As we get closer and closer to Christmas Day, our festive blogs delve closer and closer into the long rooted family traditions of our bookish writers. Today Anna, a festival volunteer and writer for our blog, shares with us the significance of the family Christmas tree, branching out to beloved decorations Christmas books and a delightful Christmas poem. Sit back and soak up this wonderful segment of pure comfort and joy…
“Comfort and joy”, words, taken from one of my favourite carols, reassuring during these difficult days, as has been this joyful festive blog series provided by our wonderful Felixstowe Book Festival. I was delighted to be asked to contribute.
“look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to
A great joy to me every Christmas has been the family Christmas tree. When I was little, dad was in charge of getting the tree and potting the tree, with varying degrees of help from myself and my brother as we got older. Mum was in charge of decorating the tree and keeping it watered, again with help, more enthusiastic, from the offspring as the years went by. I missed one family Christmas tree, whilst spending a year in California, and even then mum sent decorations to adorn my American foliage and cause a sentimental tear or two.
As the years passed, my husband and I brought both our families’ tree traditions to bear on our own lives together, (we’ll gloss over the year, early on in our married life, when a cupboard draped with 2 strands of fairy lights was deemed sufficient as we were not going to be at home for that year’s festive period – rest assured that that never happened again!).
Our children arrived and brought their own magical delight and tradition to the creation of our Christmas centre piece. One day in every December is still spent in seeking out the perfect tree and dressing it, with everyone having their role to play, as it has been in all the 50 plus years that I can remember. We’ve had trees that toppled as soon as they were placed in the pot, trees that waited till the final glorious placing of the fairy doll after hours of careful arrangement, before a gentle sigh and faint bell like tinkle indicated an imminent sagging. All the family cats over the years have contributed to our Christmas tree saga. My best beloved black cat of childhood could teach Lynsey Dodd’s wonderful Slinki Malinki a thing or two about arboreal destruction; our little kittens first Christmas 23 years ago was marked by two furry faces amongst the upper branches of our Spruce, miraculously the tree itself remained upright (unlike the pelmet and newly hung curtains behind it!). Our current feline companion, a traumatiised rescue cat, finds our tree a thing of wonder and has spent many an hour just sitting and looking at it.
For me, this year’s tree has been even more of a source of comfort as well as joy. Husband and daughter selected as always a glorious adornment to our sitting room, it went straight into its pot first time, with not a wobble in sight (collective sigh of relief through the generations, my dad and my husband have been known to utter some rather unfestive words at this delicate juncture in the process!), the decorations, benefitting from careful wrapping last year emerged unscathed, including a bauble that was considered absolutely the height of luxury when it was hanging from our tree in suburban London all those decades ago. For years my brother and I alternated who was to hang it, and woe betide the one who tried to snatch it out of turn! . Christened the Queen ball, it felt like quite a royal progress the year that my mum handed it over for me to hang in my Suffolk home. This has given me years of it always being my turn to place it, though when my brother is able to visit us on decorating weekend, I grudgingly hand it over! . This year that venerable decoration is hanging alongside our newest acquisitions, a hot air balloon and a polar bear in tribute to some favourite family literature and tv viewing.
My reflections on Christmas trees and the comfort and joy they have brought to me over the years has nailed for me that of course the tree and its mix of decorations, old and new, lovingly handcrafted or bought for their beauty or appropriateness, itself embodies the actuality of the beloved family and friends who have been with me round the tree over the years as we decorate, who have given or made a bauble that we are hanging, who have stood back in admiration, picked the tree up when its fallen, shared fond and hilarious memories of trees past, school or home made decorations resolutely still with us 20 years down the line (or in some cases, 50, I swear my mum still has a silver bell I made at Blue Peter’s instruction out of an egg box, silver foil and string!). The pine needley smell is enough to evoke a fond thought about those whom I love best.
Mum and dad no longer have the huge tree of family Christmases gone by, but the smaller version that each year now their granddaughter persuades them to display, exhibits where all the comfort and joy that I am lucky enough to have known all my life first began.
Life is difficult at the moment but I would wish us all the most comfort and joy filled Christmas that we can manage this year.
‘and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel” ‘