Christmas, for me, is about being with people I care about. On the big Day, we gather to eat together, often under the milkwood trees, each contributing a favourite dish. And we always have a tree – never a plastic job and, actually, never your standard Christmas tree. They’re pretty and they’re kinder to the environment. Among them have been:
- An indigenous tree in a pot, which can be planted out later – the yellowwood works well
- A branch of a thorn tree (acacia)
- Strips of gathered wood tied into a rough tree shape – these live on in the vegetable garden, where they make good supports for climbing beans and tomatoes
- A twist of pretty driftwood from the beach
- Baubles and shells in the trees – they look so pretty that they stay there all year
- The flower stalk of an invasive agave – we would burn these afterwards to avoid spreading the seeds; fortunately, with the development of the Kwelera National Botanical Garden, the agave is being cleared from the reserve.
Half the fun is figuring out what to turn into a Christmas tree. The other half is decorating the tree, choosing from a box of ancient baubles, and then, of course, gathering around it. For those loved ones not present, the tree is a reminder of them too.
My friend, Sally, is a master of Christmas trees – I wish she’d write a book about her creations. Wherever she is, she makes something stunning, armed with her imagination and a bag of great quality decorations that she carts with her. One year, she hung the decorations as a mobile in the sitting room of her holiday rental; the next year, she hung them from the branches of a sprawling tree in the garden.
We’re now at our house swop in Durban (it’s Sally’s house by coincidence). I was wondering what to do for a tree – perhaps just a bunch of ribbons hanging from the boma. Then I noticed a mobile she made with pieces of driftwood from the Transkei, brightened up with slivers of coloured glass. Conveniently, it hangs over the big outdoor table where we’ll have Christmas lunch. It will do perfectly as our tree this year, just as it is. Happy festive season!