It’s the festive season again. That time of the year when we parents are forced to spend quality time with our children in the name of religion. That time when the artificial tree is rescued from foraging Huntsman in the storage space under the house, or the ‘long-lasting’ real tree begins its three day period of looking good, before it dehydrates, droops and slowly dies.
Decorating the tree should be an activity that the whole family can get involved in – but don’t be deceived – there is no surer way to jumpstart some good old-fashioned family Christmas dysfunctionality than with arguments over which decorations will make the final cut on the tree.
So to help you and your family attempt to enjoy this year’s dressing of the tree, here are my tips:
Put on the Christmas playlist to create the mood and calm you – there is no better way to drown out noisy arguments over whose bauble should be at the front of the tree, than with some Bing or Boney M.
Having carefully haggled negotiated your best price with the scouts (if you buy a real tree), let’s hope you had the foresight to check that the stump will fit into your stand. Never fall for the crap about a tree being able to stand up for longer than a few minutes in a bucket of sand or mud, without the support of a winch or indoor crane.
If you have to retrieve the artificial tree from under the house, get someone you don’t like to check for deadly spiders first. They’re crafty those critters, so don’t be fooled – those tiny white balls cleverly concealed as snow among the branches, may actually be Huntsman babies waiting to exact revenge for that time you killed their grandfather in the shower, and you don’t want those sorts of uninvited guests to suddenly appear at the Christmas Dinner table.
Drink your first glass of Champagne to truly embrace the Christmas spirit.
Remind the kids AGAIN that the lights must go on the tree first, even though you’ve told them the same fucking thing since their first Christmas. Test the lights before they are arranged on the tree because there will always be some bitch of a bulb that has been waiting for its moment all year, and will invariably be positioned in the most difficult part to reach.
Treat yourself to a second glass of Champagne to celebrate that those cheap Target lights are still working (at this stage).
Remind the kids that the second stage of the decorating process is to put on the tinsel and beads and NOT THE FUCKING DECORATIONS, JUST YET. They will also need gently reminding that there is a special way to do this, so that the tree does not end up looking like six blind Morris dancers have decorated it.
That third glass of Champagne will be beckoning at this point.
FINALLY you can allow the kids to begin decorating the tree. Referee the inevitable dispute over whether that 70’s angel (with her filthy white dress) truly warrants poll position at the top of your the tree, (indicating to the neighbours that you possess no style whatsoever), but kids can usually be persuaded that the driftwood star is a better option with a discussion about recycling or the bribe promise of an extra gift. Try to steady your breathing as they proceed to pick all the fugliest and oldest decorations in the box (the ones you forgot to throw out last year) and attempt to place them at the front of the tree, safe in the knowledge that you can move each one of these to THE BACK once the kids are safely tucked up in bed.
To avoid the tree looking like some pre-school, child-friendly, organic or (heaven forbid) amateur tree, place all those truly revolting, home/school-made ornaments to the back of the tree as well, and explain to the kids that the back looks lonely without them. While it is important for children to embrace the concept of recycling, that is a part of their education that they can practise at school, without having to tarnish your home styling reputation. There will be sad faces and crocodile tears but this is an invaluable lesson in accessorising, sharing and working together, and usually one of those tacky supermarket stockings full of chocolate bars will help them forget those hideous doilie decorations that their teacher planned as revenge for you not volunteering for canteen duty.
Move onto the expensive wine you bought for Christmas Dinner.
Lametta can be pretty (if you’re blind) for that final touch, but make no mistake, you will be picking up strands of it off the floor for the next year.
Time for the Baileys.
The moment of truth finally arrives. Remind your (now sobbing) children that this is supposed to be a happy, uniting, family time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and that Jesus doesn’t like spoilt, ungrateful children and Santa certainly won’t show up if they behave in that way. Turn off the power and turn on the tree.
Say ‘WOW! LOOK WHAT WE DID?’ or ‘Doesn’t our tree look wonderful?’ as authentically as possible, while trying to resist the urge to rearrange the whole tree or hiccough from your very first personal pre-Christmas drinking session.
Send the kids to bed, strip the tree, open the Champagne and start all over again.