Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail
15th December 2018
This year I have also decorated a little tree outdoors – for the birds. It’s a fabulous festive alternative to the bird table and great fun for kids (and adults). If you’re feeling flush, you can treat them to their very own Christmas tree, but I’ll be using a sprawling buddleia growing in a flower bed that I can see from my front room. There is a lovely evergreen viburnum next to it, which provides a bit of shelter and safety for the smaller birds, but deciduous shrubs and trees tend to provide better perches to actually feed from.
Once you’ve chosen your tree or shrub, decorate it with swags of any hedgerow fruit you can find, or dried fruit like raisins and cranberries or even chunks of fresh oranges, coconut and apples. Plain popcorn and unsweetened cereals like Cheerios can be threaded onto string or raffia to make tasty garlands and little crab apples will make great edible decorations to hang on branch tips.
Open pinecones can be filled with a suet and seed mix and hung on the tree and ready-made little suet balls and shapes can be hung from sturdier branches. If in doubt about what is suitable or not, there is lots of advice and suggestions on-line.
And if you are already dismissing the idea as a waste of money, may I politely point out that the birds may actually be more appreciative of their festive gesture than some people will be of theirs!
Tinsel was introduced as a tree decoration to mimic spider webs that adorned outdoor trees. It is still considered lucky if you see a cobweb on Christmas Day. There will be no shortage of luck in my cottage if that’s the case!
Mistletoe (Viscum album), from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, literally means “little dung twig”, because the plant spreads though bird droppings. It is considered unlucky to take down old mistletoe unless replacing it with new – so I have just replaced last year’s withered sprigs in the porch with new. No point in cancelling out the good luck which the spider’s webs will bring.
Holly and ivy have been used to decorate homes since the 9th century because they symbolise everlasting life. In Pagan times, holly was thought to be a male plant and ivy a female plant and an old tradition stated that if the holly was brought in first, then the man of the house would be the master for the next year, but if the ivy was brought in first, then the woman would rule for the next 12 months.
Looks Like Rain Dear
The original Rudolph did not have a red nose as they were seen as an indicator of chronic alcoholism, and they didn’t want Rudolf to appear to be a drunkard.
A Clement Moore poem introduced eight more reindeer for Santa’s sleigh – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Duner and Blixem (for the German words for thunder and lightning) and which later evolved into Donner and Blitzen.
Although most of these names are male-sounding, male reindeer shed their antlers in winter, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are more than likely to be female!
At a recent talk I gave, the audience had some fun coming up with different names for that funny time between Christmas and New Year. The discussion was inspired by a creative mate, Cliff Arnell, who has called it Twixtmas, and suggests that we do something productive on each day of ‘Twixtmas’, as a sort of tradition.
Anyway, the educated part of my audience told me that the Norwegians call that week Romjul, and the enterprising part of the audience came up with their own names, which included Taintmas, Merryneum, the Christmas perineum – see the type of audiences I get? My favourite was – Chrimbo Limbo.
And for Chrimbo Limbo this year I will be rebuilding 10 yards of dry stone wall in my piggy field. I have noticed stone walls have been falling like flies lately, and a wise old farmer told me it’s because of the extreme weather we are having. The ground hard frosts of last year will have caused expansion, then the ground was saturated and then baked dry by the summer heatwave. All that creates movement at the base of the walls, which leads to the inevitable collapse and that big pile of stone where your wall used to be. Good job it’s one of my favourite things to do.
Thank you to all my wonderful readers for your continued support this year. Have a very Happy Christmas, a productive Chrimbo Limbo and a peaceful New Year, and I’ll see you on the other side.