Kitty Howie, Lifestyle Editor, decks her halls with trees, tinsel and tidings of good cheer.
Tis’ the time for tinsel, at least in my case. As soon as 1 December strikes, I’m struck with the insatiable desire to cover most surfaces in my house with chintzy snow-flake cut outs and enough tinsel to make my eyeballs hurt.
Decoration at Christmas time has always played a big part in my family’s celebration, particularly because it drew us all together: it would be a special occasion to go out on a drive to the Christmas tree yard at the crack of dawn in order to secure the best tree.
The hall in my childhood home has a big wooden staircase which wraps around like a spiral. I’ll never forget the year when my Mum and Dad forked out for our biggest ever tree – I think it was roughly the same size as the tree in the Forum. The thing was so big it had to be delivered as we couldn’t chaotically drive it home on top of the car roof as normal. We hadn’t considered that we wouldn’t be able to fit it through the front door. Or the back door. Or the French doors.
In true Basil Fawlty-style mania, my Dad took to sawing the top of tree off so we could get into the house, and then went about re-attaching it with metal wires. Regardless of its butch and perhaps unorthodox construction appearance, it’s the most memorable and beautiful Christmas tree I’ve ever seen.
In the same way decorating draws my family together each year, the same can be said of my experiences decorating our fresher accommodation and student houses in Exeter.
In first year we bonded over the colour scheme of baubles and tinsel, all clubbing together for a Poundstretcher tree and health and safety dubious fairy lights. After putting everything up in our kitchen and admiring the beauty and novelty of tinsel hanging precariously from the ceiling, we subsequently bonded over the horror of having to take everything down following a strict “fire hazard warning” letter from the accommodation office.
Second year was better – with the useless landlord permanently out of the picture in Malta, sellotape and blu-tac were liberally applied to all surfaces, including our dubiously painted walls (naughty, fuck the deposit). We sat down together with glitter glue and an extraordinary amount of cotton wool and worked together to make handmade decorations. Other than sitting and eating together most nights, it was really nice to spend time together creating decorations which we’d all be able to enjoy. We dragged our previously banned fresher tree out of the cupboard and revelled in placing it in a prime position in the bay window. Our house screamed festive fun. Until someone stole our garland from the front door.
Third year so far has largely been the same as second year, except the fairy lights were a lot harder to untangle and our garland is nailed more firmly to the front door. Constructing the Poundstretcher tree this year made me feel incredibly nostalgic: whilst no saws were involved, when the top of the tree was accidentally snapped off in a hangover-induced stupor and I found myself forlornly winding gaffa tape around the trunk, I was reminded of my Dad attempting similar reparations all those years before.
Whilst my kind of Christmas decoration certainly is not high art, its abundance of twinkly tinsel paired with a sense of tradition, routine and nostalgia inherently appeal. A lot of people use the excuse of ‘expense’ to explain the absence of decoration in their student lets, yet after the initial investment in Poundland and Poundstretcher first year, we haven’t had to spend anything else on Christmas decorations. Paired with the ability to draw friends and family together, plus the capacity to improve upon paper snowflake cutouts every year, Christmas decorations can’t fail to put a smile on my face.
Kittie Howie, Lifestyle Editor
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