Oh, Christmas Tree: Christmas Hygge through Christmas Hiraeth

Have you now or have you ever had a real Christmas tree?

When I was young, we never had a real tree. Our Christmas tree, for most of my formative years, was a plastic tinsel-boughed thin and twiggy tree. The strips of plastic drifted slowly off year after year until it really rather resembled Charlie Brown’s tree, but without the advantage of being recyclable. For all I know, the skeleton of that tree is buried still, in a landfill and waiting to be discovered by a future inhabitant of Earth who will look at it in pretty much the same way we look at the Shabti figures of Ancient Egypt. What was this for? Why does it have shreds of silver and gold on it? And what is that speedily unravelling ball of plastic silk in a neon pink and lime green there for?

The Seventies may have been the decade when taste died, but it was colourful in its own way. Not for us the German blown glass baubles or hand carved stars. No completely matched baubles, or hand-sewn felt figures. No. The tree when I was little had polystyrene baubles smothered in a fine silky thread that once undone could never be re-done. There were scraps of gold paper stuck around as some sort of decoration. The tree lights were red, yellow, gree and blue flower shaped plastic shades over white bulbs and there were two ways it flashed: either you stood there flicking the switch on and off, or the bulbs themselves flickered just before one blew and the next three days were spent desperately searching for which one.

We had tinsel, but I’m pretty sure there was a tinsel farm shortage, because it was sparce, narrow, scratchy stuff. I rather suspect the good quality thick stuff was too expensive to buy often, and was saved for Angel Halos in schools. And decorations made from pipecleaners seemed all the rage: I remember Santa Clauses in red chenille with felt hats and arched arms. I found one on Ebay this year, solitary and shining. I’d forgotten the silver beads for a head.

And we would have a box of Cadbury’s tree decorations to put on: twelve or nine squares wrapped in purple printed foil and with fine gold string to hang them on. I don’t think they ever made it to Christmas Day, or even near.

Real trees, trees that smelled of the forest and had branches that refused to be an even length, that drooped when unwatered or scratched as you passed: well, they were for other people. Real trees demanded money every year, refused to last the three weeks of a full Christmas season and shed needles everywhere. The nostalgia? The style? The status? We didn’t have any of that. We had a tree that was environmentally unsound, emotionally unstable and desperately unstylish.

And we loved it.

My tree now is plastic, but full and luxurious. My decorations don’t match, but that’s because we buy them as souvenirs of our travels. This year we’ve added an Archbishop of Canterbury, a Jubilee Corgi (bought, as luck would have it, before the Queen passed) and a Peacock from Leeds Castle. And every year I add a set of three named and dated for each of my offspring. Since 1999 I’ve written their names on ornaments as diverse as penguins, Santas, owls and stockings. When they leave, I hope they take them with them as a starter kit for their own memory-filled, magical, marvellous tree.

Today’s film is Christmas With The Coopers, a tale told through the voice of the dog. I like how Christmas means different things to people at different points in their life. And how the family gets together despite each other, not because.

And today’s doodle was a tree, of course. I chose a swirly, whirly design filled with stars. Easy enough, and fun to do.

And a great book to read is The Christmas Tree by Julia Donaldson, a children’s picture book about the tree in Trafalgar Square which, since 1945, has been a gift from the Norwegian people to the UK. Trees really do stand as symbols of hope love, friendship and support.

How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.

I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:

Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better. Lent is a season of rituals and resets. The book has small and easy ways to make your life flow with grace and happiness, which lead to more hygge.

Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human. And it’s always the little things.

And my Christmas books are all available now: 

Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is the basic, all round Christmas hygge book, with advice and ideas on how to make hygge (the cosiest way to be mindful and live in the moment) a large part of all your celebrations.

Enjoying a Self-Care Christmas is about taking time to look after yourself at the busiest season of all and is only available in ebook, with its own advent calendar of selfcare ideas.

 Celebrating a Contagious Christmas was my answer to Christmas in Lockdowns in 2020 but might (sadly) prove useful for a few more years to come. It has advice on celebrating small scale, and keeping a Christmas flexible. I’m itching to write a new Christmas book, on simplicity, frugality, minimalism and making the meaning of your Christmas more significant, but time, time, time…

If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading, thinking about and living hygge as well.

The photo between post and promotions is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash . I love the little car against a grey background. One of my plans for a Christmas table is based on a car like this, driving home for Christmas…… And the header is a photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash. Since I’m posting every day (hopefully) I’ll use just one header for the full set rather than try and find a new one every time and this one had all the elements I wanted for Christmas hiraeth: warm drinks, something sweet to eat, photographs and a way to capture memories forever.

One thought on “Oh, Christmas Tree: Christmas Hygge through Christmas Hiraeth

  1. I’ve had a real tree twice. Once it was a tiny scraggly one in a pot. We planned to plant it outside so it would grow big and be able to be decorated outside later, except it never got replanted and ended up dying. The second was a huge one someone brought for me when I said I’d love a real tree. It was huge, I’m sure it cost them a fortune, and I loved it. Gave it to them afterwards since they said they could make use of the wood, and since I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it afterwards and they paid for it anyway it made sense to let them take it. Every other tree has been plastic.


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