We have been here for six months, almost to the day. We came, with every inch of our car carrying something of our life in the UK, and every gram of my 140 kilograms of luggage laden with some form of clothing to see a family of five through a year of seasons. There wasn’t much room for frills and frivolities. Back in April, I packed for Christmas and brought the children’s three stockings and our two advent calendars – one a material pocketed calendar, handmade with love by Nonna, filled with excitement annually by mamma; the other a nativity scene to which we daily add a character or animal. I am determined not to gather here in Italy more boxes of Christmas decorations: there are three at home in our loft, waiting to be enjoyed again. This year, we will decorate our house ourselves.
My only concessions to a commercial Christmas are:
- one string of 140 fairy lights which cost Euros 8 from a cheap pound shop equivalent (I am cautiously hoping they will work for one Christmas at least… perhaps I would have been wise to think a little more sustainably);
- a large pack of candles and tealights;
- two cans of metallic spray paint (when we finally found spray paint, the children chose one colour each for their Christmas decorations);
- a few packs of tissue paper.
Everything else has to be sourced from inside or outside the house.
I am already struck first by how pleasant it is to aspire to a house which is decorated for Christmas just in some way, rather than a house which is decorated for Christmas in the way in which the latest trends demand of me. I happily hold my hand up and admit that I love browsing at Christmas time and collecting new decorations. Were I near a John Lewis store, I have no doubt that I would have picked up a little bauble or two to grace my tree this year and would be coveting a great deal more. It is far easier to resist the urge to purchase if temptation is hundreds of miles away in a different country. Interestingly, though, it means that for once I am actually quite happy for the house to start to look genuinely home-decorated. By home decorated, I mean genuinely decorated by the children. Where I might normally find a corner of the house for the children’s homespun delights leaving more prominent areas for apparently perfect purchases, this year I feel like I am embracing homespun Christmas properly.
This brings me to my second realization: the children are enjoying this low key process and casual approach to festivities. I have barely breathed the words ‘making decorations’ and they are off – finding, making, being creative and being resourceful. P. rummaged through my cupboards and pulled out all the old jam jars to clean them up for tealight holders: I had vaguely mentioned doing this but was a bit bored by the thought of peeling labels off before I’d even started so was pleasantly surprised and then delighted when P. washed them and managed to clean most of the labels off without much help. H. meanwhile, has found our stack of card and has been busy cutting out Christmas tree outlines to hang from the bannisters. Together we made our advent ‘ring’, which is not a ring but an oblong, because that happened to be the box I had of approximately the right size. Okay, so we miss the ‘everlasting circle’ point, but we are able to light the candles through the four Sundays of Advent.
The stars of our show, however, are our Christmas stars, which H. and P. learned to make from one of the very creative helpers at school. While P. and I were busy spray painting pine cones, rosehips and leaves outside, H. was inside folding, cutting and stapling to produce these:
I was pretty impressed. We now have three glorious rainbow stars and several metallic red stars suspended above us. Meanwhile, those treasures from nature note used in our Advent Not-Ring glint with silver and red spray paint, ready to hang on our ‘tree’ which this year will be an olive branch pruned during the recent harvest.
*Kirsty Allsop, eat your heart out…