Wherever Judy and Butch live
This book is about Christmas decorations.
I would be happy t to decorate the whole house
just for me,
even if no one came to see the display,
and we will not be home for Christmas Day.
Christmas is really about celebrating
a special birth,
and it doesn’t matter if we are
Christians, Atheists, Moslems, Jews,
Hindus or whatever,
we all celebrate the birth of a child.
The most important part of the celebrations
focus on families and friends,
And I am lucky to have the best collection
of family and friends
to make all year special,
not just Christmas.
Decorations are just my way of making
the Christmas period different
to the rest of the year.
When I was growing up Mum and Dad managed to give us every thing we needed with very little money, but we didn’t know just how poor they were. They managed to buy most of the presents we needed, even some we wanted, and there was an abundance of great food on the table, courtesy of a budget wise housekeeper who doubled as a great farm cook. There was also something new amongst the decorations every year. Mum obviously wanted to house to look the part to go with the presents and food.
Christmas is Catching
Decorating the house for Christmas was always important to me, and though Brian still plays it down, I think he has caught the bug. He doesn’t like to stop putting up lights outside until he runs out, and invites friends to inspect inside the house,
Start of a Tradition
4 Gale street, Woodside, about 1984
In Woodside we lived in a dead end street, along with several other young Married with Kids. Nigel was one of the oldest, Megan was one of the youngest, and there about 25 kids all up.
We took our two to the Christmas pageant in Adelaide when Megan was about 2, and she sat on Dad’s shoulder all the way through. The next year we didn’t get to the pageant, because Brian was on call. Kids wanted something special if they couldn’t go to the pageant, so I asked if putting up the tree would be a good idea. They fell for that big time. The tradition started!
So, on pageant day , the two kids sat down and watched the pageant on TV, while I put together the Christmas tree and added the lights. Then we decorated the tree.
The next year we didn’t got to the pageant again, so I set up the tree while it was telecast. Got the lights on just in time, because word had got around.
Some of the neighbourhood kids were at the pageant, but the rest arrived on our doorstep just as Father Christmas entered the Magic Cave in Adelaide. Some of the kids were little, so they added whatever they could grab to the low branches. Some were tall so they decorated the top. The middle sized kids decorated the middle. Five minutes later the tree was decorated. It looked fabulous. Even if we had a movie camera the action was too fast for any movie! Besides, the tree disappeared in the crowd there for those few minutes.
The kids stood back, had a quick look at their handiwork, decided it looked great, and went outside to play!
I still put up the tree, make that trees, on pageant day, or make some start to getting the decorations out of the cupboard, even though the kids have grown up, moved and live far away.
Up in Lights
When we arrived in Kadina we both looked at the big blank walls which faced the street .
Brian bought the lights, then asked me to what we could do with them.
I laid out strings of lights in a tree shape on the lounge room floor, drew up the plan , and Brian put it on the front of the house.
More lights made another tree on the end of the shed.
Before we had moved into Bordertown Brian had decided that he could put lights up on the water tower next to the house.
More trees in lights were attached to the house to add to the trees inside.
I won blocks in a Christmas draw years ago, and the name of the quilt was Can’t see the Forest for the Trees. That is a great title for our display of decorations inside and out.
PS This year the water tower has not been dressed for Christmas, as last year Brian repaired lights three times, and there was still three sets of lights which had been chewed throught by birds. A lot of work for him climbing up the ladder, and expensive!
One day I went to Kadina shopping and found a tiny Father Christmas. He was meant to be a cake decoration, but I loved him anyway!
When I got him home I put him on a shelf, but he was so small he just got lost, so I went looking in the cupboard for something to draw attention to him.. I found 18 more father Christmas’ so sat them on the old treadle sewing machine near the front door..
Now I had a small collection, it started growing . The first additions were all quite small, and eventually I decided the display needed a centrepiece. Keeping the budget in mind, as larger Santas cost larger sums of money, and I was designing and making rag dolls for pocket money. I designed a rag doll, and called it the Santapiece. He was joined by Merry Christmas, and most doll bodies I created after that got a Santa makeover.
Twenty years later there were 220 Santas, including one Brian bought for me, and one tree was decorated with 60 of them, in addition to those on shelves, filling the dolls house and on the floor. Even broom handles got the Santa makeover!
When we first got married there was little money to spend on Christmas decorations, so I made some with whatever I could get.
Our first tree decorations were matchboxes covered with used Christmas wrap with some gold thread to hang them on the tree. Gradually the wrapping and the trims on the matchboxes became more elaborate, and when the boxes got crushed they were replaced with shapes cut from Styrofoam packaging.
While we were living in Snowtown I made an angel to go on top of the tree, and entered the tree in the local Christmas Tree Festival, with all hand made decorations, including a few Styrofoam ‘boxes’. It won the competition, but was more pleased that finally the tree had no commercially made decorations.
Most of our Christmas trees still have hand made decorations, using fabric and thread, paper and glue, ribbon and lace, new and found objects. I have made most of them myself, and I have designed many of them as well.
Others are decorated with items purchased for the purpose, though not all of them were intended to be placed on a Christmas tree by the manufacturer.
I use very little tinsel, but make alternatives from yarn to match the theme or colour of the other decorations.
Even some of the trees are handmade, using broomsticks, Dowels and cotton reels to hold wire branches, which in turn hold fabric, yarn or string foliage.
We have lived in many different areas of South Australia, moving after just 12 months or staying 8 or 9 years.
It is always nice to know before the decorations go back in the boxes if we will move before the next Christmas. It takes just a little bit of extra time to pack the decorations away with a little more packaging around them to keep them safe during the shift. When the real packing of all our goods and chattels starts there are all those boxes of decorations ready to go!
Decorating a different house can be very time consuming, trying to fit decorations tailor made for a previous address into the current one, so I use what I can, and then make some new ones. Over a few years I usually manage to incorporate most of the older decorations plus the new ones into a house …
And then start again at the next address.
My sister Sue says I have an obsession, but I can only think of it as a magnificent obsession. It was the same sister who unwittingly encouraged me to carry on when she told me that the Jamestown Magic Cave had been decorated with donations from members of the community, so when I no longer want to deck our halls with all I have, I will look for a Magic Cave to take the excess.
She also asked me if I had considered opening the house as a Magic Cave for Mums and Grandmas, though Father Christmas should be given a room to meet and greet the small kids too.
Perhaps there will be one or more in the family circle who will give the boxes and boxes of decorations and a small forest of trees a home! My Mum always made the effort to put something up even when they were going to be somewhere else on Christmas Day, so perhaps its in the genes, and it may be showing up in one of her great granddaughters, Rachel
As we have moved around we leave family and friends behind, but though they may not be a part of our day to day lives anymore, we like to keep in touch. With each move the list has grown, and in 1989 I started publishing the Butcher’s Bulletin. It has become an annual addition to the dozens of Christmas cards we send each year, much assisted by a computer after the first few years.
The Bulletin is simply a brief overview of what we have done through the year, incorporating as many word beginning with ‘B’ as I can , so Brian playing ball games and me making blocks and adding borders is a consistent source of news each year
Many of the cards are recycled into decorations. To hand on trees and walls and sit on windowsills.
Christmas in July
In 2002 I exhibited Christmas collectables and hand-made decorations in a ‘Christmas in July’ Exhibition in the Ascot Building in Kadina. I had so many tree trims I had to borrow trees to hold them all.
Glenice brought in grandson, Matthew, who spotted Brian’s old boots which I had painted green and used to display tree sticks, pop-up dolls and heads on sticks. He asked me if they were meant to belong to Father Christmas, because if they did they should be black.
Angela brought her then 8-year-old and very crafty son, Sam, to have a look. She looked at the sewing collectables on a tree and spotted the little reels of cotton and said she had just thrown some out. Sam piped up “I rescued them. Knew they would be useful.” I copped my share of criticism because I had a big embroidery hoop up too high, and he thought small decorations should go up high, big ones down low. He’s right!
Angela had just given away a doll’s house, and was lamenting while looking at Megan’s dolls house full of my Santa collection. Sam said “The whole trouble with you, Mum, you just don’t think things through. You could have used it in the shop!” (The shop in question being Country Crafts and Fabrics in Minlaton, which is a favourite spot of mine.)
He asked me how the cork trains were made, and I explained that I had cut the corks with a sharp knife, and if he wanted to make them he would have to get Mum or Dad to cut them. Angela shook her head and told me he had claimed a craft knife about two years earlier because she didn’t do exactly what he wanted.
That Saturday night they went to the pub, and Sam fronted up to the bar to ask for some corks, counted them, went back for more, and made cork trains for everyone for Christmas that year!
Five years later I was teaching a ‘Three Santas’ workshop in the Barossa Quilt and Craft Cottage, when one of the girls asked me if I was the one who had been responsible for the ‘Christmas in July’ exhibition in Kadina!
Wonderful to be remembered.
14th January 2005 to 2.25 pm 16th December 2006
In 2004 the Golden Harvest Quilters presented me with quilt blocks with a Christmas theme as a farewell gift when we moved from Kadina to Bordertown
Before the blocks became threadbare from me playing with them, in Jan 2005, I put the small borders around each one and got them together, two days later. the project was left a bit rough around the edges for more thinking time while I planned the border. It was not until the day the Golden Girls celebrated their 20th birthday on Wednesday 13th September 2006 that it became less ragged, and while the Golden Girls were celebrating at the 2006 Christmas Party, I completed the top, sandwiched (with out the filling), and quilted and within days it was completed and on the bed.
It looks absolutely wonderful, and every time Brian wiggles a toe bells ring! (I’m not telling you what is going on when the bells ring for extended periods of time, but we will have to curtail that sort of activity while we have guests!)
I am delighted with the results, and will be sad to put it away during the colder months, but what a thrill it will be to get it out when the Christmas decorations come out for their annual airing. It is unlikely that I will ever forget the Golden Harvest Quilters, but I have no doubt that the memories will come back every Christmas despite age and old timers disease!
Thick gold wire was bent into rings to hold the pages together, and a bunch of ribbons and yarn was tied together and glued to the front cover.
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