Nothing spells the beginning of Christmas like putting up the tree. But as any parent of young children knows, Christmas trees bring just as much chaos as festive sparkle. For every glowing moment of family contentment worthy of a John Lewis ad, there’s a whole world of bauble flying, pine needle dropping, toddler tree climbing mayhem. If you’ve currently got a newborn in the house, enjoy it. Because this time next year that newborn will be a rampant Christmas tree enthusiast intent on stripping every single branch bare.
Buying the tree
Wandering through a forest of cut-your-own trees you leisurely laugh and joke together. Your tiny person’s eyes sparkle in amazement at these things of lush green beauty in front of them. Warm puffs of breath escape into the freezing air as tiny gloved fingers reach out to gently pat each tree in cozy contemplation.
After a period of excited choosing, together, you all agree on the perfect new addition to your living room. Smiling in contentment, you take your tree home, easily slotting it between your joyful children.
On the morning of the highly anticipated Christmas Tree Day, the heavens open and torrential rain thunders from the sky. The cut-your-own Christmas tree farm is a mud-sliding hazard but, unperturbed, you plough on to inspect each tree, confident in your ability to source the best.
Despite the rain, the mild temperatures feel less than festive, and your errant toddler starts to howl as she desperately pulls at her coat, trying to stamp it into the mud. Meanwhile, your older child has her heart set on the perfect tree. It’s ten foot tall and has a trunk thicker than Santa Claus’ belly.
As the baby continues to shout, your husband is fast losing patience, muttering (yet again) about the merits of an artificial tree. Ten minutes later you panic buy the limpest tree in the farm, out of sheer desperation to get out of there. Obviously it doesn’t fit in the car. You drive home doggedly singing Jingle Bells as both children cry because there are bits of tree poking into them.
Putting up the tree
Gasps of excitement escape from your children’s mouths as they’re reunited with their favourite decorations of last year. The melodic tones of Nat King Cole accompany an afternoon of busy tree primping, as the log burner gently crackles in the background. Your husband gives you a loving smile as he hands you a warming mug of mulled wine.
Standing back, you survey your family’s team handiwork – a masterpiece of tasteful Christmas decor. Both your children have the gift of bauble positioning, hanging each decoration in perfect symmetry so the overall effect is one of effortless beauty.
As you open the box of Christmas decorations you realise with horror that you forgot to bin that particularly ugly bauble last year after you took the tree down. Of course that very bauble is the one your older child wants to display pride of place in the middle of the Christmas tree. Your playlist requests for Nat King Cole are overruled and, instead, Noddy Holder bellows out on repeat because every time the song finishes the baby starts to cry.
The tree looks like it would be more at home in Dame Edna’s living room than a stylish Scandinavian apartment. Closer inspection reveals ten baubles have been placed on one branch, while one whole side of the tree is completely bare. There’s no mulled wine to dull the pain because your husband refused to shell out a tenner a bottle on it because the cheap stuff was all sold out.
Living with the tree
The tree sits beautifully untouched in the corner of your living room, contributing to an air of festive excitement as the big day draws nearer. Nestled amongst the twinkly lights and sparkly baubles is the occasional sweet treat, waiting to be discovered by eager little hands. Like you, your children are gifted in the art of moderation and self-restraint, enjoying half a chocolate decoration every few days.
You no longer need to worry about your baby ransacking the cupboards, because every moment of her waking hours is dedicated to stripping the tree of baubles and pine needles, before attempting to scale it, monkey style, to reach the star at the top.
One day you experience two minutes of sheer terror as you frantically search the house for your missing child. It’s only her wails of anger that lead you to her: stuck underneath a particularly spiky branch underneath the tree, right next to the plug socket you thought you’d carefully hidden.
While your baby’s time is devoted to wrecking the tree, her sister is intent on gorging every piece of chocolate from it in as short a time as possible. She’s spent hours working out where every chocolate decoration is hung and has even drawn up plans for possible ways she can reach the highest pieces of chocolate once everyone is in bed.
Merry Christmas. Mulled wine, anyone?