I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find a few sad Christmas trees around this year. After all, it’s been a tough year, and when you really think about it, Christmas trees are a mirror, or reflection, of ourselves and what’s going on both inside our heads, and in the world around us. A blank, green canvas, either real or fake, where we plaster bits of ourselves in the form of bright lights, jewelled ornaments, and perhaps even rustic relicts made when we were kids, along with contributions by our own kids and grandchildren, if we have them.
While our tree could well be described as “Rafferty’s Rules” or cluttered eclectic with loads of “character”, there are others who are clearly much more particular and their tree has to be perfect, and might, for example, have a very strict colour scheme. Of course, I admire these trees. Who wouldn’t?! However, I’m pretty sure these are the very same infuriating people who always coloured in between the lines when they were kids, and now throw out their own kids’ Christmas craft. It might not be perfect or ostentatious, but there’s nothing more personal and meaningful than anything handmade.
Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the best Christmas tree. Rather, I’m here to talk about the worst.
This wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do.
Rather, it was thrust upon me when I was out shopping, and I came across this poor Christmas tree parked outside Coles in front of the public toilets. While, as you can see, it did have a few decorations, there were no lights and it looks like it’s just been pulled straight out of storage, and stuck out on display without much spit and polish.
I thought this tree had taken out the honours for the worst Christmas tree I’d seen in 2020. Then, Geoff showed me a picture of his work Christmas tree. It was a strong rival, especially when you know that they’re going through a difficult restructure and there are voluntary and not so voluntary redundancies, which is particularly hard at this time of year. Indeed, if this tree could speak, it could well sound like Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch: “You’d be a grouch, too, if you lived in a trash can!”
However, some are more particular than others, and have a rigid colour scheme. Personally, I’m pretty sure these are the very same people who always coloured-in between the lines, and didn’t scribble back at school. All the decorations have to be red, purple for example. On the other hand, our Christmas tree is “cluttered eclectic” like the house. We have always had a real tree. However, being able to go outside much at all last December due to the choking bush fire smoke, I was too late to get a real tree and was mighty grateful to pick up a fake one for $10.00 at the local charity shop. The tree looked bad last year, but it looks even worse this year. However, what with renovating the loungeroom and rumblings of Covid, we didn’t get the tree up until Christmas Eve, and it looks so bad, that it won’t be up long after New Year’s. Indeed, to be perfectly honest with you, our tree could use a huge, brown paper bag to stick over it’s head.
However, as much as our Christmas tree is visually challenged, as the saying goes, there’s always someone worse off, and I’m not sure whether to award the prize to Geoff’s work Christmas tree, or to a Christmas tree spotted outside the supermarket and the public toilets.
Meanwhile, there’s our tree.
Meanwhile, our Christmas tree is a case of people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Our family has always had a real tree. Over the years, my dad’s waxed so lyrically about the scent of the tree in his usually Basil Faulty style (he used to be a close ringer for actor John Cleese), that going fake felt like selling my soul to the devil.
However, the lead up to Christmas 2019 and 2020 hit us hard. Last year, we had the extreme Australian bushfires known colloquially as the “Black Summer”. Although we live well beyond the fire zone, the air here was choking with smoke and with my lung issues, I had to stay in the air-conditioned loungeroom or I couldn’t breathe. It was dire. There were some clear days, which finally allowed me to venture down to the local shops to look for a real tree. By then, however, they’d all sold out and we were excited and thankful to find a $20.00 fake one at the local charity shop. It wasn’t fantastic, and it certainly didn’t have that fresh pine scent which sends my Dad into a spin. However, at least it was green, and we could hang our precious ornaments from it.
Fast-forwarding to 2020, we had a different problem. We found ourselves hosting Christmas for the first time, and while it was only my Mum and Dad, I still wanted the house to be festive and somewhat “neat and tidy”. This was a very tall order, but it pushed us through all sorts of incredible levels of pain, sacrifice and frustration. After finally getting rid of the old piano in the loungeroom, what was meant to be replacing the dingy old carpet with a floating floor, ended up with guttering the room and a massive paint job. Also, with the piano gone, we’ve lost our convenient display and storage unit, leaving a lot of homeless flotsam and jetsam out on the loose. Moreover, while Geoff was working, I started what became a significant purge of books and the clearing of the back room to the point where we’ve moved tables and lounges around and it’s now got a couch and a teenager out there much of the time. The speed of this progress has been an absolute miracle!
All this work didn’t leave much time for Christmas trees, and the night before Christmas, the sad and sorry fake was brought down out of storage, and the teenager who’d once insisted on taking over decorating the Christmas tree (more precision and perfection required), now had to be coerced out of a “why bother” state of mind. I couldn’t blame her. In its naked state, the tree really could’ve used a bag over its head.
Meanwhile, I came across a beautiful Christmas window display at our local bookshop, and wondered whether I should claim it as our own…
No matter where you are, Christmas 2020 didn’t feature on your Santa list, but it’s been sobering, reflective and it’s got us thinking about what really matters and how we live our lives. What’s important, and what we can go without. So, in this sense as long as we have our nearest and dearest and community among and around us, the rest doesn’t really matter. Indeed, I might even appreciate mediocre attempts to create a bit of Christmas cheer and paint a smile on what initially appeared to be a couple of sad Christmas trees.
How is your Christmas shaping up? Ours is now done and dusted, but that’s another post.
Best wishes and a Merry and blessed Christmas,
PS In hindsight, I should’ve covered our Christmas tree in toilet paper this year…a homage to 2020 and also to my youth.