Traditionally I would put up our Christmas tree some time in early December. Even though part of me considers this to be a real chore, and I procrastinate about doing it, another part of me secretly loves this task. Christmas just isn’t the same without a decorated tree taking pride of place in our home.
I begin this process by selecting a Christmas CD to play. The music always works its magic and gets me into the swing of things. Furniture gets moved to make way for the tree. Boxes of decorations gathered or created over the last 30 years come out of the cupboard. Every decoration has been lovingly packed away ready for use the following year, each with its own story. Not all the decorations go up every year. Some are getting very old and tired. Yet all of them are special for one reason or another. The lights are carefully untangled in preparation for their placement on the tree. When all this is done I begin the placement of the items on the tree. This is the fun part as the green of the tree comes to life with all the colours and shapes being added to it. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when the lights come on.
These days this process is pretty much a solo effort but in days gone by my children all got involved. I loved those days when we laughed and sang as we dressed the tree. No matter what was going on in our life we still always put up a Christmas tree. It became our celebration of life and love. There was always an energy and excitement about this task that would nourish my spirit and calm me despite whatever else was happening at that time.
For me a special part of Christmas is to be able to sit beside our Christmas tree looking at its lights and decorations sparkling in the darkened room and just be in the moment. I become lost to a world of memories, of dreams and of possibilities. In those moments I feel safe, secure and at peace with myself. Anything seems possible.
Yet this year, for the first time ever in my adult life, we decided not to put up a Christmas tree. I justified this decision by the fact that we weren’t going to be home for Christmas so why bother. This was very much a decision made out of tiredness. All I could think about was the effort it would take to put the tree up and take it down again. I didn’t once stop and think what this decision would mean to me personally and how empty I would feel without going through a process that has been ingrained in me as a ritual of significance.
Every night we would come home from work to a home devoid of a Christmas tree. It felt wrong.
Then our Christmas plans changed. I knew immediately that the first thing I had to do was to put up the tree but … again … I took myself down the path of thinking about how much work this was going to be and could I really be bothered. I dragged out the boxes of decorations from the cupboard and sat there looking at them. Did I really want to go down that old familiar path of doing what I had always done? Was it time to do something different with the tree?
As I pondered what to do next my eyes focused on the knitted doll sitting on our couch. She was made for me by my 93 year old mother-in-law. I love this doll – the crazy colours, the fact that she has four handbags hanging off her arms, her beautiful dread-locked yellow hair. More than anything I am really touched that my mother-in-law, who was at deaths door only a matter of months ago, took the time to make this gift for me. I named my doll Little Ruth in honour of her creator.
“Why don’t you make Little Ruth your angel at the top of your Christmas tree,” suggested my sister who happened to be visiting me.
As we played around positioning the doll on the empty tree a new plan unfolded. We decided to decorate our tree with Lynsey’s peeps (amazing soft sculptures he creates).
Suddenly I had the energy to get going. Lynsey placed the lights on the tree. Next came some red balls. Little Ruth took prime spot at the top of the tree. Then we placed the peeps: Graeme White, the twins, Burt, Alf, Rufus and Peggy. I found some white chiffony fabric to drape around the base of the tree. This seemed appropriate because it reminded me that my daughter who lives in London and she was experiencing her first ever white Christmas.
As I stood back and looked at the completed tree it felt amazingly satisfying. I was reminded that change was not all bad. Change is good for the soul and it can be fun.
So this year I do have the company of our Christmas tree. I can still enjoy the magic it evokes in my being and my senses. Our tree looks beautiful. Its arms bear the creations of people I love. Even though it went up a lot later than I would have liked the key thing is it went up. All feels right with the world now. Bring on Christmas.
42. Every day celebrate. Who you are. What you have achieved. Things that matter to you.
46. Every day you can change your thoughts.
48. Every day there are things you can’t change. You can change the way you think about them and deal with them.