A Memorable Christmas TreeWhen 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.