Christmas decorations transformed

2008-12-02 00:00

In recent years traditional Christmas decorations have undergone a dramatic transformation and, having shed their lowly image, now go by the somewhat lofty title of seasonal décor.

The dreary crêpe-paper creations of old can no more compete with the dazzling array of modern designer decorations than a few flickering candles can hope to outshine the growing American trend of lighting up one’s house like a Las Vegas casino.

I’m not averse to it necessarily. I just wonder why some folk have a need for their home to be seen from outer space.

I love Christmas decorations — for the first week. After that they make cleaning a nightmare, my cats have divested the tree of everything fluffy or edible and the new set of fairy lights has inevitably popped a bulb and either stopped blinking or gone on the blink.

I can’t even get away with packing the whole lot away on Family Day either.

My family is very big on tradition (and superstition) and it’s considered bad luck to de-tinsel one’s house before one has endured all 12 days of Christmas. Precisely what grim fate will befall one remains a mystery, but for fear of putting the mockers on what is meant to be a joyous time, I’ve hitherto resisted the urge to test it.

As a result I try to keep things to a minimum, which admittedly isn’t easy when faced with all the beautiful adornments that are on offer. I mean, who would not want to be greeted at the front door by a giant ceramic reindeer, wearing candy-striped socks and holding a plate of mince pies? And let’s be honest, it’s not every day one can accommodate a host of trumpeting angels, suspended in all their heavenly glory from the lounge ceiling.

However, there has to be a limit and I draw the line at having Santa’s twinkling backside protruding from my chimney or three wise men on psychedelic camels galloping across my rooftop in pursuit of yonder star.

Of course my nieces and nephews love all the Yuletide paraphernalia just as I did as a child, although we had to make do without the motorised Father Christmases and carol-singing snowmen. Shimmering fibre-optic Christmas trees were the stuff of science fiction and we always had a real tree, which within a few days looked more like a dead stick, having shed most of its needles on to the carpet.

By today’s standards our decorations were decidedly drab, consisting mainly of dust-collecting paper chains and mangy looking tinsel. Everything from mirrors and lamp shades to the gilt-framed portrait of great aunt Alice was festooned with one or the other.

Our Christmas cards were pegged on to mini washing lines, which were then strung about the house giving the impression of a Chinese laundry and garroting anyone taller than an elf.

And then there were the decorations I made at school.

Toilet rolls, tin foil and cotton wool tended to feature extensively, given the ease with which they could be fashioned into anything from a shepherd to a sheep.

Regardless of my mother’s obvious torment, I became most indignant if my Frosty the snowman (aka a cotton wool-covered jam tin) was not afforded pride of place on our mantelpiece. Hence, I can understand why folk with fancy festive décor would balk at having bog-roll baubles dangling from their designer tree.

But, despite the temptation to transform my home into a seasonal showpiece and deck my tree with the latest in Christmas fashion, I’m determined to keep it simple.

Then again, if things need a little jollying up, I may be obliged to invest in the giant ceramic reindeer.

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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