Perhaps surprisingly as a designer I favour a haphazard tree to a carefully arranged and colour coordinated one. I love a Christmas tree that is bulging with homemade decorations. Why? Because I believe a Christmas tree should tell a story.
Each year that story starts with the unwrapping of the decorations from previous years. In the first week of December our children paint a ceramic bauble which we date. The children love looking back at them as they unwrap them, especially their 1st Christmas ones with their tiny hand prints.
But those aren’t my favourite ones. My favourite ones are from when they are about 2. It’s the first ones that they have been left to paint on their own and are a real milestone. Then there are the ones from when they are about 5 or 6 where they have started to really think about what they want to paint, instead of just loading up a brush with every colour available.
It’s not just baubles though. The pockets full of conkers my son collected last year were turned into a garland along with buttons and bells. My daughter has made penguin decorations from felt- her first sewing project and there is an angel made at preschool at the age of 3.
Last year we started the tradition of including miniature picture frames (it only takes doing it once to make it tradition in our house). We each chose a photo from the year that celebrated an important event- a family trip to the zoo, winning medals at gym competitions and first rugby training session for my 5 year old. This will be added to this year to continue our story.
So each year we unwrap the decorations and talk about them. But this tradition didn’t start when we had children, it started way before when my husband and I bought our first house and our first tree. We chose individual decorations rather than a box set because they caught our eye and made us laugh. That first year our tree was very small and very modestly dressed. This was our story then and is included in our family story now.
That’s not to say that I am happy with or in awe of everything made or suggested for our tree or house; there are the occasional things that make the designer (or even just someone with even an once of taste) wince. But they are included in our house because it is my children’s house and tree too (and it’s only up for 24 days). Last year for example my daughter made a wreath which was a desired taste. But this year we’ll add to it and I can see it becoming part of our Christmas table decorations. I think we can do something with it so it fits into our home. Why shouldn’t we have loads of colour at Christmas?
Finally when everything is on the tree those really scary makes blend in beautifully (some hidden at the back) and the overall look is beautiful. But the story doesn’t stop there as our guests have so much to look at and questions to ask. It really is a conversational piece with everyone spotting something different.
Go on, give it a go. Let go of the coordinated, conventional tree and start your own story and traditions. You won’t regret it.
Our tree will go up after the 13th according to our own traditions. I’ll update with pictures of the tree in all its glory. I think you’ll be surprised how beautiful it looks (I know I am every year).