Wallace (host): What’s going up in your house, fake or real …? … I’m for fake.
Stephen (panellist): We’ve got a real tree. The nice man delivers it and takes it away again.
Cas (panellist): Absolutely! Real tree all the way. I’m appalled Wallace that you would even have one of these plastic, horrible things. Christmas isn’t Christmas unless you’ve got the smell of a dying branch in your house.
Wallace: To address the smell. I buy a candle that smells like pine.
(This was from a discussion on ‘The Panel’ – RNZ National, Monday, 12 December 2022.)
A freshly cut pine branch, fragrant, green-needled, tapered and bushy, pretending to be a 2 to 2.5 metre high tree, in a pot wrapped in Christmas-themed paper: my idea of a real Christmas tree.
The focal point of family Christmases when I was a boy, with all the gifts (inside their paper wrappings), piled up around the tree on Christmas Eve. Mid-morning on Christmas Day, Dad would settle in with a mince pie and a small glass of port, pick up a parcel and proceed to read out the first ‘from’ and ‘to’. We had to wait till a gift had been unwrapped before the next one was handed out. A leisurely affair. On those occasions when it was just mum, dad and the kids it would still take a while – the eldest, I had two brothers and two sisters by the time I turned twelve.
Memories of childhood Christmases happy ones for both of us, there was no trauma in keeping family traditions going for our two children. But there was compromise: June is allergic to pine!
So, in place of a freshly cut pine branch, a small artificial tree with plastic pine needles was constructed, once a year, from the bits that came out of a cardboard box. A plastic tree is as traditional for June as a ‘real’ tree is for me. When she was a child, the fairies delivered a folded-up tree and placed it at the end of her mum and dad’s bed for June and her sister to reconstruct.
These days, when family celebrate Christmas at Little Owl Gully, the presents are clustered around a small snow totara in a pot. Festive season over, I carry the pot outdoors to a spot near the greenhouse. The snow totara grows exceedingly slowly, more shrub than tree, and will still be small for many Christmases to come.
In my grandparent years, it’s only the pine scent of those freshly cut pine branches – so redolent of childhood Christmases – that I miss. But Wallace’s “candle that smells like pine” would be exotic to the point of crass now that we’ve gone all indigenous. I guess we’re both happy enough with the latest iteration – it’s native and it’s alive!
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully for 2022. Silly season festivities, time out and 10-acre block deferred maintenance tasks are on the cards for the next 3 weeks. I’ll kick start my blogging year with a post on Monday, January 16th, 2023.
A shout-out to those of you who read my journal on a regular basis – that writer-reader relationship means a great deal to me. I look forward to having your company again from mid-January onwards. Bye for now.
Merry Christmas one and all.