Although many of us are trying to simplify our lives, Christmas is a time that can be quite the opposite and it can become more than a little stressful. All around us television and media encourages us to decorate to within an inch of our lives. Everywhere you see photos of houses that are beyond perfect, with every room a festive showpiece making the expectation for our own so much more. Often I find myself wondering how I can trim down the trimmings and still have a stylish home?
We like to keep things as organic and natural as possible, and with plenty of greenery and a little imagination I think we have transformed our home this year into a mini winter wonderland without any of the dreaded Christmas chaos.
The Scandinavians seem to do this rather well with a simple holiday style that still packs a big punch. The Nordic touch is stunning; it is rustic, unfussy and yet extremely cosy all at the same time. Despite our lousy weather right now, I’ve been determined to cut plenty of greenery from the garden, even if everything is soaking wet. First we’ve had the cold, then the gale-force winds arrived and now the rain is here; but the clock is ticking and there is no time to waste! Natural touches look amazing; cuttings of magnolia and laurel, juniper which scents each room so beautifully, and the ever-present pine cones.
Simple evergreen homemade wreaths give a wonderful welcome and a fond farewell, and just this morning the sun greeted us; how obliging it was, lasting for several hours before the heavy showers returned.
Twinkling white lights add a little warmth and sparkle.
Several cans of silver spray paint and lots of helping hands from the children transformed our pine cones into simple homemade Christmas trees that are now finally finished and adorn the kitchen table. We added a couple of tiny rosemary plants to add some living colour – they’ll be fine indoors for a couple of weeks before they make their way into the garden.
Making the kitchen table work is a bit like playing with fashion, as we don’t have a separate dining room we have to find a look that glides effortlessly and elegantly from day into night. This one place is the centre for homework, culinary preparation, breakfast, lunch and dinner and some serious discussions
and then it has to transform into a romantic setting for cosy festive evening meals with friends.
The tree is the one place where I break all of my rules! First there is the tradition of choosing it, an art in itself that takes forever and involves serious words and heated debates as the pros and cons of each one are carefully weighed up, much to the amusement of the employees at the garden-centre.
However, once it is home and in situ then this is where bling is totally acceptable with ornaments we have collected for decades, many are gifts from friends. I can quite see the excitement in changing the tree each year, this year a white theme, next year a red one, but for all of us the tradition of repetition wins. The memories that come flooding back every time we unwrap a bauble, the anguish every time someone drops one, and yes it happens every single year! This one being no exception, the second trinket out of the box smashed to a thousand tiny pieces of coloured glass on the hard tiled floor. I won’t tell you who the culprit was, that would be too cruel, besides every year it is someone different, we are none of us immune to clumsy fingers! But these are the memories that make Christmas so special, broken ornaments and all, so year in year out our tree remains much the same.
Along with our traditional Provençal crib, bought more than a decade ago in the south. Each year the children unwrap the santons (the little clay figurines which we picked out by hand) and each year they recreate the scene of the nativity.
Flickering candles are an absolute necessity.
And mistletoe is a must! The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe comes from Norse mythology and the tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. Mistletoe is thought to bring good luck to the house and to ward off evil spirits. It adds a little romance, it sets the children giggling and it looks wonderful, so despite the fact that Roddy had to risk life and limb to find us some, (as it only seems to grow at least 40 feet high in the old oak trees around here), we have our mistletoe and it is hung with great pride!
I had better not forget to mention presents, the art of giving is every bit as important as the joy of receiving. Now unless you are super organised then you may well find yourself in the predicament I seem to run into every year, no matter how much I plan in advance there never seems to be enough wrapping paper. So I came up with an idea using a blank sheet of paper, (actually I think, lined or squared would work just as well), some simple garden twine and a few offcuts of greenery. I was so happy with the outcome, I might just forgo the bought paper altogether next year!
At the end of the day it’s not all about the tinsel and the partying and who has the best tree or the best decorations. Sometimes its about the simple things.