Christmas-tree-decorating is joyous, technical, and highly ritualised. DEPTH. PRIORITY. THE FANNING OF BRANCHES. My preferred aesthetic is somewhere between Liberty’s of London and the Disneyland Hotel (two spiritual homes). Growing up (I say this like I am now (a) tall, and (b) different), my favourite decorations included the gorgeous wooden and china ones my mother had bought at Literal Disneyland while on tour with the RSC . They’re everything. Less admirably, my other favourite decorations also included (and include) a strange fox in a hatbox, and a resin badger now missing one foot, both chosen by self when under seven. I “compromise” about their inclusion each year by putting them in a moderately secluded position and daring anyone to challenge me.
Wife & self & parents decorated the Stratford Tree last weekend; tonight, after a symposium on the Medical Humanities, Strictly, and an excellent chicken Kiev, wife & self did the Oxford Tree. My mum gave us selfie props. The result, as you’ll see, is like a gayer Abigail’s Party with the entire cast in need of haircuts. The pictured cocktail, the Festive Unicorn, is now a tradition. Because I have Pinterest aspirations but cannot sew or cook, my version of Christmas catering is to infuse lethal alcohol from gin, fruit, and Kilner jars. I am in a harrowing psychological war with our friend Ben in the field of Festive Prep, but since he has an actual label-maker for his homemade jam, I’ve lost. Two years ago, while tree-decorating, I cured Emily’s flu by switching her from Lemsip to Homemade Raspberry Vodka. Think on, and Happy 2nd December.
P.S. Here is our tree-decorating-playlist. It’s not groundbreaking but its inclusion makes me feel like An Influencer. Last Christmas is on there an integer number of times because it’s the greatest Christmas pop song ever written.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.