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Beyond the Lone Islands

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Memories of Christmas Trees

Advent Calendar / 5 December 


This is another page in my first photo album, from the Christmas when I was 16 months old. (Compare yesterday’s post.)

Mum’s drawing of the Christmas tree brings back memories, too. They used to have Swedish flags in the tree, like that, pinned into the tops of a twig. (Getting them in there, usually came with some -  well, let’s call it ‘muttering between the teeth’ - because the end of that flagstick was sharp, and so were the needles on the spruce!)

I think the tree depicted might have been inspired by my paternal grandparents’ tree, because they used to have those old-fashioned sweet-wrapper kind of ornaments, and the small “tomte”/Santa figures made of yarn; and I think back in those days they also did still have real candles in the tree, not electric ones.


image_thumb[10]        image_thumb[9]

The tree at my other grandparents’ house was different. For one thing they must have had electric candles in theirs, because what I remember best about it is that they covered every little light-bulb with something called “angel’s hair”. I guess it was meant to resemble snow. I can’t find any picture of that.

Our Christmas tree at home was kept rather strict. Mum and dad did not want all kinds of ‘odd’ ornaments in it. I guess they thought that would disrupt the symmetry of things. However, when we moved into a bigger house, we used to have a second, smaller tree in the kitchen as well. In that one my brother and I were allowed to hang our own strange and wonderful creations from school, or other odd pieces of decoration. What those might have been, I hardly remember any more. Only that they were not to be mixed with the “proper” ornaments in the big tree.


- Now this is a “proper” classic Christmas ornament! -

The Christmas tree was not put up, or at least not decorated, until the day before Christmas Eve. Traditionally I think parents did this after the children had gone to bed, so that it was just there as a surprise in the morning. My memories, however, include a lot of muttering, not only about those flags, and the star at the top, but also about getting the tree itself to stand straight, and getting the light-chain untangled (it really is a mystery how a carefully folded light-chain always seems to manage to tie itself into knots all by itself in its box from one Christmas to another – but I suppose it gets bored, having nothing else to do for so long!), and then getting the lights evenly distributed across the tree, and… Well.

The first ten years of my adult life, I never spent Christmas in my own flat, and I never bothered about getting a Christmas tree. My own personal traditions came to be centered more around Advent than the actual Christmas. I was also somewhat “allergic” to Santa/gnome-figures, so for many years didn’t have any of those either. (I blogged about this last year in The Return of the Gnomes.)

Now since many years I have a small artificial tree, only 60 cm high, which I do decorate every Christmas. It serves me well enough! I usually put it up just a few days before Christmas. Never this early. The whole point of the Advent time in December for me is that it is supposed to be a gradual thing… Just like the Advent calendar.


Sandra said...

I enjoyed reading of your child hood and the two trees. growing up our tree had all the traditional and the home made, the more the merrier my mother felt. daddy put up the tree and added the lights with mother supervising the placements of the lights. then we just started hanging stuff every where, she loved icicles so we added tonsof those and it shimmered and we all sat back and said that is the prettiest tree we ever had. one year she tried the angel hair and it made such a mess getting it on and off she did not use it again. i have seen trees done with angel hair all over themand they are very pretty. just about anything looks good on a tree with lights. mother did not like theme trees but my aunt did nothing but theme tree, each year a different theme. to each his own, but i like the throw it all on trees for me. like you, i have small now. 2 of them 2 foot tall.

Ginny said...

The photo albums and drawings your mom made were just so cute, she was rather creative and talented. I especially love the way she combined your picture with her drawing, it is really priceless! I'm not familiar with the red ornament pictured beside the Santa. It looks like what we would call a party popper, or a cracker, where you pull the ends and it makes a loud crack, and there are treats indide. You didn't mention where you did live the first ten years of your adult life? It's too bad you missed a few years of helping decoraate the tree, that is such a fun part of Christmas. But your mom was wise enough to get you your own special one. My son has the very formal one upstaire, then downstairs Anne Marie has her own tree with ornaments she has liked and she can decorate and touch to her heart's content.

DawnTreader said...

That ornament is a sort of Christmas cracker yes. I think the ones in my grandma's tree did not really "crack" though and I think she kept the same ones for years and reused them, so the content not recommended to eat.

rae said...

This is a great post!

GB said...

The only memory of Christmas Trees from my youth is that Mum was not a great fan and always took the tree down as soon as she could after Christmas: usually, I think, on New Year's Day at the latest. I've inherited something of my Mum's views in that regard. My only tree is one that Catriona drew for me in 2006.


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