Christmas Trees

We put up our Christmas tree this afternoon.

Until we had children, we never bothered with a Christmas tree. There didn’t seem much point. The year Chatterboy was born, we bought  a little completely artificial tree made out of fibre optics. But the year he turned two we decided that we had to start taking it seriously.

Both of us had come from families where Christmas trees are natural. Growing up, I used to have real candles on our tree, with a bucket of sand close by in case of fire (particularly dangerous the closer you got to Christmas as the tree gradually died out). I did love the romance of those flickering candles, but the stress involved in worrying about the fire risk, particularly once the temperature got over 30 degrees, didn’t seem worth it once I would be responsible.

Mr Penguin spent most of his childhood in the UK, where his family’s trees were often real ones that were later planted in the backyard. We discovered, on talking about it, that the pine tree you get here in Australia looks quite different from the standard tree in the UK – the branches are shaped differently – so the Christmas trees (dead branches of pine trees) you can buy here in Australia didn’t really say Christmas to him.

So because what we would get if we went the natural route was a dead pine tree branch that was a southern hemisphere species anyway, we decided on balance to go for a plastic tree that at least looked like something out of a fairy tale.

Christmas in Australia is a weird mishmash of winter and summer things. I don’t feel that bad deciding to make my Christmas tree look more authentic by giving away some semblence of nature. I do miss the smell, though.

So our new tradition, that we are developing year by year, is to have a ceremonial decoration of the tree the first weekend in December. We went out and bought a whole lot of really cheap ornaments the year we first bought the tree (three years ago now), and every year we buy or get given three or four really nice ones so that gradually we’ll have a whole lot of nice ones.

This kind of approach doesn’t get you a Martha Stewart type tree. It’s a tree with decorations that don’t necessarily match each other, that could be lopsided as everyone competes to put the decorations in the best spot. But it’s an approach that creates a family tree, that satisfies our audience. Chatterboy said tonight as we were finishing by turning the lights on, “that’s the most beautiful Christmas tree in the whole world.” Higher praise does not exist.

  5 comments for “Christmas Trees

  1. December 2, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Our tree goes up tomorrow and the kids and I have this tradition we invented about 4 years ago – the day we put the tree up we go to the shops and buy one new decoration each. This takes my son and I two minutes; after half an hour my daughter is still agonising over which decoration to buy. But that’s OK; even that has become part of the tradition

  2. December 3, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    I’m with you on the not-having-done-a-tree-before-kids approach. We’re actually not having a tree this year, due to a long Christmas trip, and my daughter is really bummed out about it. But I can’t see getting one when we’ll be gone for eight days, including Christmas itself.

  3. December 4, 2006 at 7:17 am

    Oh hell. We haven’t got our tree yet. We haven’t cleared a space for it, we haven’t checked if the lights I stood on last year are still working, we haven’t got any decorations…Just whose bright idea was Christmas, anyway?

  4. December 5, 2006 at 8:42 am

    Your tree sounds like the one we had at home when I was a kid. It had such a mix of decorations, all from different years and places, but each one told a story.

    Our family was a bit odd in that we put our decorations up on Christmas Eve and took them down on New Year’s Day. I have a feeling my Grandma started it. I used to laugh about it but now I can see myself falling into the same pattern… it’s become like a tradition!

    I have a tiny artificial tree I bought in Japan along with a motley crew of decorations and we’ll probably use those this year. Kiko is showing strong interest in the Christmas decorations in the shops but I dread to think what he would do with a proper Christmas tree. Maybe next year… or the year after…

    Oh – in UK (Scotland) we used to plant our Christmas tree in the garden but it always died. It got a bit sad and eventually we bought an artificial one. You miss out on the smell with an artificial one but at least there’s no mess!

  5. December 6, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Even with a real tree, we use various Christmas-y candles to enhance the aromas. There are tons and tons of good options here, hopefully there, too!

    I’ve read it’s actually quite stressful for trees to be potted and then transplanted in that way, so don’t feel bad about going artificial, they can do amazing things now (and oh the pre-stringed lights: perfect).

Comments are closed.