Christmas Tree Delight

Christina here, recovering from the frenzy of preparations and celebrations of the last week by quietly contemplating our lovely Christmas tree. It’s the first time in days that I’ve had a chance to just sit down and do nothing, and to really soak in the festive atmosphere and the beauty of the decorations. Our tree is a real one and its wonderful scent hits you the moment you walk into the room. The twinkling lights remind me of sunshine on snow, something I was lucky enough to enjoy just a few weeks ago in Sweden. And then there are the many ornaments, always a delight to unpack and hang up each year …

Just about every one of them has some memory attached to it for me. There are the tiny Japanese fans reminding me of my time living in the Far East, as well as a more recent purchase of a red Chinese lantern-shaped bauble which did the same. The little silver angel that conjures memories of my two girls helping to decorate the tree when they were little (I bought them one each). A crystal twist from a long-ago trip to Devon, where we stopped at a shop that produced its own glass marbles and ornaments. The silver wreath and ball, bought in the US when visiting family in New England. The mini stocking that was a gift from my mother; the red tassel an indulgence for myself from the Victoria & Albert museum. A red Christmas tree shape purchased because I felt our tree needed more red colour. And not forgetting the Brussels sprout bauble which I bought just for the fun of it as I’m the only person in our family who actually loves sprouts! They are all precious in their own way.

How about you – do your tree ornaments hold special memories? Do you perhaps have weird and wonderful baubles created by your children at school? Or decorations inherited from loved ones? Whatever they are, I hope they bring you as much joy as mine do!


Christmas Nostalgia

Christina here. It’s been a strange year and Christmas is definitely going to be different, although I’m lucky enough to be able to celebrate it with my husband and two daughters. It’s making me think about the past, however, and I’m feeling a trifle nostalgic. The Christmases we had as children always seem so much more magical than anything we can have as adults, and it’s lovely to have those memories. So today I thought I’d share the kind of Christmas I had as a child:-

CLXmasAdventIt all began on the first Sunday of Advent – whichever Sunday was closest to the 1st December. In the town where I lived that was the day all the shops were allowed to unveil their Christmas window displays (not late October like these days!) and the town’s Christmas lights were switched on. Just about the entire population trooped down to walk around and look at them. At that time of year in Sweden it gets dark before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and I can never remember a year when we didn’t have lots of snow by then so the lights looked magical. There was also a Christmas market inside a huge underground car park (very sensible as it’s too cold to stand outside at that time of year). Lots to enchant a little girl!

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A Christmas Tree’s a Tree for A’ That

Christmas tree and womenThis is a slightly idealized version of the family Christmas tree

Joanna here, and again we're talking Christmas trees. Yesterday's post was about the many Wench trees of Christmas. Today's post is about my own trees of Christmas past.

Paper Christmas TreeWe always had full-sized trees when I was little. I've decorated a few Big Trees in my adult life. But most often it's been little trees.

Most often, in fact, it's been 'make do with what you can get'.

I remember the Christmas tree of cut-and-taped construction paper in London. That was that year they flew me in to take up work on December 24. (And sent all my luggage, including the presents, off to spend the holidays who knows where.)

I taped my paper tree to the wall. We made chains from red and blue Paper-Chain-2 and yellow construction paper. Made flat circles to be the Christmas tree balls.

We gave each other gifts we could buy at the drug store, since that was the only store open on Christmas Eve.Kriskindle mart

Julgransförsäljning_utanför_Lunds_domkyrkaIn Germany … Oh, they do Christmas trees with flair and vigor in Germany, that being more or less where the whole Christmas Tree  idea comes from.  I bought my trees from the Boy Scouts, who were very kind about putting them on top of the car. I bought hand-carved and painted decorations in the Christmas Market. I still have some of those. And I followed the local custom of buying the tree just a day or two before Christmas.

I like that idea of the tree being special for the day. I still put up and decorate my tree just ahead of the Solstice.

ChristmarktIn Paris we bought small trees. Chic urban trees. Trees you could balance precariously on the top of your wheelie shopping cart and roll home through the streets, up and down curbs and stairs. Apartment-sized trees. Trees from the town Marché, only a little larger than the huge bouquets of flowers everyone was carting around pour présenter and sold by the same deft and flattering young men.

Nigeria was to Christmas trees utterly unknown. I mean, conifers are a concept pretty much alien to the equatorial ecosystem. So we had a 'Christmas branch'. We'd swipe a fringy palm leaf from the nearest scrub brush area. This would arch in an un-Christmas-tree-like way but was pretty and satisfying unless you have the unshakabPalm branchle conviction that Christmas trees are supposed to stand up straight Nigerian angel 2. The way you do it is you put long strings on the baubles and let them hang down at artistically satisfying lengths.

In the beach market I bought lovely carved angels about two inches high made from the wood of the local thorn trees. 

Saudi Arabia was a bit of a challenge, since the sale of Christmas trees was officially forbidden. The garden shops, however, just happened to do a roaring business in potted evergreen landscape shrubs at that time of the year. The proprietor would show us to the selection way out behind the potting sheds. We'd drive around back to discreetly load up our landscape spruce in the jeep and toss a tarp over it on the way home.     

Here in the US, I've sometimes bought living trees. I'd dig a hole — or get one of the kids to dig a hole — in Christmas tree 2014 3September or October. Then pick out some baby evergreen, celebrate it for the holidays, and then plant it in the ground after the holidays. Very satisfying. Christmas tree e 2015

If I was feeling less proactive I'd take my handsaw and wander up into the woods, of which we have quite a wide selection in this part of the country, and collect a nice little conifer. Best place is some construction site, one jump ahead of the bulldozers. I would think of it as pre-recycling.

And this year, it's been a rosemary Christmas. I bought a rosemary bush and celebrated with tiny trimmings. The smell is wonderful. Just wonderful.

What's your very favorite life-affirming plant for the winter season?

And the Christmas Tree Comes Down

Yesterday was Twelfth Night, the last of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. It's gone and taken with it the Twelve Drummers Creche 7Drumming, Eleven Pipers Piping and the rest of that leaping, dancing, twittering lot. If you went in for Twelfth Night festivities — the way my Regency folks probably did — you'd be sleeping off a surfeit the food and drink today

We've come to the feast of Epiphany.

In my house, this is the day we take all the Christmas stuff down.

Christmas tree 2014 4I had a small, small Christmas tree this year. Green branches in various places, but a small tree. Many beautiful presents from friends and family. Much love. But not so much decoration of the house.  (The Kid had all four wisdom teeth out two days before Christmas so I was mostly figuring out how to be festive with no solid foods.)

Today I took the little tree down and de-decorated it. I will go out in the next couple days and plant it in a specially wondrous spot at the edge of the woods. For me, here at the beginning of the year, this is re-creation and new committment and planting a tree goes with that.
3 kings
In other news, Epiphany is the day the Magi show up, bearing gifts.  Melchior, 118px-07._Camel_Profile,_near_Silverton,_NSW,_07.07.2007Caspar, and Balthazar bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Somehow I always think of camels on this date. They're bad-tempered, if you were wondering, and they bite.

So … when do you put up your Christmas tree and when do you take it down? And, like, why?

The tree

V-and-A-Tree-1848Jo here, following Pat's Californian tree with a more traditional one — the one that started it. The German people who'd married into the British royal family had brought the tradition with them, but it wasn't until the London Illustrated News in 1848 printed a picture of Victoria, Albert, and their young children with their tree that it became the rage.

And here's a variation on the tree, from much the same period. Treeked 

There are some very odd Victoria pictures in a database I own. What do you think of this one? (You can click on it to see a bigger version.) To me, it looks as if she's trying to hang the child on the tree as a living Christmas fairy!

Do you have any memorable Christmas trees in your mind?

Happy Christmastide,