If Christmas was part of your childhood and your memories of it are generally positive, you’ll probably look to replicate what you can of Christmas past when you’re all grown up. For me, a favourite memory is lying down and looking up through the boughs of my parents’ Christmas tree, with red and green lights casting a glow on the ornaments, and breathing in the pine scent. I’m not sure if I did this before or after seeing Pluto’s Christmas Tree, a 1952 Disney short (you can watch it in full here — thanks, YouTube), where Mickey Mouse and his dog are thwarted in trimming their tree by the chipmunks inside it. Watching Chip and Dale leap about, loosening lights and stealing ornaments, I was sure nothing could be better than living inside a Christmas tree, and I always imagined myself as one of them when I peeked through the branches every year.
So it’s extra strange that, this year, I’ve bought my family’s first ever fake Christmas tree. I’m stunned at how happy I am with it. There is no scent of pine. Its boughs are too thickly woven to see up through. It’s unnervingly symmetrical. But even with all its conical artificiality, I dig this tree. So many things about it save me time and hassle, this year and in future Christmasses, and so it hits the bulls’ eye for me.
It has great clearance at the bottom for presents; our old real trees have been so crowded at the bottom that presents spilled far into the room. Its shape may be too perfect, but it reaches to the ceiling while keeping to its corner, and I don’t miss the real trees that thrust their fat rumps into the room, begging to have needles knocked off. The kids love the tree’s tall twinklyness, and with the “night” setting on my Fuji, I can capture endless Disneyesque, inside-the-tree shots. Most important, I’ve avoided hacking down a young tree to create a decoration that is only briefly perfect. This tree will last, and I am already appreciating how fresh and festive it still looks after 10 days. With all its Christmasy aroma, the real tree and its slow death inside the house is a downer, and the decline is visible so quickly, even with TLC. And did I mention we’re not running the vacuum cleaner every day to erase signs of decay? Plus, no more two-hour tree-hunting trips in December, the month when I can least spare the time.
Instead maybe I’ll get to spend a few hours in December as many other gardeners do, laying plans for the next season. My mother phoned from Boston yesterday to say she had sent us some money for Christmas, so I found myself in Dobbies this afternoon with a budget in mind and a list in hand. I now have the essential ingredients for The Eatin’ Project, as I’m calling my first proper attempt at growing vegetables in a 1m x 1.2m raised bed. I have been rubbish at growing vegetables but I will make it happen this year. If I teach my kids nothing else about the garden, it should be basic skills about how to turn seeds into food, just in case the climate goes to hell sooner than we think and commercial agriculture simply can’t support us all. If I invest five or 10 years making all my mistakes now, maybe I can help them get a better start.
Merry Christmas to all.