When I was a child in Townsville, our Christmas tree was an athel pine. Well, I think it was anyway. You certainly couldn’t buy fir trees or go out and cut them down in the forest as Relationnel and his father did when he was little. After a while, my mother got sick of all the mess from the athel pine and decided, to our great dismay, to buy an awful looking imitation tree. It was also tiny.
So when I had my own children in France, we used to buy a real fir tree until the first year I spent Christmas on my own after my divorce. I had decided not to have a tree that year but felt so miserable on Christmas Eve without my kids or a tree that I went to the local hypermarket and bought a pretend one. These days, they are far more realistic than the one Mum bought. Black Cat and Leonard were not impressed though.
When we started coming to Le Mesnil Jourdain for Christmas, there were no more excuses for not buying the real thing. First, there is always a vendor in Louviers, second, they sell Nordman trees that don’t lose their needles and third, there is plenty of room for a big one. Last year, it snowed so much that we nearly missed out because we were housebound for two days. By the time we got back to Louviers, the vendor had packed up and gone. Fortunately the flower shop in the main street still had some left. This year, it was the first thing we did when we got here. I love the system. First, you choose your tree, then they put it through a Christmas tree packaging machine and it comes out the other end in netting so that it’s easier to transport.
Black Cat is coming this afternoon so we’ll decorate the tree together. The male element (as my father used to say) likes the idea of the tree but are not even remotely interested in decorating it. All our decorations have a story, starting with the oldest, two little Chinese lanterns a friend brought back from Hong Kong when I was in high school and that I kept safely until I had my own tree. Several of the decorations were made by Leonardo who is an origami expert and one by Forge Ahead when he was little. All the others come from our travels.
We try to bring back something for the tree from each place we visit. We began in Rottenburg in Germany after we discovered the wonderful Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. I could have bought the whole shop! The decorations are absolutely fabulous. Our latest acquisitions are a flamenco shoe from Seville, a traditional heart from Croatia, a pendant key ring from Bosnia Herzogovina and a violin from Innsbruck in Austria. We seem to have forgotten about Slovenia! Black Cat also adds to the collection whenever she can. This year she brought us back a lovely hand-painted bauble from Sweden. Friends who know about it contribute as well – we now have a little plaque depicting the French quarter in New Orleans.
My favourites are two baubles from the decorative arts museum next to the Louvre, the one Black Cat brought back from Saint Paul’s in London, the beautiful ruched egg a friend made me, Leonardo’s origami unicorn, Thoughtful’s king on a reindeer and the crib inside a glass bauble.
It’s a good thing we’ve bought a house of our own in Blois – we’ll need a truck to transport everything soon!