The art of the Christmas tree
The last weekend in November marks the time when all my family (through 3 generations) respectively all reach for the step ladders and head up to the attic to get the Christmas decorations down. The 1st of December being the optimum day to ‘put them up’.
The room is titivated with garland and festive ornaments, but the Christmas tree is ‘dressed’. The room is re-arranged, furniture is removed to make way for this centrepiece. The Christmas tree is the piece de resistance.
Every year we participate in creating a piece of installation art in our own living room.
A variety of materials and methods are used in its creation. Attitudes and styles vary from the serious to the blasé, from the traditional to the contemporary. But the tradition of the festive tree and creativity go hand in hand.
My daughter asked "How long is too long to be putting lights on your Christmas tree?" It took her 3 hours (personally, perfectly reasonable) but that was enough for her for one day, the baubles would have to wait. Consequently, it took her two days to complete her tree.
For my eldest it’s a family affair, with her brood all participating. They choose where to put them, and whilst my daughter restrains from moving them, she does make everyone stop, and step back, to look from every angle at their progress.
My 3 year old granddaughter’s method was to scoop the content of the open box of decorations into her arms and throw them at the tree – admirable, and very Jackson Pollock, a method that I nearly employed myself, this year.
Adornments come in all shapes and sizes. Some colour co-ordinate, some employ a colour theme, others prefer a ramshackle collection that incorporates mementos from Christmases past. But they are all arranged with some degree of aesthetic consideration.
Myself, I start with preparing the ‘ground’; the branches are carefully pushed around and the tree positioned so its ‘best side’ is facing the room. The lights are positioned next, ensuring an even distribution of colours – this stage is fractious, they invariably get taken off and on several times, while I curse and grunt. Consideration is then given to the placement of each and every individual decoration, always leaving the die hard slightly tatty ones to fill in round the back. And finally, the tinsel, placed cautiously and carefully trying to make it look casually draped.
We are making aesthetic choices both in creating an art object, and giving consideration to that object's position in the context of the space it will be displayed. No matter what the method, style, approach, we are collectively, and individually creating an installation.