One of my favourite childhood activities was to decorate a fresh Christmas tree each year. Back then there were no fancy tree holders so my dad would make use of one of his old cement buckets and a couple of bricks. Given we picked the biggest tree we could find, getting the thing straight was a pointless struggle that usually only resulted in my Dad swearing under his breath. Once five kids were done decorating the tree, it’s safe to say it looked like a dog’s breakfast. There were polystyrene balls with sequins pinned into it, shedding tinsel, school projects and candy coloured lights. The Kelpie Cross would roam beneath the lower branches, pulling off baubles, and the angel had seen better days but the smell and the ritual was intoxicating; Christmas was officially here. Perhaps I’m being too sentimental but I recently read the following in an interiors magazine and felt a huge sense of disappointment:
Call me uncharitable, but most kindy projects are time-filler activities and don’t reflect the kid’s drawing and design skills, or creativity. And what on earth is the point of one (crappy) macaroni trinket in the middle of my (imaginary) Christmas-catalogue perfect-family-life tree? If you must entertain the kids, just have two trees. It’s just like having two bathrooms – there’s the one that gets down and dirty, and then there’s the pretty one.
I get it’s a little tongue in cheek and I’m happy to ignore the over-consumption that is needing two trees because this is an interiors magazine and I know of people who decorate their entire house with them. I probably would too if I was given half the chance but it’s enough that my husband begrudgingly carries one live tree home while he breaks out in hives from the pine needles and I shout “Huntsman!” at various intervals.
It’s the separation of your kids from something I assumed was a family activity that bothers me. Here kids, you go over there and make a mess while I create a Myer window. It feels symptomatic of a wider western trend where children and the elderly aren’t always included.
As much as I’d like a home that looks like it just stepped out of Vogue Living, it’s not going to happen because children make a mess. It’s what they do best. And when it comes to Christmas, they’re the ones who still believe in Santa. For the past few years I’ve dealt with the internal conflict of letting my kid’s go crazy with the tree and still wanting it to look okay but this year, I’m out. I’m an adult who loves Christmas and the smell of fresh pine but it’s time I passed the mantel to my kids. I’ll take a dog’s breakfast tree and children blessed with fond memories over a perfect tree any day.