Dreaming of a Green Christmas

I seem to be seeing dozens of Facebook postings about various offspring’s letter to Santa and it set me wondering because I simply don’t remember writing letters to Santa as a child.  I’m not saying it didn’t happen (my memory can be bad) but if it was something we did then it obviously wasn’t a big thing.

After giving it a lot of thought I realise that between the ages of four and fourteen I was always more concerned with bringing half the surrounding hedgerows into the house.

Once bonfire night was ended the epic would begin. Gathering pine cones, acorns and chestnuts for the construction of highly complicated and completely indecipherable decorations for tables, window sills and any other flat surface that I could commandeer.

Once December was achieved the holly with its red baubles was clashed harmoniously with the shocking pink husks and intensely orange seeds of the spindle by the armful, along with swathes of ivy and fir, all lugged into the house and heaped onto one newspaper-strewn end of the kitchen table.

Here was where the serious stuff began. Cone and acorn constructions were added to the greenery and so began the serious business of smothering every inch with gold and silver paint – or else a glutinous layer of Lion Gum and an added pound or two of glitter in any and every colour I could lay my hands on.

The last task was paper chains. None of the ready-mades for me.  My herculean task was to construct  many yards of wonkily-gummed together links. It was my poor long-suffering father’s task to pin the whole collection to the walls and ceilings until as little of the plasterwork as possible remained visible.

It was a labour of love.

Now every year the farm owner went around the cottages with the Christmas Boxes for the farm hands. A bottle of port for the men and  sherry for their wives, biscuits for the kids and a huge farm-raised turkey.  All very Downton Abbey, you may think, but it really was still that way into the late fifties.

On one particular year the Guv’nor brought his daughter with him. She came into the sitting room and stared at the decor in wonder before finally asking, ‘Daddy, can’t  we have our sitting room like this?’

Given that Christmas in the Big House came in a Harrods van I can only imagine what her mother would have said, but I felt immensely proud that night. Mission accomplished.

Oddly this tradition of green Christmas was not a family one. I have no idea where I got the notion, probably Arthur Ransome or Enid Blyton, but it was something I did almost single handed with a dogged determination that I can only look back on with some sense of awe and puzzlement.

No, I don’t remember notes to Santa, but Christmas past will always be glitter and glue and the smell of greenery!


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