Tree’s up, lights are on. Have been for a whole week now. This was prompted not by the warm, premature glow of Christmas spirit but by another force entirely: keeping up with the Joneses. Yip, Xmas comes early to community housing and once one family has their outside lights twinkling brightly round a window the race is on. What we lacked in outside lights we made up for in the Xmas tree heat – ours being the first up takes us straight into the semi-finals. Of course a place in the final is only guaranteed by the presence of a singing Santa, preferably one that can withstand the outdoors, but I know when I’m beat.
I was secretly delighted to have the excuse to put up our Xmas things in November, something I would never dream of doing back home. The penny is only really beginning to drop for our 3 year old about Christmas (something about Jesus, who is kind of God but a baby? Like my brother? So, is my brother God?) Needless to say he was VERY excited when I suggested we put our tree up. I put the traditional xmas music on (Michael Card, much to Jayber’s disgust) and got the big box down from upstairs to squeals of delight and anticipation.
It began as I started assembling the tree and by the time I was doing the lights the transformation was complete. Nice-Xmas-spirit mummy, bestowing goodwill to her family and sweetly introducing her oldest child to the joys of Xmas tradition became Mean-control-freak mummy aspiring to reproduce the picture in the IKEA catalogue.
Little hands were encouraged to ‘Put that down, now!’ and told ‘Yes, yes, you can help…in a minute’, followed by ‘I don’t want that there’ and the grand finale ‘Go and play outside until I’ve finished’.
Much later as I gazed at my ravishing tree I began to remember when I was wee and we decorated the tree. Mum didn’t care in the least what her tree looked like, the point was that she and her two girls did it together and all got into the festive mood, warbling along with The Andy Williams Christmas Album. Looking back, most years the tree looked a bit of a sight – ancient chipped baubles, ropey tinsel and every single decoration my sister and I ever made graced its branches. But we loved the ritual and we were proud and happy of our tipsy looking tree.
At the end of the day, my tree may look pretty classy, but it has none of the heart of the bedraggled one from my youth. And I don’t want my kids to look back and remember a grumpy Mum who was more interested in the vanity of a good-looking Christmas tree than their joy of participation. Jayber has already banned me from being in charge of Xmas festivities next year and I’m thinking that may not be a bad idea. Let the little sticky hands take over and toilet roll Santas and cotton-wool Snowmen abound.