Revenge of the tree decorator  – Teresa Barrow

Just remembered that I shrink wrapped the fake Christmas tree last year …. genuinely ….. after years of have you done it yet? (equivalent to toddlers in the back seat on a long car journey doing the inevitable “Are we there yet?” ) but far far worse! ….. Years of going giddy just to put the lights round it… it’s not a maypole you know.

So I rebelled last year … I didn’t take it down, I just dropped it to the floor like a Ninja and rolled it over in shrink wrap & bin liners and parcel tape confined it. Looks like a dead body in the shed to be totally honest…. Lights, dingly danglies, decorations, tinsel and all. This year should be a breeze.

So why am I, at 2am, chain stitching a Christmas Charm Pack to make a tree skirt …. I never ever needed one before… Oh that’s right hubbie relocated the tartan material that I used to throw around the stand in the house, and in a house bursting with material, I do not have a nano chance of ever locating it again ! But here is the cunning plan …. evil cackle/laugh……. He is going off for 4 days to Germany to see family … arriving home on Christmas Day at about 1am. Wants the house all Christmassy for when he (the Santa Hubby gets home). He’ll have eaten all the German Christmas Market Sweets on the plane home, so that’s me staying skinnyish!

7 yrs ago I built a miniature conifer garden in railway sleeper bed he built. Itsy teensy fir trees. I was going for the Bonsai look. Very Zen and Feng Shui, I even spent 3 days putting tiny slate flakes in different colours to make Celtic Knots around the miniature conifers. Miniature my sit-upon. Do not listen to what the garden centre labels say … I have a 6 foot dead brown monster out there….. vile dead tall brown thingy…. I will use a mop bucket from a supermarket, chop the dead brown blighter down, find the completely naffest decorations that I can find in the world plus lots of tinsel to confuse him for when he gets home and hide the real tree … loo, shed, neighbour …. He won’t even notice …. bless! Pictures will be taken, Mwaaaa

The Best Presents – Christine Hutchins

My family have always made Christmas lists – letting each other know what we would like for Christmas, and including quite a few options for people to choose from, so that we would have a surprise. In 2010, my dad was suffering with a return of his oesophageal cancer – he’d had chemo and the tumour removed earlier in the year, but it had come back. When I opened the present from him and my stepmum, I was a little surprised to discover a tin of shortbread, but thought given the circumstances, shortbread was lovely. A couple of days later, I thought that I would try some of the shortbread, opened up the tin, and discovered…not shortbread, not buttons, but a heatgun, and some packets of fusible film and angelina / crystallina! An absolutely perfect present!

The Present You Never Ever Imagined – Sue Griffiths

First I’d like to give a bit of context. My family are book people, my mother had a bookshop and we are all voracious readers. So it’s no surprise to be given a book at Christmas. One Christmas, however, we received a parcel with no sender and no card. The parcel weighed a tonne. OK 3 kg. It was a book entitled “Shelter from the Storm: The Story of New Zealand’s Backcountry Huts”. I’m serious, it was a 3 kg history of tramping huts. We live in Australia. (take a moment to consider the postage). …. I tend to do more quilting than overnighting in the back country.  So…. Um, why do I want this?

We did find out it was from my brother, but that’s all we know.

Childhood gifts: a parent’s love – Hilda Wessels

In the Netherlands, and certainly in my youth, we never exchanged gifts for x-mas. That was reserved for the 5th of December, when Sinterklaas had his birthday.

Christmas was, for us, in our very small town, being Christian and going to a christian school, church and girls club, about the birth of Jesus Christ. That was what we celebrated all over the place. In school, in church, in the girls club.

Now you have to take in consideration that I do come from a poor background. We hardly ever got new clothes, but we did get them for Christmas. That was like a celebration on its own: me and my sister went with mom on the bus to the bigger town 8 miles down the road. And we got new clothes… We could choose what we liked, and mom said yes, OR no, if it was too expensive.We could pick a dress, or trousers with a blouse or sweater, AND new shoes too… After shopping we went to a tearoom and got something to drink and a pastry… My my. That was something to look forward to…

One winter came, and that was a problematic time. We had had a broken washing machine, and the car broke down… So my mom sat us down and told us we could not go shopping. I had to cry, but I held back my tears. As brave as I could I asked, what can we do to help? I was about 6 so we couldn’t do much…We were all quite sad. But mom made us some hot cocoa, we got a cookie and she told us she would try to find a solution to make us be as pretty as we could be with Christmas…

The week before Christmas my dad got a new, better job. He got a car with it… I remember so very vivid… it was a Citroen DS, the sort that went up at the rear when you started the engine… He was proud. So very, very proud. He asked us to take a seat; he told us that he would take us for a ride in the new car. So…. he started, the car went up and we went crazy! The feeling was magical…. daddy, daddy, one more time! so he did. I will never, ever forget the smile on his face.

Then we went off. He took us 8 miles down the road to the bigger town. We got there, and he told my mom he got an advance on his new wages. So, we are going to get the girls some pretty clothes! And, also for you, he said.

OK… so that’s what we did. We got pretty dresses, my mom too, and new shoes, AND we got to drink something with pastries… That Christmas we were so very proud. We could wear our new clothes to the children’s Christmas, to church too. We were off course happy with the birth of baby Jesus, but, my… we were happier with that new clothes and the new car… But most of all, that proud daddy…

He left us 10 years ago. Age 63, a sudden heart attack. At his 60th we got him, for 1 day, a Citroen DS… that same smile…

The greatest gift:  being there when you are needed  – Christine Hutchins

Of course, Christmas can be a difficult and stressful time as well; last year my husband had a heart attack on Christmas Day – before we got to having Christmas dinner. Whilst husband was in hospital, it was my quilting friends who checked in with me each day, seeing how I was doing, and how my husband was. This was just what I needed – someone checking in with me, and how I was doing; in fact one of these lovely ladies has significant health issues herself, but despite this, she checked in with me, and also invited me and my foster child to go round to have a meal with her and her family.