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Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire… It’s Time to Start Thinking About Christmas!

The festive season is coming. Halloween’s ghost and ghouls will have come and gone in a little over a fortnight, and then it’s jingle all the way to December. So the big question is – have you thought about your decorations yet?

Christmas is all about warmth. The festival’s roots lie in pagan or pre-Christian traditions – for example the Roman feast of Saturnalia – that celebrated the existence of the sun, or which aimed to ensure the better weather of spring would come to pass. Lights, candles and evergreen decorations all hail originally from the Roman new year (as does the concept of charity at Christmas time); while the traditions of giving gifts and making merry are Saturnalian in origin.

Germanic and Scandinavian winter festivals give us the Yule log and other rich foods. The Christmas tree itself, of course, is famously a German import given to the nation by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. It is also thought that the traditions of giving Christmas cards and sharing a family turkey meal took off during the Victorian period – helped in no small part by Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story A Christmas Carol. 

The two biggest questions in my house in the run-up to Christmas are whether we’ll have a real tree or not; and what kind of lights we’re going to use. Every year, we put away the fairy lights as carefully as we can, wrapping them diligently around the winders in the box; and every year when we come to get them out they’ve disintegrated into an impossible octopus. We spend an afternoon trying to unwind them before giving up and going to get some more!

My family likes modern tree lights – ice blue snowflakes and bright white icicles. I find LED Christmas lights a little cold. If it’s my turn to choose, we get traditional coloured fairy lights for the tree and some more for the fireplace. If it’s grandpa’s turn, we get smartly shaped contemporary lights and turn the lounge into a winter wonderland.

My perfect Christmas decoration involves external lighting as well as internal – and here I’m quite happy to let the march of progress roll on. External LED Christmas lights go perfectly with the surroundings: their brighter, cooler light making the garden look like a Christmas card even if it hasn’t snowed!

It’s possible to get warm LEDs for indoor use – where a cleverly coloured bulb sheath softens the clinical light of the bold into something more suitable for bringing your Christmas cheer to life. I’m going to try and get my better half to come round to warm LEDS for the tree this year; but as it is Grandfather’s turn, I’m sure we’ll be enjoying a Polar look for our tree and our hearth…

The secret to great Christmas decoration is “less is more”. We always try to apply the rule that if the lounge is still bright when we’ve turned off the table lamps, we’re using too many fairy bulbs. They are, after all, for decoration rather than illumination. If your tree lights give off the same kind of glow as a briskly burning log fire, you’ve probably got it just right.

Cost’s a consideration, of course.  Ask Granny (always looking for fair prices and good quality combined!) suggests you have a look at Tesco for a great range of Christmas decorations. They stock warm and cool LEDs, plus trees; tree decorations; and room decorations too.