Geoff Stonebanks outlines his love affair with Christmas trees past and present.
I have always loved Christmas, going back as far as I can remember. Throughout the 60’s, 70’s and most of the 80’s, my parents ran a country pub and I would help my mother decorate it for Christmas. I probably started helping her about the age of 8 or 9 and by the age of about 12 or 13 I took over decorating for Christmas and decorated each year until they retired in the late 80’s. Dare I say this was me at Christmas lunch back in 1971, aged 18, loving that shirt, tie and paper hat!
In those days we usually had a real tree in our own quarters and an artificial one in the lounge bar. Needless to say, virtually all the decorations used to come from Woolworths! I have to confess still owning most of them now! Today, my collection of trees and decorations extends to over 25 crates in my loft! I always used natural decorations throughout the lounge bar, passage and public bar, I always used intertwined holly and ivy, some was sprayed gold and silver and customers would come from far and near to see our festive rooms!
Choosing a real tree
There’s something quite magical about getting a real tree. As a child, we’d sometimes go to a local farm and pick our very own tree from the ground, which was always an exciting moment for any youngster. The last tree I went and picked from a farm was only 5 years ago and I still felt the same excitement in my 60’s!
I do have very fond memories, growing up as a child, getting the real Christmas tree for our own lounge accommodation in the pub. There was always the debate about a real one with roots or a cut tree. These days they are virtually all cut ones and that’s quite convenient. The fragrance of a real tree always pervades the room adding a little more ambience.
Fast forward to 2020 and my love of the festive season has not really diminished. OK we may not be as enthusiastic about it all this year after the depressing year we have all had but it won’t pass us by. I’ll still use some holly and ivy from my own garden in the house. And I’ll make a wreath for the front door too. They are quite easy to do with foliage and stems you might have in your garden. The one pictured was made on a moss ring and the leaves and twigs wired on.
Generally, we have a real tree in the dining room that fills the bay window with the single door to the garden. It is usually floor to ceiling; the one pictured was last year. I tend to theme my rooms and the dining room has the red tree for obvious reasons. The lights on the garland above date back to the 1970’s and the pub too! This room smells especially festive throughout December from the scent of the real tree.
I like to place sprigs of holly and ivy from the garden behind some of the pictures in the room and often suspend small ornaments from them to complete the room decor. Hanging in the window are 2 identical macramé Christmas trees my mother made for me in the 1980’s.
It can take me hours to decorate the tree as the lights all have to be in the right place and look balanced and symmetrical across the tree and the tinsel needs to be hanging in unison! Trust me, that’s not so easy on a real tree with irregular shapes and branches.
On the other hand, our lounge usually has a silver theme every year and the tree can look quite stunning with nearly 800 fairy lights on it. It is much easier to get the symmetry on an artificial tree. Last year we had a change and I used many of my vintage decorations collected over the years, some even older than me! If I were to pick one decoration that has real significance for me, it would be a small clown made from a ping-pong ball and pipe cleaners by my paternal grandmother back in the very early 1960’s. It was attached to a Christmas gift for decoration.
Some years, I have been known to create a Christmas tree outside in the garden for the birds. It is quite simple to do by stringing lines of nuts and dried fruit, scooping out orange and lemon halves and filing them with bird food. Once made, attach wire or ribbon to suspend from the tree. This is all great, supervised fun for children to do in the run up to the festive period and of course, the birds love it too. Whatever you are doing next month I hope you have a great Christmas.