Over the years, my family and I have celebrated with Christmas trees of many shapes and sizes. When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a townhouse. There, our tree was tall and slim, a perfect fit for a narrow space topped by a cathedral ceiling. When we moved to our huge home on the hill, where we lived for twenty-three years, our trees stood big and fluffy and proud–even a height of ten feet wasn’t enough to fill our living room’s space. In those days of child-rearing abundance, we selected robust trees and adorned them with purchased ornaments and ones received as gifts, including several special baubles tagged “Baby’s First Christmas.”
For the two Christmases we spent in England, we had smaller trees for our smaller living space, but still five to six feet tall. As we prepared for our first English Christmas day, since we hadn’t yet adjusted to transacting in Pounds Sterling instead of U.S. dollars, everything seemed terribly expensive. Though we wanted to decorate our home as usual, we hadn’t brought our Christmas things across the Pond and didn’t relish buying pricey ornaments. So, we switched into high Stay-at-Home travel gear and high-tailed it to Picadilly Circus in London to shop at a Japanese grocery store. There, we bought several packets of origami paper. That paper became our ornaments that year.
Our two English trees live long in my family’s memory. We can’t forget how sweet it felt to fold and tuck colorful paper to make our ornaments together. And, ever since we’ve been back in the U.S., we haven’t used our old ornaments. Though all our old ones are very charming, every year we go back to the homemade adornments.
After our big and exhausting move from our home on the hill, our Christmas has transformed into something different. Now we live in a Marriott Residence Inn until the remodel of our new, down-sized, house is done. Though quite comfortable, our living room here is small; there isn’t really a clear and central space where we can put a tree.
So, this year, we’ve switched gears again. Instead of a rather large tree as our main attraction, we’ve decorated two tiny ones, so small that even the origami ornaments we made in England dwarf their branches. So, we made origami ornaments again–this time of very small paper.
One tree is decked with tiny cranes. The other is decked with handmade red and gold bows. Also included in our decorations are a few small things from our international travels. These little additions make our modest living room cozy and festive.
For a fun exercise in Stay-at-Home-Travel, here’s a kind of game: look at the following picture of our little living room and see if you can identify the following items and the country they come from:
- Origami ornaments
- Miniature crèche
- Royal guards (very hard to see)
- Christmas crackers
- Christmas carol CD‘s
Did you find them all? Here are the origins.
Miniature crèche: When I bought this set at a little store in Assisi, I romantically fantasized that the figurines were fashioned by Geppetto. When the proprietor told me the figurines had been made in Germany, it seemed a bit less romantic. Not because there was anything wrong with them being made there–the German craftsmen did a beautiful job! I just “wanted” them to have been made there in Assisi! But in the end, I bought the set.
The royal guards are, of course, from England. Whenever I set up my Christmas crèche, I fling chronological accuracy out the window. Doesn’t it make perfect sense for Buckingham Palace and Tower of London guards to keep watch over the Holy Family along with the shepherds?
Christmas carol CDs: here’s a way to extend your travels into your home after you return: buy CDs of the local music. Every year, we play Christmas carol CDs from not only the USA, but also from England and France.
In closing, allow me to give you some food for thought, for now and in the New Year: how can you, also, extend what you’ve taken from your travels into your celebrations at home?