Sunday, 10 December 2017

Tree-Trimming with Sentiment

Being what you might politely describe as festively eclectic, my Christmas tree probably wouldn't make it into the window of any fancy department store.  Perfectly colour co-ordinated or thoughtfully-themed it is not... but there is a certain sentiment behind many of its decs.

Now it goes without saying that Christmas is a special time of the year, however in my humble opinion, it belongs very firmly in December.  Until at least the 1st of the festive month, I absolutely refuse to acknowledge the bombardment of commercial Christmas (usually thrust upon us before our Halloween cobwebs have blown away, and the remnant embers of our Guy Fawkes celebrations are still glowing).  All that said, once I do finally submit to the onset of all things Santa and sleigh bells, I have to admit that I love it... well most of it!

As you may have already gathered, I can be a bit of a traditionalist (aka grumpy old sod) when it comes to the Yuletide season. As well as being irritated that it all starts so ridiculously early, I'm also frustrated that many of us buckle under the pressure to spend an arm and a leg on 'stuff' that no-one really wants or needs, and I'm saddened at the excessively decadent acts of consumption in which many of us participate, whilst others in the world go without basic human needs!

Bah humbug eh... well perhaps maybe, but don't get me wrong, far be it from me to preach. I'm ashamed to admit I'm as guilty as the next person of over indulgence at this time of year (or actually any time of year)... eating, drinking, spending, you name it!  However, I'm conscious it could all be very different, and would love to see a way less commercialised Christmas, with everyone taking pleasure in the simple things, relaxing without worry or pressure, and soaking up the real joys of the season.

Anyhow, rant over... I said I love Christmas, and I do (when I finally surrender to the inevitability of it all) and here are just a few of the things that I look forward to the most:

Vino (of course), of the mulled variety; pimped-up Brussel sprouts (you know what I'm saying, chestnuts/bacon - nom nom!); roaring open fires; no clock-watching or morning alarms; playing Scrabble, Monopoly... hey, even Charades (in fact any old game which serves to drag everyone away from the TV); okay, TV (all those fabulous seasonal specials repeated year after year, of which we never seem to tire);  the aroma slash taste of cinnamon and cloves; twinkly fairy lights (though actually I do these all year round); the cat and dog having an absolute ball with the discarded gift wrap; Netflix binging; guilt-free-pre-noon-fizz-sipping; silly PJs, jumpers, socks; mince pies; festive tunes - from Fairytale of New York, to absolutely anything Michael Buble; uninterrupted time with loved-ones (cliché but true); and of course, the ceremonious decoration of the ultimate Christmas tradition... the treeeee!

Now I realise some folk like everything to match, to co-ordinate by way of colour or theme, and be nothing less than fit to take centre stage in a garden centre Christmas-wonderland display.  However, impressive and aesthetically pleasing as they are, (and far be it from me to judge - each to their own), these works of art for me lack soul, originality, authenticity... sentiment!

So, when it comes to the good old Christmas tree decoration, what does tickle my tinsel?! Well, I'm a bit of a sentimentalist, and many of my evergreen's ornaments evoke some very special memories.   Each year when I dig out those dusty boxes from the loft, there's an excited anticipation that I'm not only about to be reunited with some very individual and beautiful ornaments, but also reminded of precious moments, fabulous times, and incredible people. Here are just a few of my favourite Christmas tree decs...

Many years ago I worked very closely with a little boy undergoing treatment for Leukemia (he was 4 or 5 at the time), and this one was a gift from him. That little boy I'm happy to say battled with, and eventually beat, his illness. He's now in his twenties and evidently living life to the full! He, and his family, are an inspiration and I think of them fondly when I hang this ornament.

This rather lovely pair has emerged from the loft year after year for quite some time now -  made by the 'kids' (now 23 and 25), before they grew up into the wonderful adults they are today. All glitter, sequins and pva glue, I can still see their proud little faces carefully hanging these works of art, slowly and wonderfully transforming the bare branches of our tree into something quite magical!

I guess a boomerang is not the most traditional of festive tree adornments, but this one was bought as a souvenir of our wonderful trip to Sydney in 2016, and it reminds me of the fabulous and very precious time spent with my lovely daughter, who went to live there two years ago.  These days, she lives the enviable life of commuting daily by ferry across the beautiful Sydney harbour, and living right by Manly beach with rooftop views of the harbour and the ocean!  I long to spend more time with her, but realistically don't think she's planning on moving back to the UK anytime soon... and who could blame her?  Oh well, nothing for it... I'll just have to go there more often!

No prizes for guessing the origins of these two, the sentiment behind which is two-fold. First of all they were bought as souvenirs of a very lovely trip to Edinburgh with the hubby and  kids. Secondly they remind me of my dad, who is sadly no longer with us.  Born and bred just outside Edinburgh, I can still hear his soft Scottish tones, and remember how proud he was to have roots in this rather special part of the world. I think of him when I hang these decorations, and remember what a lovely, lovely man he was!

Perfectly personalised, and charmingly traditional, this one was a very thoughtful gift from my parents-in-law, brought back from their special trip to see New England in the fall.  A spectacle I hope to experience for myself someday!

Now these rather gorgeous decorations came from Santa's very own workshop, many years ago... in the rather magical (and very chilly) Lapland!  The one on the right is a shop-bought souvenir of our Christmas wonderland trip. The ones on the left are creations made by the kids (along with Mr Claus himself) during a Christmas crafting activity we stumbled upon whilst trying to shelter from the -30 degree cold!

This one was bought as a souvenir of a special day by the sea, and of a wonderful and charmingly eclectic Brighton. Hubby and I were visiting my son, Mitch (who was studying in Guildford at the time), and we decided to head for the seaside!  I'd never been to Brighton, but was captivated by the Lanes' historic maze of extraordinary antique shops, mixed with a scattering of contemporary boutiques.  Loved it... must go back!

This little collection was hand-made by my 86-years-young mum. She's always loved a bit of crafting, and has certainly not lost her touch over the years.  Every year when I hang these ornaments, I'm reminded of what an inspiration my mum has been, and continues to be.
These days, mum uses her spare time and crafting skills to create 'trauma teddies' - cute little knitted bears, donated to the emergency services and in turn passed on to children experiencing, or trying to overcome, traumatic experiences in their young lives. Great work mum, if I'm lucky enough to reach 86-years-young, I hope I'm just like you!

Given as a gift by my daughter (I think just the year before setting off on her Australian adventure) this cute paper-craft Santa never fails to make me smile with pride.  Little did either of us know when Elissa gave me this gift, how her life was about to change!

Having battled with cancer for a number of years, and realising she may not see another Christmas, one of my husband's colleagues made these decorations just last year.  Given to loved ones, and sold to others to raise funds for charitable causes, these gorgeous hand-made hearts contain a tiny scroll... each with a very special message.  Sadly, Mrs Crawford (aged only in her mid-fifties) didn't live to enjoy another Christmas, and it is with a heavy heart, but also with fond memories of a lovely lady, that we hang these decorations this year.

No particular story or sentiment behind these ones actually... they're just gorgeous in their own right and deserved a mention.  Left to right... best Christmas cracker toy ever, cute wooden jigsaw; glass 'alternative' angel, bought in Hamburg, Germany; jolly old snowman from Leeds' German Market; cute beaded wreath, sequin miniature tree, and beautifully crafted angel (school Christmas Fair I do believe).

So those are just a few of my favourites!  Hopefully, over the years to come, I'll go on adding to my random, and very special collection of Christmas tree decorations
 (although might need to get a bigger tree!)

More importantly, I will also be adding to my equally random and very special collection of precious memories, fabulous times, and encounters with incredible people.

Happy Christmas everyone!

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