Written by Markus
* Source 1st picture https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/christmas-tree.html (Dreamstime Royalty free stock photo’s)
Having spent 15 years in Singapore and the last 2 years in China, I’ve not celebrated Christmas much. Especially in China, the Christmas buzz was completely absent. Of course, I too was swept away in the shopping craze on Orchard Road and yes, I too got caught into dropping a few extra coins on a dinner, but it is not what my plan is for this year.
Since a long time, I will this year celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands. Here it is cold and all you can do is huddle inside around the fireplace. Maybe, so we hope, it might even snow during Christmas. All the shops have Christmas in mind. And walking through the village, many houses have put out Christmas lights, gardens are decorated and almost every window will have some sort of decoration behind it.
So, this year is my chance to make up for all those years I skipped on the Christmas feeling. And catching up starts with decoration, specifically the Christmas tree.
If you start doing so in early December, you will pay top dollar for whatever you buy. But seen the season is short, come mid-December, prices have dropped to half price or even less. Here you also have the so-called “resell shops”. These shops sell secondhand things and yes, they too sell Christmas tree decoration. Not the top-of-the-line stuff, but still mostly as-new and of course at bargain prices. And this is perfect, as money is still tight, their prices are low, but the choice is still plentiful.
So there I went, jumped in the car and decided today is the day I will put together my dream tree. I’ve been longing for this moment for more than a decade and had a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted. A real tree, so not a plastic one. A large number of shining balls. Lights that change color. Glittering doves on a golden string. Candy canes. And much much more.
Having arrived at the resell-shop, I couldn’t believe my luck. Everything was on sale. For as little at $1, I could buy 25 Christmas balls, there were boxes full of small Christmas themed trinkets to hang in your tree and miles of Christmas lightning, still new in box, was sold for under $5. I had given myself a budget of $100 and found that for that I was buying so much, that I actually had to drive up and down twice as it simply did not fit my car. This included 2 strings of 10 meters of lights.
Once home and the tree was put in where it would spend its last days, with a huge smile I started unpacking all the stuff that I bought. Hanging the first balls in the tree was truly a magical moment. Finally, it was happening. Finally, my Christmas childhood memories came flooding back. Finally, I brought back the warm feeling of lights and glitter into my life.
First, I put a bunch of balls and various trinkets. Having put in maybe 5% of what was going onto the tree, I put on the lights. Swirling it around, from top to bottom. And then the rest went on the tree. This actually went pretty fast as 1 hour later; everything was on the tree. It looked gorgeous and deserved the milestone moment of turning on the lights. Excited about the effect of the lights on all that glitter, I inserted the power plug….. And the lights did not work…
As this is a traditional string of lights (and not LED), if one lamp is broken, the whole string does not work. So only one solution works and that is to remove the string and put in the second string I bought. While removing the string, 9 out of 10 times, every lamp would get caught behind the decoration put in earlier. And this times 150. Then the second string went in, but halfway I realized, I’d better check if it works. And of course, it didn’t. So again I had to remove it, again destroying my earlier work along the way, pulling out branches and ripping off the needles..
Now upset, stressed and sweating, hours after I headed out, I arrived back at the shop to exchange the lights. No problems with that and the new set I got was tested before I left the shop. I put it in the back of my car, and by now wanting to finish this quickly, slammed the back door shut, only to see part of the string was sticking out and I had broken the wire. So back into the shop. Now completely fed up, I selected a new one, queued and paid. All of this while a gray wet sky poured down a steady stream of ice-cold rain.
Finally, home, I threw in the lights and called it a day.
Sitting at dinner I suddenly remembered how Christmas actually was when I grew up here. It was not people singing carols, snowflakes and sitting around the fireplace. It was about fighting your way through crowded shops, eating food you don’t eat any other time of the year for a good reason and a lot of work putting up and removing the decorations. All of this laced with a coat of arguing and being tired.
But so I thought, at least this time, I made my Christmas tree and once again, the tree gives my house the spirit of true Christmas.