For many years mum kept the Christmas decorations or the bulk of the breakable ones in a large old wooden tea chest that for the best part of the year was kept in the attic. A nondescript box that belied its contents. That box was treated with great reverence and respect as it held Mum's German glass ornaments and other little bits and pieces of Christmas ephemera like the paper garlands and little plastic angels that her mum had given her for the tree when she first got married. Of particular pride of place were two bells one pink and one blue with dots on them. They were unusual in that they were proper bell ringing bells when you moved them they used to ding the ringer being buried inside the bauble. The pink one got broken when we moved to Deeping but the blue one prevailed until the tree collapsed a year before mum passed and then it and many of the other special baubles got broken. We have a few of the remnants each but the really special ones got broken and mum was really upset about that as she had looked after and treasured them for years.
We always knew when Dad got that tea chest out of the attic that it would not be long before the tree went up and the magic would begin. When tiny we were never allowed to hold the ornaments or to put them on their hooks but as we became gentler and older mum used to let us hook the baubles and then pass them to her one by one to decorate the tree. We used to take it in turns year by year passing the crowning glory for the tree the ballerina fairy with the golden crown to mum, so one year it would be me who handed it to her and the opposite year my brother.
When I went to school the routine changed in that when we get home from school the tree would be up and then we would spend a couple of hours helping decorate the tree and just spending time with each other. The baubles from the chest were always handled reverently like treasure. We would sing carols, the fire would crackle and in that dim winter light suddenly the lights would go on the tree and suddenly magically it was Christmas and it was special.
We would be given the first of the mini tangerines each then; it was always part of the tree decorating ceremony and then the peel would be thrown on the fire to release the scent from the skin and permeating the air with orange.
The baubles were treasured because they were colour and brightness at a special time and people did not have much then. But they were treasured for memories too and I think that is why to this day both my brother and I treat our Christmas decorations as special, something to pass on to the next generation. But most of all memories of happy times with loved ones no longer with us, a different way of life, different standards and full of love. Always full of love. That is something we were given spadefuls of and it brought us all close together.
Both mum and dad always involved us and Dad too used to take any opportunity to make Christmas magical for us. Like the time he took us up into his darkroom in the attic and then threw his voice and made out that it was Father Christmas and having a full scale conversation with the two of us as to whether we had been naughty or good and some things he wanted us to do. Or when there was a thunder storm to keep us calm it was always its only Father Christmas turning over his sack of toys. Nothing to be bothered about. There were always stories and stories from the relatives about family members which have been passed on to the younger generation as well.
There was always laughter and love and a lot of fun and we were encouraged to use our imaginations. We were walked for ever even in the snow (we used to live in Uppingham which was on top of a hill and we used to get a lot of snow). There would be sledging as well in the deep deep snow and when out in the snow wrapped up to the nines we would be given nature lessons especially if there were rabbit prints or bird prints. A good way of getting us out into the fresh air and out of mum's way for a little while.
And then on twelfth night the decorations would come down and the decorations returned to the tea chest and then the tea chest returned to the attic for another year. When Christmas would dance for us again.