My family and I always get a real Christmas tree. This term is always confusing, because it suggests that others are imaginary, but you know what I mean.
The reason we get a real tree is because I was brought up in a household that always had one. I still remember the untouchable excitement of Christmas as a child, and many of those memories are interwoven with the smells, sights and feel of those trees.
There is something about bringing a piece of the outdoors in that I love. The Pagan rituals of embracing nature in order to celebrate, and sprinkling our houses with lights to chase away the shadows of mid-winter, are so simple. They hark back to centuries past, and traditions that have been bound up with the ribbons of time.
Christmas always brings with it a pervading sweetness of melancholy. The haunting tune of carols and the echo of twilight churches, perhaps the loss of someone we love during the year, and the coming together of our communities in mutual celebration of the season. These are a heady mix.
The smell of a real tree, the memories that we attach to each decoration, and the guileless joy of children, combine to make Christmas a time like no other. Whether you are a Christian or not, you can’t deny that a ritual that brings together people who barely make eye contact the rest of the year, must be a positive one.
This year, my family and I have done something that I have wanted to do since I was a child – we found a Christmas tree plantation, and travelled there to choose our own tree, growing in the field.
We drove to Fordingbridge on a Sunday morning and gathered with other families who were doing likewise. The thrill of wandering in amongst so many trees, and knowing that we could pick the one we wanted, to take home and string our memories upon, was so special. I hope to make this an annual tradition. One that our girls will recall when they are old, and we are gone.
The spangle of twinkling lights, the redness of the berry against the forest holly green, and an angel high upon the top most branch. Smiles from strangers on the street, wishes for peace on earth, meals enjoyed with our nearest and our dearest, and the all-encompassing love of our parents and families. This, for me, is Christmas.
First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 16th December 2014.