nor have I mentioned how some of my childhood tree decorations ended up on a BBC Wales News picture gallery last year, which was very exciting…because I do have to stop *somewhere*.
But I’ll finish with a picture of the tree itself, with small human in foreground, and a pledge to try and blog a bit more next year (promises, promises), and wish you a Merry Christmas & a very happy 2014.