The magic of the Christmas Tree started on Christmas Eve when I was a child – and was an integral part of the construction of the seasonal spirit, along with stockings hung up on the mantelpiece, my father’s reading of ‘The Night Before Christmas‘ and Carol singers serenading us upon snowy winter nights.
It was all a rush and a dash, but excitingly so, as my parents zoomed out to find a plump little tree from one of the few places still open on December 24th – and, once they had returned and the tree had been potted and tweaked and admired, we would all dash for the cupboard in the upstairs bathroom which contained the worn old boxes of fragile baubles and other precious decorations.
The twining of the lights came first – and then the testing: A winking blaze of colour which brightened the dullest day and sent sparkles to the furthest corners of the room.
Each placement upon the tree took time and thought – and, it has to be admitted, some level of argument between the five children. The weaving of thin tinsel, in faded silver and gold and red, was as much a part of the ritual as the rest and was achieved gently and slowly.
When all was finished, we would step back and admire our own construction. It was more than a religious symbol, though we were nominally Christian; it was more than a larger tree hacked down and chunked into parts; it was a human construct which, in a strange way, carried something ancient and pagan and wonderful and fresh; something of nature and deep snow and the spirit of giving and love and new beginnings, Son and Sun, which so permeates at belief systems at that dark time of the year.
It was the construct of hope and returning light!