Christmas Elma Family

The decorating conundrum


Space for the Butterflies - Merry Christmas

We have the dark house on our street.  All our neighbours decorated on 3rd December, gold and white lights strung across the front of garages and the two tiny reindeer glowing gently from the lawn of the house on the corner, but we have nothing up.  No lights out front, no wreath on the door, no tree, nothing to suggest festivities but the fairy lights that have been up since Halloween and the picture of Father Christmas on the cornflakes.

We’re not suffering from an Eberneezer-esque case of the Bah-Humbugs, and we are on the brink of out-decorating every single one of the neighbours, but until now we’ve held off.  It was a certain someone’s birthday yesterday, and this year, as in the last couple of years, we let her decide whether she wanted the house to be decorated for her birthday or wait until after.  She almost invariably chooses to wait, and in fact I’ve only decorated once on 1st December; I was pregnant with Elma and thought that maybe the promise of a Christmas tree might tempt the baby to make an appearance sooner rather than very very late.  12 days later, she arrived all of a hurry.

It’s not an unfamiliar concept to me; my sister’s birthday is 15th December and when I was little we never decorated until after her birthday; which usually meant waiting until the end of term and then decorating as soon as we got home.  But when I was little it didn’t feel late; it felt like we were decorating at the same time as everyone else.

This year we’ve been asked if we’re worried about all the good trees having gone, and if I were to belive social media, we’re the very last people in the entire planet to have still not yet done any decorating.  Work’s no consolation either; at 8.20 on 1st December we finished decorating the office Christmas tree.  It’s not the official office one,  but a little bundle of artificial glory which spends most of the year living in a bin bag on the bottom shelf of our library and cake shelves.  Sitting on the carpet hanging pink and purple baubles up with paperclips has got to be one of the best ways to start the day.

I love Christmas. Love it with a capital L.  Or perhaps I should say that I love Advent; for me it’s all about the getting ready; the things that we do each and every year to mark time as we head towards the 25th.  When I first started working I would happily take the Christmas-New Year shift at work as long as I got to be home for the week before Christmas, for the carolling, the carol service and collecting the order of mince pies from the village post office, walking along the shoreline with Dad scavenging for driftwood, all the while belting out Good King Wencleslas, the magic in the light of the advent ring as each week went by, and the Christmas Eve party at Grannie’s house, which my sister and I took over in later years; she in charge of the catering, me the author, director and producer of our very own two-man panto.

Nowadays our family have their own traditions, the Christmas Eve crib service where everyone dresses up (John is threatening to go as Batman this year and the Vicar has promised she’ll work him into the story- it’s almost tempting!), heading out in the dawn to collect the turkey and then making my great-grandmother’s stuffing recipies and prepping veggies while Carols from Kings plays on the radio.  And of course, dressing the house to within an inch of its life.

And so tomorrow, when we go to buy the tree and bring it home, and tie it to the wall with fishing wire so that Pip can’t pull it over, and get the boxes out of the cupboard and find the new decorations that we brought back from the Black Forest this summer, I’m going to be just as excited as the children.  And yet I cannot regret letting Elma have her day; we still have plenty of time for Christmas (no matter what the media says), and yesterday our lounge was pink and pastel rainbows; the Happy Birthday banner I made for Kitty’s first birthday hung across the wall, and a pile of presents in fairy wrapping paper waiting underneath.  She was in her element, all smiles from the minute she rushed into our room at 6am; “is it morning?! am I four?!”


And tomorrow we will decorate.  But are we the only ones? Is there anyone else out there that doesn’t have a tree? are artificial trees letting people start decorating earlier? or is it just that 2016 has been such a humdinger of a year that we need all the help we can get?


You Might Also Like

  • Mary 13/12/2016 at 9:01 am

    Well, if it helps, this year with a 14-month toddler whose confidence and curiosity massively outstrip his grasp of health and safety matters, our decorations consist of:

    His advent calendar, which is a big box with age-appropriate toy figures and a cardboard scene to set them in.
    My advent calendar (Hotel Chocolat, because I’m filtering it for him).
    A battery powered strand of lights along the top two bookshelves and curtain rail.
    A Santa picture with stars that light up and twinkle at 4pm.
    Those tree ornaments that are capable of freestanding perched on out of reach surfaces.
    Three Christmas cards.
    And, next to the TV, a 20-inch high tree shaped ornament made of felt, pre-decorated with colourful felt balls and jingly bells (so hopefully when he does inevitably get hold of it, we’ll get an audible warning before anything goes Horribly Wrong).

    It does feel rather spartan and I’m missing the tree thing, even though ours is a plastic one. But at least you know there’s no way your house is un-festive!

  • Doris 13/12/2016 at 11:27 am

    Here in the Netherlands, a lot of people wait till St. Nicolas is over, which is celebrated around the 5th of December. But then they dive in with gusto.
    At my place, Christmas is creeping in. There are the advent candles, and some more. And stars made out of iron-beads (no idea what their proper English name is) by my nephews. They even glow in the dark, which has me standing mesmerized for a few minutes every night after I switch off the last light to go to bed. My string of flamingo-shaped lights holds its own very well among the other Christmassy stuff, which I like a lot.
    But no, by no way is your house the only one a but under decorated at the moment.

  • Charlotte C 13/12/2016 at 1:40 pm

    You are not the last people on the planet to have not started decorating yet, don’t worry! We don’t put our tree up until Christmas Eve, which is also when we put up the decorations. On the 1st Sunday of Advent we do put our wreathe on the door and put out our Nativity scene along with our Advent Candles wreathe. But that is it! And then we take them all down again on the Epiphany. I am sure there are also plenty of Christmas Trees left in your area, and I am sure you will find your perfect one! We usually buy ours on Gaudete Sunday (and leave it in the conservatory!) and there is usually a variety to choose from xx

  • Ruth 13/12/2016 at 2:13 pm

    the rule here in Ireland is up on or after the 8th (though many people do the 1st!) and take them down on the 6th Jan Little Christmas!

  • Lee Cockrum 13/12/2016 at 3:27 pm

    I love that you let her decide! When we were growing up we had wreaths and Garland up, and we bought the live tree and kept it on the back porch in a bucket of water, and Santa decorated it while we were asleep Christmas Eve!

  • Tracy 13/12/2016 at 4:39 pm

    I have a sister whose birthday is December 7th. Once she came along, there was never any decorating until the 8th or after. I have a (now 13 yrs old!) son with a December 2 birthday, and we get our (real) tree the day after Thanksgiving, because he LOVES having all the Christmas decorations up for his birthday. I think it’s good to let the birthday kid have a say in it.

  • Brandy 14/12/2016 at 11:43 am

    You are so sweet and thoughtful. Here in the US, people start decorating before Thanksgiving! It’s crazy! We always have a real tree, so we like to wait a bit (and we cut it ourselves). We live in an area with many tree farms and they are cut in early November and sit quite awhile. I think you are right to let your December birthday girl decide. I want to see photos of your decorations when you are done!

  • Anja 14/12/2016 at 12:31 pm

    We usually put up our tree on the 23rd and it stays until the 6th of January. We always spend Christmas at my sister’s house in the Black Forest where the chances of actually having a white Christmas are so much better than here at Lake Constance.
    I wish you and your family a wonderful Advent. I really enjoy reading your blog.

    Greetings from Germany, Anja

  • Anna 15/12/2016 at 12:01 am

    Hi I think it’s a good idea to let the birthday child decide too. We have only put a few decorations up and will put our tree up at the weekend, now we have broken up from school. We used to put it up on 24th Dec like they do in Germany, but since we are going away before the New Year we want to enjoy some time with it. I decorate in stages, so things build gradually. I absolutely love Christmas too! I am sure there are still plenty of trees. The media is always trying to send us into a buying frenzy – inducing some kind of panic/shortage mentality!! There is plenty for everyone. We have an artificial one every year as we go away in December. Enjoy all the decorating!!!

  • Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely 22/12/2016 at 9:11 pm

    We’re a little bit similar. We don’t decorate until the boys have finished school, and normally on the weekend of the family service at church. It’s a bit of a mince pies, fizz, carols and twinkly lights weekend. It’s not that I don’t love Christmas, it’s mainly because I really love Christmas, but like to wait until closer to the day when we’re all at home together.