Advent antics

Christmas tree with bright coloured lights and gifts underneath

So December is here and Christmas is peeping round the corner. I am feeling particularly festive this year. Last year, we were so busy with the move that Christmas was just a chance to catch up on our sleep, so this year I really want to make the most of it.

It starts, of course, with the Advent calendar. I’m afraid I am a bit of a traditionalist, and there is no chocolate in sight in our calendar. It’s part of our family tradition that our dad sends us all one each year, always from the same range and I look forward to it every year. This year I have a house, and each window shows a family preparing for the excitement of Christmas. It is a real treat opening the window each day – one of the simple pleasures that epitomises the life we are creating here.

Advent calendar of a house
Phoenix cards advent calendar
Detail of calendar

We couldn’t decide what to do about the tree. We have one in a pot that I have used for several years – it came down with us from Scotland and lives on our patio. Over the years, though, it has got bigger and heavier, and is in sore need of a bit of a prune to bring it back into shape. Reluctantly, we decided that bringing it in this year and getting it into the living room wasn’t an option. We had it in the dining room last year but it wasn’t the same somehow as having a tree twinkling in the corner of the lounge. So we went out to buy one instead. I’m not sure I have ever done that before and it was very exciting! We ventured into a village we had never been to before (which was beautiful. If we win the lottery, we may have to move …) and chose the perfect tree from the collection sitting in the corner of a farmer’s field. The car smelled gorgeous all the way home!

I thought the cats might be vaguely interested in a tree in the house but, after a quick sniff, Calamity decided it really wasn’t worth her while, at least until we had put some breakable ornaments on to it. The Princess barely even noticed it was there.

Grey and white cat by a Christmas tree
“So, where are the decorations then?”

There is something really special about bringing the Christmas boxes down from the loft, rediscovering lots of things from Christmases past. The nativity sets are always the first to appear and take pride of place in both lounge and dining room. And then the lights go on the tree and suddenly everything feels Christmassy. I have never had a themed or elegant tree – I believe Christmas is about fun and family, not looking like an interiors magazine. However, I would usually put plain lights on a tree and let the ornaments and the star shine through. D, on the other hand, had other ideas. He suggested buying new lights this year and picked up a set of multi-coloured lights with 8 different flashing sequences. Not quite what I had in mind but, you know, they make me smile every time I look at them, flashing away in the corner. We used the plain ones around a picture in the dining room to give that room a bit of sparkle as well. (Apologies for the size of this video – I can’t resize it!)


Putting the baubles on is my favourite part. We try and buy a new one each year (a Scottish Father Christmas was last year’s treat) but there are so many from previous years too that I love. We have one each for the cats, with their names on, and one in memory of my previous cat, who died at a ripe old age several years ago. A Christmas tree is so much more than just a tree – it contains so many happy memories and soaks up new ones, storing them for future years. A new star was the final touch (although it is a bit heavy and is currently sitting at a jaunty angle, as if it has been hitting the Christmas Baileys).

The only thing left to make it perfect is, of course, the presents. We had a lovely day last week with a friend who was down from Aberdeen, exploring the gift shops in York and buying gifts that are hopefully a bit different from the norm. We also sampled the mulled wine and cider at the Christmas market – well, you have to, don’t you! After the tree went up, we had a frenzy of wrapping and suddenly the cats started to see the point of Christmas. “Ooh, can we help? Let’s just sit here on this crinkly paper and supervise … ”

Grey and white cat sitting on Christmas wrapping paper
“What? I’m supervising!”

Having a pile of gifts for those we love under the tree gives me such a warm, happy feeling – it makes me smile almost as much as those crazy lights. We aren’t completely mad though. The cats’ present is well hidden in a cupboard – we wouldn’t put it past the Calamity Cat to find it and open it if it was under the tree. As it is, she keeps sitting outside the cupboard and letting us know she isn’t stupid and she knows it’s in there. Little does she know that we will be sending it to Father Christmas any day, so that he can deliver it safely into their stocking on Christmas Eve. She, like the rest of us, will just have to wait!


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