It’s the scent, I think, that draws me to real trees. It reaches you the moment you open the front door. The lights might not yet be on, but Christmas hangs in the air and leads you in from the cold.
We would always have leaned towards getting real Christmas trees. Perhaps because we both grew up with them. And fake trees have always struck me as just a little sad; somehow managing to be both a shadow of and a more brash version of the original. But that is just my perception, formed from the sense that our lifelong habit must be the right one.
And there is an annual debate about that is the ‘right one’, environmentally speaking. It seems the answers are similar to others in this debate: try to keep the one you have in use as long as possible; if buying new, buy quality and organic. So potted trees are the eventual way forward.
If you can keep them alive that is. Since we got our first garden, we have been trying. And this year, we’re celebrating the fact that we will finally welcoming one back into the house for its second Christmas season. A miracle, of sorts!
I’ve done it. Finally. I wrote a while ago about my desire to make my own advent calendar – something that was unique to our family, and reusable for years to come. I came up with a plan that I was satisfied – but not thrilled – with. I embroidered 25 numbers. I started assembly. And by mid-December recognised that this was not the year I was going to finish my advent calendar. Maybe next festive season though. That was four years ago.
The latter half of the year brought with it a relentless pace. Time was carefully measured and spent. Not a drop wasted. We found it to be manageable for a season, but more a question of surviving than thriving. We were head above the water but there wasn’t a moment to take a breath.
This was supposed to be a ‘how to’ before Christmas but illness interfered with writing plans. Enjoy this retrospective instead; not only what we did but what we learned from it for everyday life.
Last November I caught the end of a Radio 4 programme about advent, in particular emphasising that it is the only Christian festival that looks to the future, instead of remembering the past. I’d never thought about advent this way before; it had instead been laden with childhood notions of chocolate and counting down to presents. At the time I was lamenting our lack of advent calendar* and was struck by the opportunity to capture something of that anticipation for the kind of future we’re trying to intentionally build in an advent calendar. Something that would help us spend time during December acting on our desire to be more kind to people and the environment, more creative and yet, perhaps paradoxically, do this all at a slower pace of life and with more breathing space.