I’m not really one to over-do Christmas decorations – I do have a twinkling tree bedecked with tinsel and ornaments and lights and topped with this cute little fairy, and I like to add a bit of extra festive frippery to the fireplace – well, across the top of the mantelpiece, to be exact. Most of our Christmas decorations in this house have been collected one by one (or group by group) over the years and part of the fun when putting them all together each Christmas is remembering the where and when and how and why we bought them, or were given them, or made them ourselves for that matter!
I remember us buying this little fairy one year after Christmas, in the sales – she was sitting all alone in a sea of random leftover tree ornaments at knock-down prices but still she was smiling, so we paid 50p for her and took her home with us and have loved her ever since. At the time we lived in a small flat so didn’t even have the room to put up a proper tree, instead we just decorated the sideboard with the odd personally-chosen ornament or two, a practice which of course expanded every year as we built up our very own collection of bargain basement Christmas remnants so that today we have a unique festive family of ornamental misfits that seems to suit us very well.
So I suppose looking back over the years, many of my favourite festive memories are linked to the individual Christmas decorations I have known and loved at any given time. Every Christmas my sister still hangs a small red plaited fabric wreath I made for her decades ago, even before her children were born. My youngest daughter still hangs the larger green version we used to have ourselves when she was growing up. In fact she also still has the green candles shaped like Christmas trees from her childhood I bought one year and didn’t ever have the heart to burn. They’ve faded a bit in colour, but have now become part of her family tradition, taking over from ours.
The Christmas decorations I remember from my childhood in the 1960s were mostly made from coloured crepe paper, concertinaed bells and baubles and long magical chains that unfurled to festoon the ceiling like the trim on a frothy petticoat. We always had a real tree, too, that stood precariously propped up in a bucket and smelled of pine resin and shed little needles all over the carpet for the duration. On the tree there were very fragile glass baubles and more robust plastic versions that shimmered and shone, along with multi-coloured fairy lights and feathery silvery tinsel. We had a fairy for the top of the tree then, too, with plastic head and arms and body and painted hair and a long white lacy dress and stiffened underskirt that covered her lack of legs!
I know many people choose to change their Christmas decorations along with their room decor, or go for particular fashionable colour themes, but I must admit I’m not one of them. Much of my modest collection tends to stay the same year after year. Most are traditional white or red or green or silver or gold or combinations thereof, and they don’t so much match as go together in a kind of eclectic, organic mish-mash of memories that make me smile. Some things inevitably come and go, depending on circumstance, and some things stay the course. And I kind of like it that way, it’s less about aiming for a perfect ideal and more about simply making the most of what is in front of me and loving the reality of the result regardless :-).