Decorating the tree is one of the ways in which the magic is never over. The ornaments keep their sparkle and, despite their fragility, accrue layers of festive memory to them. The hard work of digging out the box, checking the lights, discretely removing the baked ones gone green with mould, pushing your fingers through those uncomfortably tiny loops on the glass baubles and tugging them over the branches – it’s all worth it.
Is it just me or did a lot of people put out their decorations earlier than ever this year? My guess is that we are all hankering for something that tethers us back into a reality we know and love. A longing for the taste and smell of togetherness. Something solid and sweet and full of hugs. We are not adrift in a time-loop in the multi-verse we cry! We are setting a course back to normal with our tinsel and our sparkling lights!
This year, as with each year, I have bought one new ornament for each of the children. Gleaming red toadstools. These are my newest decorations. My oldest are a set of 10 rounds made of Yew wood, each painted in honour of the Nine Worlds plus the Well of Wyrd (because it seemed rude not to include the Nornir). I place them carefully upon the tree in an approximation of their arrangement in the cosmos. Arranging the ‘verse itself into order. There’s no return to normal though, my tree speaks of shifting times because it is a different tree, in a different house. The old tree is back in my old home. Two trees, two houses. My tree is a new beginning born of separation.
I know that many, many people will be experiencing a Yule/Christmas/Winter feasting vastly different from the one they were anticipating. Absent loved ones, uncertain finances, shifting identities. I know that collectively humanity has not experienced loss and isolation in quite the same way before. But individually our ancestors have weathered storms far worse. They have recovered, reimagined and rebuilt. We can, and will, do the same. I have chosen a potted tree in the hopes of reducing my environmental impact. A friend told me how her potted tree becomes steadily more impractical to man-handle into the house with each passing year – maybe one day that will also be me! Perhaps this tree will co-exist with me for years to come (wish both of us luck with that as I’m not known for my plant magics!).
The World Tree itself is an image of survival. When the worlds are covered in the deepest, most desolate of winters we are told that it shakes its branches out so that humans may find shelter in its arms. We may not be able to replicate our old winter rituals exactly but perhaps we can find renewed strength in reworking them both to connect us to the past and to envision a brighter 2021. So however and whenever you’re planning to fill your hearth with the signifiers of light and hope in the darkness I wish you safety, solace and sanctuary.