Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dreaming of a White Christmas.

There's something to be said about Christmas trees. Fake or for real, they generate excitement.

At my home, 12 days before That Day, a well-loved cardboard box (bearing original price sticker from the 70s) is brought out of storage and contents inspected before decorating the tree begins.

Mrs Santa Claus is made of red and white felt, stands around eight centimeters tall with a black leather belt and a cotton stitched smile that could melt an exhausted reindeer's heart. Her partner, Mr Santa Claus, is attired similarly but his face is gruffer - like a goat chewing a discarded bicycle inner tube. By the way, titles were always a sign of respect and may mean a grander gift from the Jolly Man Himself who, according to parental knowledge, could be listening down the chimney at any time of the year.

A set of six brass bells comes next, chiming delicately, held by red ribbon bows - individually no bigger than a British penny. Older than the box, belonging to generations past, they are tarnished but still sound sweet. Their origin, unfortunately, is long forgotten but every year they are the decoration fought over, favoured by all ages.

"Careful with those; be gentle," admonishes an adult as several glass baubles are unwrapped from tight tissue cocoons. Held close for viewing, within sit bright-breasted Robins encased by a snow flaked sphere. A cold Christmas is an enigma for me, a southern-hemisphere girl, and as a child the fragile globes created a sense of wonder at how others celebrate this season around the world.

Next are the handmade ornaments; clay slabs painted by five-year-old fingers in their first year at school. Unglazed, unfired, rustic and rudimentary. The parents' favourite of course. Tinsel coils are then unrolled, loop by fraying loop. A sparkling array of green and blue strategically positioned on scratchy pine branches. They've seen better years but this tree is themed by tradition, rather than colour or cost. It is a family ritual, an event.

Candy canes come last, almost as an afterthought, but before them is the celebrity of the show. My family is not of a particular faith, believing a star is what wishes can be made on, whether shooting across a night sky or placed at the top of an evergreen. It is a symbol of hope and togetherness, which is important - because this year there will be no decorating the tree for me.

There will be no Mrs and Mr Claus dictating scary Santa scenarios. The tinsel will remain tightly wound, the once-a-year ceramic memories will lie buried beneath silent bells. The shining star will cast no Yuletide magic.

But those birds in their breakable orb might just fly free to show me their realm as the temperature drops by the day and this southern hemisphere girl looks forward to her first ever white Christmas.


  1. Love the way you write - so special having a white Christmas!! (it's stinking hot here)

  2. What!? Do you really mean that the tradition and ritual will not continue back in NZ in your absence? Sacre bleu!
    This is a truly lovely account of the pure joy of Christmas with family. It certainly put me in connection with my equally meaningful and precious Christmas tree decorations safely tucked away in our lockup awaiting our return at some future Christmas.

  3. Beautifully written! Stirred emotion, and makes me miss you guys more (if that is possible!).
    I would love to enjoy a white Christmas... And even though you have not had the usual traditions of the tree or Mr Claus, there is still a magic about the season. Enjoy it!