Christmas: when we bring the outside, inside.

We are told that the tradition of bringing ever-green foliage indoors to decorate homes in preparation for the celebration of a mid-Winter festival, is a very ancient one. Whatever our pagan ancestors did or didn’t do, we do know for sure that in ‘Merry Olde England’, our pre-reformation celebration of Christmas started with the bringing of the outdoors, indoors. Homes would be brightened with holly, ivy, mistletoe and presumably whatever greenery was available in the locality. Much more recently of course, here in Britain we imported the German tradition of bringing a pine tree indoors and decorating that. Described as a ‘new’ tradition, it is actually just the revival (with a twist) of a very old one.

Here at Wharf House we collect traditional (and less traditional) Winter greenery with gusto! We have holly and ivy from the hedgerows and we enough of a smattering of different pine trees about the place, to give us a good variety of aromatic ever-greens. Neighbours with an old orchard are kind enough to furnish us with as much mistletoe as we can fit in the back of the landrover.

Then begins the job of making garlands to festoon the staircase and mantlepieces. It’s not a difficult job, with a bit of patience and a lot of wire, the garlands are easy enough to make but it is quite a time consuming one. Then we bring our creations inside and ‘deck the halls’. It is remarkable the change that these simple garlands make. It isn’t just aesthetic. There comes with the greenery an aroma of earthy-pine which is simultaneously refreshing and comforting. There is also an unmistakable change in atmosphere. The house suddenly looks and feels ready for Christmas. It is unmistakeably festive.

In Merry Olde England of course, our ancestors would have considered their ‘decorating’ complete once their homes were filled with greenery. And perhaps that ought to be enough for us too? We have the opportunity however to enhance what nature offers us with candles, lights and myriad other ‘decorations’. Our fore-Fathers had one great Christmas advantage over us however. They observed all twelve days of Christmas with unceasing celebration. Not for them the gloomy return to work on 4th January!

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