23 December 2013

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree

It's that time of year again: time for the battle between my need for symmetry and perfection and the realities of putting up, and decorating, a Christmas tree.

My tree is artificial, but by no means symmetrical, and the decorations are a motley collection from which no patterns can be contrived.

All I can do is fall back on a set of rules I've developed that enable me to create as aesthetically pleasing a look as possible out of an unavoidable asymmetry:
Photos: Peter Gettins Photography

  • Cover the entire length of the fairy light wires with tinsel.
  • Ensure baubles of the same colour and/or design don't hang close to one another.
  • Hang each decoration at a different height to those adjacent to it.
  • Put larger decorations lower down the tree.
  • Make sure decorations depicting the same festive character/item aren't next to one another (this has the bonus of preventing any of the Santas from discovering - like Buzz Lightyear - that they're not the only one).

The lights make the process even harder. I have two strings of them and, whichever way I twist them around the tree, the same colours end up together. Last year, I tried to resolve this by moving some bulbs around, but that simply resulted in different clashes - there are only five colours and it's a small tree. 

This year, I decided to reinstate the default light order on each string - red, orange, blue, pink, green - to guarantee at least one pattern...even if it did lead to clashes on the tree. Which was fine until I got to the end of the strings and realised I'd previously had to replace a number of dead bulbs with spares of the wrong colour. Pattern aborted. 

It can take hours to achieve a look I'm satisfied with, although the moveable branches do help. Two baubles hanging at the same height?: twist one branch up and the problem's solved. 

The job isn't done then, though. For days afterwards, I'll keep spotting badly placed decorations and be compelled to drop what I'm doing to fix them. 

The evening of the day I put the tree up, my boyfriend, Pete, and I watched Die Hard yet again - it's almost compulsory at Christmas. Even Bruce Willis in a vest wasn't enough to stop me noticing wonky angels and wayward tinsel. I had to make mental notes of what to move during the ad breaks, rather than drive Pete potty by repeatedly leaping up and down from the sofa.

There is, nevertheless, some pleasure to be had from this difficult task. 

My decorations include a number of gifts and holiday souvenirs. As I hang each of these, I think of the person who gave them to me, or the associated trip. Those happy memories keep me going through the challenge.

Souvenirs (left to right) from the Peak District in England, Reykjavik in Iceland, and Longyearbyen on Svalbard (the Arctic archipelago also know as Spitsbergen) and. below, a gift from Pete

And, actually, I like the final, 'chaotic' result better than those trees that are themed with one colour and one type of bauble, and which ought to appeal to my OCD. My tree makes for a homely corner in an otherwise regimented environment.

Wishing you all happy holidays.


Unknown said...

Really loved this post! Addressing the problem of the fairy lights - have you ever considered using white bulbs only? And if not, why?

Belatedly a very merry x-mas and a happy and successful New Year!

Helen Barbour said...

Karin, thanks for your comment. I have thought about white bulbs, but find them a bit sterile.

Hope you've had a great Christmas - wishing you a successful writing year in 2014.