Things of Winter Beauty and Wonder: Advent Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen

Putting up the decorations

You may well already have the decorations up, but we’re almost always later in the month than most. I don’t like the way that putting up the decs has crept in earlier and earlier over the years, nor yet the fact that many people take them all down on Boxing Day, or even Christmas afternoon. It shocks me, because it seems to make Christmas entirely about the run up to opening presents and then having a huge meal.

Each year, when the big box of decorations comes down from the loft, I look forward to greeting old friends. I’ve never understood how anyone can buy a whole new set each year and throw the old ones away. Every item in the box carries warm memories, from the set of exquisite glass hedgehogs from my old friend Maria, to the bag of clove oranges. Putting up the tree, each decoration is chosen and held with love. As a child it was a process that was always done by my dad; the box included a set of handmade silvered glass baubles he’d made himself. He used to work in a pathology lab in the late 1950s and one of the skills needed was glass blowing as you had to made much of your own equipment. One year he made about 8 perfect little baubles, silvered them with silver nitrate and took them home for his first Christmas as a married man. The fifties in Britain were a time of austerity; rationing was still in place for the first half of the decade and scarcity abounded. Those baubles survived several moves, but by the time I was in my teens, there was only one left, and then sadly, that too was broken.

The first year we lived here, I found a set of baubles in a local antique shop, not antique but craft made in India, that were very like the ones Dad made. They have taken the same place, standing in for the ones broken or lost decades ago, in my family annals of good memories.

6 thoughts on “Things of Winter Beauty and Wonder: Advent Day Eighteen

  1. when I was younger. Tree decoration was the 24th afternoon and the trees rested till the 6th of January. And none of the deco items was thrown away. Stocked in the cave till next year. Even the tinsel was kept. Can’t remember if we ever had real c


  2. I remember clip-on candle holders for the tree but don’t think I ever saw them lit. At the bottom of the box of decorations is a rather tired looking Santa Claus, whose plaster face is minus the tip of his nose. He doesn’t come out these days but I simply cannot throw him away. I think the tree is my favourite part of Christmas (with apologies to your good man)…


  3. When I was a child, the Tannenbaum was fetched from the woods by my father. Before the tree was revealed on Christmas eve I had to close my eyes. I remember the smell of fir needles hanging in the room. The anticipation made the sight magical – branches sparkled with candles, silver baubles, angel’s hair, silver lametta, straw angels, stars, bells and sweets, and around the stem were the presents. On Epipany day all decorations came down.

    I used real candles when my son was little, and because his dad had a Danish mother, we also danced around the tree, singing.
    Some years ago I found a meter high bendy skeleton tree with tiny electric lights. When decorated the tree looks lovely, and can stay lit during the dark evenings.
    Like in your case, my decorations are diverse, from all over the world, and long treasured.


  4. Germany changed our ritual. The tradition of only decorating the tree on Christmas eve and then letting the children light the candles made the magic instantaneous. For me the making of straw stars for the weeks before, dying, ironing and following patterns was when ‘motherhood’ really had taken its grip. Out last tattered star still tops the tree. I did embark on a programme of ‘Partridge in a pear tree’ but only got as far as the two turtle doves, not the three French hens and then childhoods were over!


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