The First Sunday of Advent is just around the corner, as both the priest during yesterday’s mass and the calendar reminded me. My first thought was – what?! Already? I am not ready emotionally, psychologically nor logistically for Advent yet, although, for the first time in ages, this is the perfect house and place to celebrate it the way I want to – with the solemn rejoicing of the season, away from all the commercialism and enforced socialisation that this time of the year entails. I supposed I have been well and truly conditioned by the two years of social distancing, but are then that, I love the silence in which I live in at the moment. With that in mind, I am going non-traditional this Christmas, not out of necessity or budgetary constraints, but out of a personal challenge to decorate using only the materials on hand or available in the garden.
The idea came to me when I moved furniture around (again) and wondered how and where I was going to put a Christmas tree this year. Don’t get me wrong, I have more than enough space, but since I don’t have my own decorations with me this year (they are in storage), I am not thrilled about the idea of having to buy a whole set of new ones either. Then I remembered something from my childhood. The year was 1974 and it was our first Christmas in Mexico after having moved to a town called Irapuato. We has just moved into the house and the shipment had not arrived yet, so all the furnishings were borrowed / supplied by the company. Mommy was reluctant to do much and wasn’t sure either about sourcing a Christmas tree, language constraints and all. I have no idea how she organised it, but that year she “planted” a bunch of dry branches into a pot and draped a string of Christmas lights around it. Then she and I sat down at the table and wrapped a bunch of little boxes and hung them from the tree. We also used Daddy’s empty film canisters (yes, this was the 1970s, so film was very much the name of the game). As a little girl, I remember thinking this was the best Christmas tree ever, simply because Mommy and I had worked on it together.
We somehow kept the tree all the way up to Easter and replaced the gift boxes with decorated eggs – which we spent months collecting. Mommy thought she was going to have a hernia from blowing out all the egg whites and yolks through a pinhole, but it was the only way to preserve the entire egg shell, decorate them with glue and sequins, and then string a thread through them to hang them on the tree.
History tend to repeat itself in a family. There was one year, circa 2002 or thereabouts, and it was our first posting to Berlin. We were scheduled to spend Christmas in South Germany with the in-laws, so there was little point in putting up a tree of our own. Nevertheless, stubborn that I am, I felt that since I had decorated the entire apartment already, a small tree would complete the ensemble, The answer presented itself in the form an orange tree that we had. Fairy lights, stars, and a few decorations my daughter had made in Kindergarten and presto! we had the perfect little tree.
The walnut tree in the garden needs a good trimming, and so does the fig tree, so I think I have my work cut out for me. There are plenty of rocks around the area to collect, so making the branches stand up in a pot will not be an issue. To me it is the symbolism of the the tree more than the routine and ceremony. I want the lights and music, without the exaggerated transformation that I have become so accustomed to all my my life. Anyone who has been to my home during Christmas in the past knows that I go all-out for Christmas, and I will definitely miss my family decorations, but there will other years to bring them over. Just not this year.
As for the advent wreath, well, if you remember the candle issue I have with Cherry and her careless tail, well you know that I will be using the LED candles. The surrounding fields will supply all the natural leaves and branches I need for the decorations, and it might just turn out to be one of the most down-to-earth versions I will have. I have apples and cinnamon sticks galore to add as well, if I am to follow through with the use-what-you-have challenge.
What will tie everything together and provide the most romantic atmosphere in the house this Advent is the fireplace. Lights, candles, roaring fireplace, hot chocolate (or Glühwein), and baked goodies, what more could I possibly ask for? Inspiration abounds. Yes, Advent can begin!