When is the ‘right time’ to put up your Christmas Decorations?
Our neighbour in Lincolnshire had a fetish for twinkly lights and these would go up in abundance and breeding numbers every year. The result was just a tacky blaze of mismatched colour, and we felt it was totally unnecessary to have a tree in every window that faced the road.
Saying that though, some of the houses decorated with festive scenes on their outside walls were wonderful, many done for charity each year, and one particular terrace of properties had a complete highway of Santas and sleighs pulled by endless flashing reindeer.
This sort of thing was only done for professional displays when I was a kid, and Santa’s Grottos were a work of art, inventive intrigue, and exceptional good planning!
Sadly I find that lacking today, replacing grottos with grotties consisting of a series of papered screens hiding the throne upon which sits a slightly bored Santa.
I remember taking Partner’s sons to a Grotto in one of the large department stores in Bristol. After queuing for almost an hour, I got to pay my £5 per child (this was in the 1980s as I wanted them to have a gift and photograph) for them to be plonked on the lap of a skinny Santa in a terrible suit and sporting a ludicrous beard. The boys looked terrified, and their choice of gift was either a set of marbles or a cap gun. The photograph was one of the pair of them, not individually, done on a cheap Polaroid camera with lousy colour and quality film.
Now years before I’d even met the guy, I remember a magical grotto where an entire shopping mall was decorated to suggest corridors and tunnels leading up to Santa’s house. The stable windows exhibited animated puppetry of reindeer and everywhere something moved somewhere that would catch your eye from festive mice to elves, penguins and polar bears. Who cared about geography!
Christmas decorations in the parental home went up a week or so before The Big Day, and us kids got to decorate the tree (under supervision of course). True to form, lights that worked when put away always failed, but that was all part of the tradition!
We’d cut out varying widths of crepe paper in different colours and overlapping the lengths, stitch them together ‘frilling the edges’ (they would be twisted when hung), or make box chains by running two colours at 90º to each other. Dad would line a wire coat hanger with crepe paper and tie a red candle in the centre to put in the window (the candle was never lit of course). We’d add holly and mistletoe for extra trimming, hanging a piece of the latter at the bottom of the stairs.
In later years, I’d also decorate my bedroom, which looked so sad, empty and forlorn when I took them all down, so I’d always change the furniture round at the same time as part of my early spring cleaning!