Yes, ok, I totally get it...
. . . this year EVERYTHING is completely different.
As I write this editorial in mid-November (I’m on time for once!!!), I’m aware that quite a few households have already put up their Christmas trees and decorations, and it’s a number that’s growing by the day. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting that all but the die hard “Keep Christmas in December” brigade – of which I’m normally a card carrying member – will be fully Chrismassified by the time you read this.
I say normally, but of course we all know that 2020 has been anything but normal. It’s been horrendous !!! A true Annus Horribilis if ever there was one. A year we’d all much rather forget, and move on to the next, and hopefully better one.
And that’s why, dear reader, you won’t hear a peep out of me, complaining about people jumping the gun this year. On the contrary – go ahead, fill your boots, get stuck in; do whatever you feel the need to do to try to lift the seemingly unending gloom, and do it just as soon as you like !!!
I must say, that makes me feel a lot less guilty, as once I get going, I do tend to over-indulge a bit. Let me explain.
Every year we at Biddell Towers (as it’s laughably referred to by our musical theatre buddies) embark upon an expedition the like of which Bear Grylls would be proud. One Sunday afternoon around the beginning of December off we trot to one or more garden centres, home stores and/or DIY sheds in search of the perfect addition to the Christmas house. Sometimes it’s something as simple as a few tree decorations, a garland or two for the stairs, or a runner for the Christmas table.
A couple of years ago it came down to a choice between a five-foot-high singing Santa, an equally tall lantern that sprayed fake snow and also played tunes, and a hanging model of a bi-plane piloted by Rudolph himself singing “Santa Claus is coming to town”. And what did I do? Yes, you’ve guessed it . . . I bought them all !!!!!
Last year we were at the Boldmere Christmas festival, freezing cold and soaking wet, when I noticed an outdoor tree, emblazoned with built in lights, being sold by one of our fabulous local traders. “That would look amazing in our front garden !!!” I said to my wife. “But you already put lights along the fence, and we do now have 4 Christmas trees” she helpfully reminded me. A good point, well made – however I bought it anyway.
It’s not that good taste is totally to be abandoned at Christmas (although some would disagree in the above-mentioned cases), but the rules of good interior design can certainly be relaxed.
So . . . real or false, themed or random, uncluttered or stuffed to breaking point? I’m talking of course about the tree, and it really is up to you. There is no right or wrong answer. For many years now I’ve always had a real tree, and am happy to put up with the inconvenience of a few dropped needles in exchange for that wonderful smell of pine when you enter the room each morning.
As for whether to theme it or not, well I suppose you really should, taking two or possibly three colours from your decor and majoring on them for your tree ornaments and other assorted bits and bobs around the room. But here once again I have to admit to being a little hypocritical. My tree is a completely random collection of ornaments and baubles of every shape, size and colour, collected over a number of years from cities and countries we’ve visited, or that I’ve bought just because I like them. The crowning glory of which is a somewhat tousled silver and gold cardboard star that my elder daughter (who is now my chief designer and who runs my showroom) made when she was in infants’ school. This is much to the annoyance of my wife, who thinks I really should know better and follow her idea of a simply themed tree. So we’ve made the perfect compromise – we have a tree each (along with the tree in our 7-year old’s bedroom, and the communal tree in the porch).
As for the rest of the house, you can go as mad as you like with garlands on mantelpieces, fabulous table decorations and runners, swags up banisters, holly protruding from just about every nook and cranny, and of course mistletoe liberally dotted around and about – not that we’re likely to be able to get the benefit of it with visitors this year.
And why stop at the inside. I love to see a welcoming holly wreath on the front door. We’ve actually got a woven wood one with Rudolph’s head gleefully protruding from it.
Of course, these days you can buy myriads of illuminated Santas, elves, reindeer, shooting stars, sleighs and anything else remotely connected to Christmas (as long as it’s not in any way religious of course, but don’t get me started on that one !!!) to adorn the outside of the house. And not only can you, but I believe we should.
Let’s make it our goal to light up the neighbourhood, both physically and spiritually. Let’s prove we’re sick of the gloom, and ready to go forward in kindness together.
Just a final word though. When we’re allowed out, and itching to purchase our Christmas fabulousness, please spare a thought for all those small businesses who have really struggled over the last months. I’m sure Mr Bezos is a lovely man, but is there someone in the local high street who could benefit more from our patronage?
And in the words of Sgt Phil Esterhaus, from my all-time favourite TV programme Hill Street Blues; “Let’s be careful out there”.
John Biddell, John Charles Interiors
Live 24 7 magazine editorial - December 2020