One of the first conversations my husband and I discuss when moving into a new home is… Where will the Christmas tree go? However now with three children in tow discussions around Christmas decor are more along the lines of “how will we save the tree this year?”
Posing a series of questions over at my Instagram account I was happy to find that the majority of parents have the same Christmas catastrophes when it comes to decorating their home and that actually it’s not just the children that are troublesome to Festive decor. Pets and other half’s also came close seconds to the anguish of Christmas preparations.
So as we prepare for the Christmas period here is my survival guide for decorating your home with children.
I love Christmas and love nothing more than the cosy feeling the twinkling fair lights at the windows create in my home. Each family has its own approximate date for “putting up the Decs” and for us it’s a modest December 1st, the beginning of advent therefore an acceptable time in my mind for the decorations to go up. December 1st also gives the tree just enough time to survive and the whole place not to look like a ruin before the actual day.
Of course we have all seen them… The photos of trees which have been up since mid October, the owners proudly boasting how much they love Christmas and wanted to start early or the opposite end of the scale… those who bring a tree home on the 24th December and decorate the night before Christmas.
The Tree – Real vs Artifical
Apart from in my classroom as a teacher I have never owned an artificial tree. As children the magic began that day we ventured out on a full day excursion with my parents into the wilderness of the Essex countryside to those “farm shops” we had little experience of, only at Christmas and hunted for the perfect Christmas tree. My parents would have almost every tree in the shops free of their netting, much to the owners despair. My dad would be made to stand holding the tree afar as my mum would stand back and inspect whether it was the “right” tree and then swap and have my brother and I hold the tree as my mum and dad then discussed the prospect of taking the tree home.
This was an all day event but one with much fun and fond memories. The tree would always be huge and massively misjudged in terms of getting it into our home and once we were in my dad would then spend an hour sawing some from the trunk and some off the top to make it fit into the living room.
As a family tradition on our dad’s side everybody has a real tree. One year my uncles decided to go to a “pick your own” tree place whereby they sawed the tree down there and then. If my mum and dad misjudged the size of the tree with them clearly marked with sizes at the shop then my uncles definitely had zero chance with this tree. They brought the tree home to my nans home and assembled what could have only been described as a forest as it took up the whole of the living room. My nan stood proudly by her tree looking tiny in respect to the twinkling forest behind her.
Of course artificial trees are uniform with branch size and symmetrically beautiful plus there is the added bonus of not having pine needles needing hoovering but for me that smell of a real Christmas tree and the search for one are what marks the start of Christmas officially in our home!
Retrieving the Decorations
The first stress in my household is where on earth we put the decorations the previous year. Normal people would just remember where they put their Decs but my husband and I are disorganised humans and so even if they are in the place we thought they would be, by this time of year they are buried under a mountain of other stuff which we have dumped in the loft/outhouse across the year. I can see my husbands patience waning as he realises that actually I didn’t put the decorations away in an accessible, sensible place as I told him the year before and this is before he’s even come across the lights… The lights which I also promised to store correctly yet in my haste screwed into a knotted ball and shoved in a Quality Street tin.
Christmas Tree Decor
In a poll on my Instagram 80% of parents let their children decorate the tree in the knowledge they will redecorate and arrange after. Of course the obvious problem with children is that they can only reach a certain height therefore the bottom of the tree becomes ladened and weeping immediately with the 17 baubles hung per branch. Likewise after they have hung every bauble they will set about rearranging themselves from an early age.
My youngest was 9 months for his first Christmas so with the aid of a baby walker we have had him dismantling the tree from his first Christmas. A few people messaged me to once again give me guidance on how to tell my child not to touch the tree and methods to stop them. I don’t know what children these humans have parented but they are not mine and I guarantee any hints and tips will not defer my Toddler in his quest to pull every decoration from the tree.
Christmas tree decorations change as your children get older. As an anxious parent I soon noticed the pure danger in some of the smaller baubles and decorations which could easily be swallowed by my youngest who has always seemed to investigate everything by shoving everything in his mouth.
We never had outdoor lights when I was growing up except a candle in the kitchen window. After much nagging one year my dad relented and put some old Market lights up on the front of our home. We stood back for the big reveal only to all burst out laughing at the shameful show of lights compared to next doors. Shouting “quick turn them off before anyone sees them” dad took down the light and we never spoke about it again.
If you’re going to do the outdoor Christmas lights it has to be a) tasteful or b) significant. My husband and I have also resigned the children to some simple window lights for all eternity so we don’t have the pressures of assembling and competing with the rest of the neighbours. Because competition is exactly what it is whether you openly acknowledge it or not you will be judged on outdoor Christmas lighting!
Decorating your home with your children is bound to be problematic but add a pet into the equation and you have full on chaos. Kittens and cats see the many hanging, swaying objects as fair game to attack and pounce on and dogs are a rule unto themselves. Our dog spent his first Christmas frequently marking his territory up against the tree. My aunt also received a buy one get one free with her real tree as she opened the netting at home to a family of mice!
Enjoy decorating your home this Christmas, admire it briefly as the children fall asleep from the excitement and joy Christmas brings and then Brace yourself for a whole month of rearranging and Christmas tree guarding!