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.