Pining for Christmas

Christmas tree

I’m typing this under our newly decorated Christmas tree with its lights twinkling away and that first lovely whiff of pine that makes getting up early in December feel magical rather than a chore. Picking out and carrying the Christmas tree home is always one of the first and loveliest of our Christmas traditions because, for those who celebrate Christmas, unlike carol singing or waking up to snow on Christmas Eve, it is a Christmas movie moment that actually happens in real life. It happens regularly enough to be part of the routine of childhood but not often enough to stop being memorable. Certain years stand out – the first year we were in this house, which has cosy rooms and low ceilings, and we shopped wearing last house goggles and had to trim a discreet quarter of it from the back so we could fit it and us into the house. The year that Jack, then aged about eight, dived head first into the tree netting machine and we got a photo of him all ‘spruced’ up.

This year I will remember it for watching Cleo and Katy carrying our just big enough (ie far too big) tree back home through the high street, one each end, each wearing leggings and boots and topknots and neither realising, despite the almost ten year age gap, what peas in a pod they are. As we neared the corner one of our neighbours murmured to me, “What a beautiful sight.” It was, and sitting here watching it in all its finery, decorated with baubles that range from generations ago to Ella’s ‘Baby’s first Christmas’ bauble to last year’s pound shop bargains that will one day be someone else’s traditional treasure, I can feel Christmas working its annual magic.

What makes Christmas trees so magical is that they cut through the class and income barrier like a pine needle through the carpet – or used to. We had some pretty frugal Christmases when I was a kid. We were never aware of it, but looking back Dad wasn’t working for at least six years so God knows how they managed. But we always had a real tree and one with roots because mum wouldn’t have a “dead one” on her conscience. That is a luxury that a family in that position could not afford now. Our tree cost an eye-watering £55, which would leave someone on Job Seeker’s Allowance £1.80 to get through the rest of the week. Treasured memories shouldn’t have to come at such a price.

Christmas spending

Christmas puddings

A real Christmas tree: £55 yes I am a sucker for tradition, and the illusion of getting a bargain by haggling a tenner off.

Christmas tat: £12.50 down the pound shop. Spray snow, a glittery Yo Ho Ho sign, three boxes of cards for Katy’s friends, 30 glittery tea lights, three bottle bags and a 12in light up tree. Because this year’s tat is next year’s “But we always put that up there.”

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