The Leading Lights

Tomorrow morning, Mum and Dad will go out to get our Christmas tree. This is a momentous occasion for us all, not least because we want to see if it’ll fit in the front room without having to be shortened, but mainly because it’s symbolic of the true start of the festive period. Sometimes it’s when the petty disagreements begin. Mum, for example, likes the tree to be decorated to within an inch of its life, with tinsel, lights and baubles adorning every inch of every branch. Her opinion seems to be that because it’s Christmas, why shouldn’t we make the most of it? Personally, I like there to be some breathing space for the tree – as much as I love decorating it, I think it’s best to carefully consider how you space them out.

Dad, on the other hand, cannot stand this approach. For him, the decoration of the tree is done with military precision and regulation. Don’t get me wrong, he loves Christmas, but woe betide you if you pile everything on, because he sees that as the epitome of “tacky”. I think he prefers to do it in a way that guarantees the smallest amount of humiliation. I’m not sure how my brother likes to decorate – he hasn’t disclosed that yet. Believe me, that’s surprising when you consider that over the rest of the year he’s pretty vocal about a lot of other things in our house (sorry, Louis)!

Regardless of what our individual approaches are, though, I’m sure we’d all agree that without a tree, something major would definitely be missing from our cosy nights in. Year after year this has been the tree linked with enduring images, even though Christmas has these in abundance. For me, one of the most significant images comes when – believe it or not – the big lights are off and the house is largely quiet. At times like those, Mum and Dad will just leave the fairy lights to twinkle away in the darkness. They never dim, but fade gently in and out, becoming the sole source of light for the room and causing the wrapping paper around the presents to glint underneath. The walls and furniture are awash with colour, and although it occurs in natural darkness, this whole spectacle truly is a sight to behold. If you’ve spent as many years as I have seeing this, it will be linked immediately with “magical”, a description afforded by everyone to Christmas. Beyond that, it’s also something that shapes Christmas for me specifically – and that’s yet another great thing about the whole season. Everybody goes about it in their own ways, and everybody has their own stories to tell because of this. I guess we could all fill a book with our experiences, and now December has actually begun, it’s the best time to add one in this post.


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