After my last post, you could be forgiven for thinking that I am one of those Ebenezer bah humbug type people who doesn’t like Christmas.  This simply isn’t the case.  I mean, I don’t wear red clothing all of December and I don’t actually own anything with a white fur trim (that’s D’s domain) I don’t hum carols and wear tinsel around my waist and stuff, but I do get excited about Christmas.  One aspect is of course the decorating.  For the people who just hang decorations on a tree, decorating can be fun.  If all we did was hang decorations on the tree, I am sure that I would consider it more fun too. 

However at our house, decorating for Christmas involves, lifting, hanging, moving, retrieving, arguing and the implementation of a very in-your-face more-is-more policy.  Basically, by the time we have finished decorating, it looks as though the Christmas Fairy came by, had a look round and threw up all over our  house.  Our love of clutter has been well-documented in this blog, but at Christmas we really come into our own.

You know how some people have those Christmas trees that look like somebody took a ruler to them?  All uniformly-coloured  baubles, interspersed (symmetrically of course) with bows and/or pine cones? One perfect angel sitting daintily atop it looking smug at all the neatness beneath her?  That’s not our tree.  Our tree has hundreds of baubles on it from years and years of collecting and several different homes over the years.  We have all my grandmother’s baubles, all of ours, all the ones that my sisters made at school, red ones, green ones, ones, silver and gold ones, sparkly ones, plastic ones, glass ones, Disney-themed ones, singing ones, flashing ones,  ugly ones and pretty ones, and they all go on the tree.  There is one bauble in particular that D and I go a few rounds over every year.  To be honest, it doesn’t offend me in the slightest, I think it’s rather cute (in a hideous, straggly sort of way), but the argument has become the Christmas tradition.  This ‘offensive’ bauble (can we really call it a bauble?) was made by her hands at Greek school one Saturday morning circa 1992.  So, let’s call it vintage, it is after all celebrating 21 years of existence this year.  Anyway.  This thing is basically a sparkly silver styrofoam ball which has been threaded through and into an egg carton cup to look like a bell one assumes.  The egg carton is as ratty as you would imagine after 21 years, and covered in what used to be copious amounts of glitter but now are loosely scattered mosaic pieces clinging sadly on for dear life. I mean it is hard to glam up that greyish papier maché anyway, but the sparse glitter just makes it look more bedraggled.  The string has stretched out so that the ball no longer sits nicely in the confines of the carton but hangs limply underneath it and to top the whole thing off a red velvet bow and white flower sit at the top of the red ribbon to further embellish the whole bauble.  Essentially it looks like a forlorn testicle with accessories and we have to hang it on the tree.  This bauble – known affectionately as ‘the bollock’- gets moved around a lot.  D puts it front and centre as we decorate the tree, and then I move it to the back while she is not looking.  A while later, I will notice that it is back in pride of place, I will move it again. And so this bizarre dance begins, and goes on throughout Christmas or at least while the tree branches are still somewhat perky.  After about 2 weeks, the house is always so hot that our tree looks tired, dejected and sad and all the baubles are trapped underneath its branches feeling smothered and hot one assumes.

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The Bollock

Anyway, the bollock aside, our Christmas tree is very… busy I guess is the best word for it.  We do get an enormous tree, so it doesn’t look too overloaded – oh who am I kidding, it looks cluttered, over-decorated and sparkly, because after we have put five (yes you read correctly, five) strands of 200 lights on it, some white and some coloured, 100+ baubles, we also have these tinsel pompoms that we throw over the tree.  These hark back to the days when we had a silver tinsel tree.  It looked cool it really did (it was the 70s, what can I say?) but after about 20 years, the branches were looking sparser and sparser and it took longer to repair the tree than we actually had it up for.  D took a while to come around to the idea, but now we have kind of settled on the real tree thing, which I love and she has kept the old tree in storage presumably for when she is invited to a 70s themed Christmas Party where you have to come as a decoration.  The pompoms are a huge hit especially with the kids because they are the one exception to the ‘don’t touch the tree!’ rule.  These pompoms are so light that the kids get to play with them, drop them and even throw them at the tree, and it doesn’t matter if they fall off, or are stepped on, they have been with us since the late sixties, they are the cockroaches of Christmas tree decorations.  As a result, a large part of Christmas time is spent playing who can get the pompoms up highest on the tree (but it has to stick, it can’t just hit high and then fall down, that doesn’t count).

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The silver tree complete with tinsel pompoms and truly hideous wallpaper in the background. Hey, it was the 70s!!

 Apart from the tree, which is my favourite part of the decorating, we also have other things.  We have large plastic Father Christmases and inflatable Father Christmases which all claim their place around the house.  We have other fairy lights which also adorn every available surface which keep company with the forest of Christmas trees of all sizes and colours, which we put everywhere.  Even the door handles have things hanging off them.  I feel like we really overdo the whole Christmas decorations thing.  I mean we have 11 boxes of Christmas related stuff and those are just the decorations.  That is 11 boxes of stuff that I have to go downstairs into the bowels of the building and cart upstairs for what is essentially three weeks.  11 large, unwieldy boxes full of sparkly dusty well-used and well-loved items that draw a happy sigh (yes, even the bollock) every time they make an appearance.

This year I am looking forward to it.  I found the hardest part of decorating each year was trying to recreate the years previous.  I kept getting the ‘where does this go?’ question, and it really shouldn’t matter.  I mean, I am not talking about going crazy and creating a disco rave out of the nativity scene.  I just mean, it doesn’t matter, put it somewhere pretty and move on.  This year, we have no template.  It’s new place.  We can decide what to put up and where.  I am really excited about it.  I have already chosen a spot for the tree which we are getting on the 13th.  This means we are decorating this weekend!  It has become traditional to make a thing of it, and we get up early, put on the Christmas carols, I make sandwiches and we decorate all day.  We can gather quite a crowd.  People drop in, offer an opinion, help for a while and then go home presumably to thank the Lord or whomever they thank for these things that they are not in possession of so many Christmas decorations.  To be honest, I don’t think they would come if it wasn’t for the sandwiches, which is why I persevere with them…  Last year, my brother came over with his youngest son A, to help.  A was a sweetheart, he helped check if the lights were working, and generally loved being at the house  with us alone and the centre of attention.  At some point, I was trying to get the star on to the top of the tree.  This involved balancing precariously off our ladder with one leg stretched out in the air behind me which as I have mentioned before is a rickety number at the best of times.  I could feel myself losing a battle with gravity as I stood there leaning forwards with one leg stretched out in the air behind me when my brother calls from across the room:

“Maria!”

“Yes,” I answered, desperately trying to stop myself from collapsing onto the tree.

“We’re running out of sandwiches…”

This is so typical of my brother’s humour that I almost fell onto the tree laughing.

Eventually, we got the star up and then cleared up (which takes the extra day).  So the drill is: Friday, get the tree and bring up the stuff, Saturday decorate, Sunday clear up the mess after decorating.  I have toyed with the idea of doing mulled wine for Christmassy effect, but alas I fear we would never actually get anything done at all if we were drinking as well.

I know that we decorate excessively but I am pleased to announce that for the most part, our decorating is limited to the interior of the house.  We do not have the entire cast of Bambi in fairy lights outside our house, or anything else lit up.  Now I live in a flat so that would be awkward (and probably frowned upon by the Gestapo Porter), but even when we lived in a house, our decorations were not too visible from outside.  In my parents’ old house, my mum (an astonishingly organised and efficient woman) would put lights on the windows in the shape of Christmas trees in an operation that took several hours and rolls of magic tape.  The effect was always amazing though, so her efforts were not in vain.  Those trees were visible from the street, but there were no Santas riding bicycles or climbing ladders, or reindeer grazing on the roof or anything.  I do like passing people’s houses who decorate outside as well, and don’t usually complain when those decorations go up in mid- November.  After all, if you are putting stuff up that involves use of ladders, a crane, several hours outside in the freezing cold trying to attach things to your roof while your partner/children stand beneath you going ‘left a bit..right a bit…no that’s too far…back a bit’ etc etc, then presumably you don’t only want them up for two weeks.  I feel that one weekend and a couple of plates of sandwiches is a small effort in comparison.

Happy decorating everyone, whether you are minimalist or outlandish, and may your Christmas be filled with home-made decorations and garlands aplenty.

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