Our Christmas tree is not one of the designer versions, decorated anew with great cost every year. It is from a local garden centre- has been for several years- don’t ask me about the environmental cost. It features an eclectic mix of decorations. There are birds from Mrs O.’s childhood. There is a fairy (sorry, we don’t have angels or stars at the top) made from chocolate wrappers, which that talented lady made the first Christmas we had together- she was horrified I only had baubles. There is Father Christmas, with a present, obtained at a school fair 30 years ago. There is a violin for the musically talented Miss O.#1. And so it goes on. Once upon a time we had fairy lights some 50 years old, inherited from my parents. They were eventually beyond repair (the lights, not my parents). For some time, the tree has gone in the corner of the dining room. The children have always decorated it with Mrs O. Now Miss O.#3 is the only young one left, she did a large amount of it herself. In fact, there are so many decorations accumulated over the years that there is enough for another tree (an artificial one rescued from a bin) and more still besides.
Now I am not writing this just to indulge my sentimental self. It’s just that I was struck with how much Miss O.#3, who as some of you know is very developmentally delayed, remembered about the tree and Christmas in general. I think- and this is not a novel idea of mine- that tradition is very important for children. As long as it is not too obsessive, it gives some much needed emotional security- especially for four adopted children, I might add. All three of the adult ones also in some way fondly remember the family traditions of the past, and not just for Christmas. I hope we are continuing them. They change over time, of course.
So we go on with stockings, even for adults, and they are always delivered by Father Christmas, who always gets a mince pie and sherry, with a carrot for the reindeer. Which always gets chewed. The cats always get a special tin of food. We always have crackers, and I am determined always to be the last to take my paper hat off. Because that’s what my dad did. (I have, however, dispensed with the tie for Christmas day.) Because my parents always kept the same traditions for Christmas, including the post-dinner walk: another one we have guiltily ditched. (Charmingly, Mrs O.’s parents always had a strange bunch of neighbours round for morning drinks and mince pies, being very lovely generous people.)
Enough. I commend to you that excellent blog, Southampton Old Lady, which has a thought provoking series of Advent posts. Happy Christmas. Sherry, anybody? Which reminds me, I haven’t had one mince pie yet.