A Memorable Christmas Tree

When I was a child growing up we lived on a bush property on the outskirts of Sydney. On Christmas Eve, my father would go into the bush and cut down a Casuarina tree to use as our Christmas Tree.  These generally make wonderful Christmas trees if they are thick and bushy; they have a piney sort of scent but are nowhere near as pungent as regular pine trees.

We had a superabundance of these trees on our property so I am not quite sure what went wrong the year my father brought home a very bare and rather pathetic looking casuarina.  It had but a few sparse branches with plenty of space between the needles.  None of us wanted to appear unkind or ungrateful but we looked hard at it with consternation trying to imagine what we might do with it.  In the meantime, my father sneaked off to his den under the house with a bottle of sherry and a bag of crisps.

My mother is a most remarkable woman who loves Christmas and everything do with it with a passion.  Christmas tree decoration was an art form with her but the site of this scraggly, bare branched tree had her gobsmacked.  I clearly remember how bitterly disappointed I felt because the decorating of the Christmas tree was something I looked forward to.  We listened to records and told funny stories and shared delicious treats my mother had cooked while we were doing it.  We had a huge collection of decorations that were family heirlooms from eons past and each one had a story attached to it.  No way in the world were we going to be able to put these decorations on the less than adequate tree standing before us.

But my mother's spirit was indomitable and she excused herself from the house for a few minutes.  When she came back home, she had with her several packets of crepe paper in a bright assortment of colours, some florists' wire and some green tape.  And she announced that we were going to make crepe paper flowers.

Then she assembled us kids around the table and showed us how to do it.  We played the records and ate the home cooked snacks, laughed and reminisced together in as fine a form as we ever did.  And the flowers took shape and grew, and were gathered in magnificent brightly coloured bunches.

My mother then tied the crepe paper flowers to the few branches of the Christmas tree.  How it came alive!  The large flowers cheerfully filled in the spaces and in the end it was quite the most spectacular Christmas tree we had ever seen.  I do not have a photo of it, but I found a few photos online of trees decorated with crepe paper flowers to convey something of the effect of it.


My mother taught us an invaluable lesson that year about the true meaning of Christmas spirit, of being grateful and seeing the opportunity rather than yielding to disappointment, of respecting peoples' feelings and exploring creativity to give something of beauty and cheer.

Merry Christmas!
perseverer perseverer
56-60, F
4 Responses Dec 24, 2012

what a fantastic story! how sweet it is! you must have had a nice Christmas Perseverer. im glad for you!

It was nice, thank you, clarkee, though because of my health we dined out for Christmas lunch, and Mum is too frail now to make the trip up from Tasmania for Christmas. Still, we managed to go to Midnight Mass and we had a lovely day.

I also remember every Christmas we would make long lengths of paper chains; competing with each other to see who could make the longest. these then got hung around the lounge room too. We had a glass swing door between the lounge and the kitchen, and it was only ever closed on Christmas Eve. We were allowed to get up and go get our stockings and take them back to bed, but the rule was no present opening or waking Mum and dad up until the sun was up.
You're right Barb, Christmas celebrations are an attitude, not a display of dollars.

Ah yes! The paper chain making competition that kept us well and truly occupied for hours on end each year! And they were draped round and round the lounge room. All very glorious!

I Love your fluid, evocative prose, perseverer! A beautiful story, that brought back memories of home-made Christmas decorations.

I agree with You that casuarinas make excellent substitutes for the 'traditional' pines (despite their lack of piney scent) as their 'leaves' are so similar to pine-needles.

Thank you for reading this story and leaving an appreciative comment, Dex. It was fun finding the trees, too. Alas, the suburban sprawl has made this tradition all but impossible. I notice that on the way to my school there is a "Christmas Tree Farm". These pinus radiata are carefully grown to be just the right height and well endowed with branches. But they are no good for allergy sufferers!

Christmas is what you make it...not about how much you spend on it, or who has the `perfect` tree. Your story is heartwarming and reminds me of Chritmases long past; we did`nt make crepe paper flowers but we did make crepe bells and streamers. Great days and great memories! happy Christmas to you and your family.

And to you, my dear friend. We are about to go to Midnight Mass here in one of the first places in the world to get Christmas and I will especially be thinking of you in my prayers.

Thank you Barb, you are a dear friend to me too; your prayer will be appreciated.