words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

What does your Christmas tree look like? Does it look like one fit for a designer store? Is it a real tree or an artificial one? Is it colour-themed, or is it a hotchpotch of different decorations?

Yesterday was the 1st of December so according to our family tradition, it was the day to put up the Christmas tree. As part of our tradition, we put on some Christmas music, break out a few Christmas treats and get to work.

My husband assembles the tree, puts on the lights and the kids and I decorate it — along with the mantelpiece. Yes, we are blessed with a mantelpiece, which is lovely for Christmas time.

Each year in the lead-up to Christmas, when the shops are filled with fancy decorations and themed Christmas trees, I think, “I must buy some new decorations for the tree”. But, as I pull out all of the decorations we have when it’s time to set it up, I can’t bring myself to throw any of them away. So really, what is the point of new stuff?

On first glance, our tree is a bit haphazard. There is no obvious theme. It is not colour co-ordinated and there are decorations on it (and on the mantelpiece) that have seen better days.

So why don’t I just throw them away?

Because they mean something to our family.

Some of them are lovely, quality decorations given to me over the years by some very dear friends. Each year, as I hang them up, I think of them.

Some of them are the first decorations my husband and I bought as a married couple, which we bought for our tiny, little (live) tree. Sadly the tree has died, but the golden bells and little apples are still going strong and always bring a smile to our face.

We also have baubles with our names on them and a decoration that represents each of us. Trev — the bearer of gifts; Nerissa — baker extraordinaire; Josh — always our little boy; and Laura — our dancing princess. We even hang the decoration we bought for our dog when she was alive. Just another way to remember her.

Our family - in Christmas decorations

Our family – in Christmas decorations

But by far the most precious decorations (and also the most shabby), are the ones made by the kids. Our kids are (almost) 11 and 8 now, so their decoration-making skills have improved over the years. However, we still have decorations they made when they were toddlers. These consist of simple Christmas shapes, which they ‘coloured’, or pipe cleaners fashioned into some weird shapes.

We have decorations from their playgroup years, which include a nativity scene that Laura made (okay, it was me) complete with animals and a baby Jesus. (Don’t look too closely at the baby, as I had such a difficult time with him!)

We have umpteen Christmas wreaths ranging from the gold-painted, macaroni on a plate-variety, through to one with patty pans glued around the outside of it. One of the macaroni ones has hardly any macaroni left, but I still can’t throw it away. And needless to say, those patty pans have seen better days. We also have angels that hang on the tree, their wings being the hands of each of my children at the age of 3 or 4.

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Once they were old enough for school, my kids became better at making decorations. We have half a dozen or so ‘Christmas trees’ that the kids made at their Christmas clubs. Some more ‘loved’ (tatty) than others. We have a multitude of Santas, several reindeer and a sleigh! In fact, there is a section of our mantelpiece that is dedicated to ‘school Christmas craft’. And in another week or so, we will have more in our collection.

Some of our decorations incorporate a photo of the kids at a certain age, which is really cute, yet also serves to remind us just how many years have gone by!

Some of the decorations I remember making with the kids, and some of them I remember ooohing and aaahing over when they brought them home from school.

One of the most beautiful things about our collection of decorations is how they trigger conversations and memories.

“Remember when we made this?”

“Look how small your hands were!”

I can’t believe I thought that was a good job.”

“Look how cute you were.”

While many of them are old, and fit only for the scrap heap, I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Discarding them for something shinier and newer would be akin to discarding my children, their memories and their creativity. Every decoration on our tree has a special meaning and a special memory tied to it. It’s almost like a time capsule.

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

So if you are at our place this Christmas, don’t judge my tree by looks alone.

Yes, to the naked eye, our Christmas tree and surrounding decorations are a mish-mash of everything — nothing tying them together and no real theme.

But the truth is, the theme at our place each Christmas is family — something that is never out of fashion.

Merry Christmas xx

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6 thoughts on “Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

  1. Love it… I can’t wait for out tree to look like that one day (although I am VERY much a themed tree girl)! A great read with a tree full of memories! More important than any fancy decorations I think. 🙂

  2. My tree looks very much like this Nerissa, a true mismatch of homemade and impulse bought decorations. I also started a tradition the year we were married, to buy one new decoration each year that was representative of our year as a family. I love to sit and admire those 14 years dangling form the branches.

  3. Love the idea of a new decoration each year. Very special. It’s amazing how a simple thing like a tree decoration can bring back so many memories and start up so many (often funny), conversations. Enjoy your tree xx

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