‘Christmas is a box of tree ornaments that have become part of the family.’
– Charles Schulz
Today’s image: the ornament
What is this urge to decorate? But we decorated long before Christianity, and we as humans do so across many faiths and cultures. We decorate for a number of reasons. In terms of the Christmas tree, yes, there is a heritage of prayer trees. And in winter, it’s about light and fire again. Today’s shiny tree bauble was an 19th-centurycandle or the 16th-centuryapple (which decorated so-called ‘paradise’ trees in Germany). And all late autumn and winter festivals seek to introduce light, whether Diwali, Eid, or Hanukkah; Hogmanay or Chinese New Year. We all ward off the bad and light the way to welcome in the good.
This year, a lot of people have been discussing putting their decorations up early. A recent article on Huffington Post noted a trend for putting out Christmas trees, wreaths, menorahs, lights, etc. in November, with little concern for convention. The consensus was an eagerness to enter the holiday spirit in what has been a trying year. The article quoted advice from psychologist Ryan Hoes: “Drop the judgment. If it makes you feel good, this is the year to do it… If starting your holiday season in August was your desire, go for it and feel no shame.”
Indeed. No one should feel shame for putting out seasonal decorations in their own homes whenever and in (within law and reason) whatever.
Our household decorates relatively late. I like to keep the celebrations short but intensely special – plus we get a real tree and I worry it’ll be bald by 24th. There are people, though, if a small number, who keep trees and decorations up all year round. It’s a bit of a trend, apparently. A photo story here, for example, shows trees dressed up for Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, and St Patrick’s Day, amongst others.
It’s not to my personal taste, but I admit to keeping several strings of lights up after the decorations have come down… Here at nearly 54 degrees north on this planet, there’s a lot of dark winter days left to bring light into.
This tells us that, more than anything, that Christmas decorations are a question of personal taste. And then there is the emotional attachment… As the Shultz quotation at the top of the page suggests, ornaments are an individual, indeed a family, matter.
Personally, I don’t understand those who buy a completely new set of decorations each year – not to mention the environmental impact. As I mentioned in a post last year, I like to put up the same tree ornaments each year, gradually adding to the collection. We’ll usually buy a new bauble from somewhere we’ve visited, as a memento of that place.
This year, the only addition is a simple green glass ornament, no name on it, no particular national or regional characteristics to it. In fact, we grabbed it on the way home from a week in Northumberland in October, from Tebay motorway services in Cumbria, where we stopped off for breakfast on the way home. The souvenir still means a lot though. Because, between the various restrictions and lockdowns, we’ve had trips to Scotland and Northumberland, visiting the amazing countryside and culture this island has to offer. If it’s a memento of anything, it’s that we’ve been very lucky.
Do you have a celebratory ornament that means a lot to you – whether handed down in your family, reminding you of a social place, or something else?
Kelsey Borreson, ‘Psychologists explain the benefits of decorating early for the Holidays’ on Huffington Post, 18 November 2020.
Main image: photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash