The Christmas run-up starts on December 12th, the day before my daughter’s birthday. Lots of people think having a birthday close to Christmas is a bit of a shame, but for us it marks the start of the festive season and we all adore it. We always put the Christmas tree up the night before her big day and the twinkling lights, candles and carols seem as much part of her celebrations as the cards, birthday presents and cake. In a flash they take me back to the day we drove home from hospital with our baby daughter in her car seat. The London streets sparkled with festivity and excitement and it seemed like the perfect way to welcome her to the world.
Over the years I’ve got into the habit of buying a new decoration every Christmas. It means that we never have one of those tasteful trees you see in glossy magazines where everything is perfectly co-ordinated. Ours is an eccentric jumble of hearts, stars, papier maché baubles, twinkling lights and tin snowmen – which all clash alarmingly. But one of the best moments is when, with my children’s help, we retrieve them from the cupboard under the stairs and reminisce about when and where we bought them.
“We always put the Christmas tree up the night before my daughter’s birthday and the twinkling lights, candles and carols seem as much part of her celebrations as the cards, birthday presents and cake…”
This year we’ve got an extra conundrum to add to the mix because we moved house in January and we’re still arguing about where to put the tree. In the old place it always went in a corner of the draughty basement kitchen, but if we tried that in our new house we wouldn’t be able to reach the oven, let alone cook anything. A family row (I mean discussion) has duly broken out, with my son lobbying for the landing while my daughter reckons it should be in the sitting room. My husband doesn’t care where it goes as long as he doesn’t have to have anything to do with putting it up.
Actually, one of the most memorable Christmas trees we ever had was significant for all the wrong reasons. As usual, it was up in time for my daughter’s birthday party and she and her four-year-old friends were mega-excited to see it. But the one thing we hadn’t foreseen was the exuberance of twenty-five tiny children dancing about and throwing themselves on the floor during the party games. In the middle of a particularly energetic round of musical bumps, they dived to the ground with such force that the ten-foot tree wobbled and crashed over, decorations and all. I’m afraid it never looked quite the same again.
“We never have one of those tasteful trees you see in glossy magazines… Ours is an eccentric jumble of hearts, stars, papier maché baubles, twinkling lights and tin snowmen…”
The other big debate is when to take the Christmas tree down. Lots of people keep it in pride of place till Twelfth Night – but not in our house. When I was little I’d come downstairs the day after Boxing Day to find my mother busily dismantling the tree and carting it outside. She always used to put it up in early December but two days after Christmas the tree would be wilting, shedding needles like crazy – and she’d be utterly fed up with it. I’m the same. Our tree occasionally lasts till New Year’s Eve, but never any later. I’m sorry, but after that it’s had its turn in the spotlight and it’s just got to go.
Say Hello To Emma Lee-Potter
Emma is a journalist, book reviewer and author of four novels, including Moving On and Taking Sides. She lives in Oxford and spends her spare time worrying about the tumbledown farmhouse she’s bought in the South of France – alias the House With No Name.
December. Hello, old friend. It’s been a while.
All hail the final month of the year.
December rushes into our homes in a whirlwind of snow flurries, icicles and chocolate laden calendars. It also heralds, of course, the beginning of the Christmas season. The season of joy and frivolity. The season of mince pies and red Starbucks cups. The season of frantic shopping, bulging tummies and hungry wallets.
But when does Christmas really begin? The answer is right here. Just press play.
Yes, for most of us, the beginning of Christmas is marked by the first viewing of the annual Coca Cola advert. No one can escape that glowy, excited feeling that awakens the winter butterflies in your tummy on hearing the ‘holidays are coming’ jingle, swiftly followed by a shout out to that special someone with whom you share this festive tradition. For me, it’s my little sister and there’s nothing quite like it.
But whether or not Christmas has officially begun for you, make sure you shake up the happiness. Ho Ho Ho. Share the love.
Shake up happiness.