The meaning of Christmas (decorations)

It’s becoming something of a annual blogging tradition to chronicle additions to my (rather extensive) collection of Christmas tree decorations. It could be tedious, but it’s more for my benefit, so I can remember where they came from when I am old and senile.

To explain the premise:
My family (well, my mother began it…) has a delightful tradition of collecting Christmas tree decorations that mean something (this was a family tradition before the Nativity set obsession began). They could be meaningful because of who they were made by, where they were from, or what they symbolise. It’s my favourite thing about the Clutterbuck Christmas and I can be a total bore at parties when my Christmas tree is complimented. Ask one question and you get a very long soliloquy in return…

That’s this year’s tree – the fake monstrosity of past years didn’t make the move to KX, so I did some foraging again and recreated last year’s Christmas Twigs

This year, there are three additions to the collection and when I looked at them, I realised that they symbolised three big features of this year – gosh, how I love a good bit of symbolism! 
Firstly, some rather lovely wooden hearts bought in Harpenden:
I can’t remember the name of the shop (Jenni, you may need to help me out here) but it’s on the High Street, just a few doors away from the Methodist Church. I bought these in the January sales (Christmas decorations top tip: buy them reduced after Christmas) when I had some time to kill before a meeting at the church. 
The church was one of my case studies in the Missing Generation research project I was consumed with in my old job. For nearly three years it was the main focus of my professional life, until the summer when I got to present it to Methodist Conference – where, thankfully, people seemed to get rather excited about it. In fact, if the absence of people aged 25-40 is an issue you’re interested in (especially if you’re Methodist), why don’t you ring up the good people at Methodist Church House and ask what’s happening with the implementation of the report’s recommendations…
There’s nothing I like better than handmade decorations, so I was really pleased to discover that the women at the Marylebone Project had made some with Sweet Notions. I bought a few (as did lots of other people, meaning that they pretty much sold out) and spent a afternoon last week making my own versions for Christmas gifts. 

This time last year I was aware of Sweet Notions and their work, but hadn’t quite been sucked into its world until the middle of this year. You know you’re properly involved in a project when you find yourself baking cakes at 11pm (and having cake failure tantrums) and can be found loading transit vans outside swanky hotels late at night. 
Sweet Notions works with the women of the Marylebone Project, teaching them how to make jewellery (and assorted other things – recently I witnessed a great bath bomb/bath scrub workshop), and this jewellery then gets sold at boutique events that occur sporadically. I discovered the project through quite a random coincidence – one could say that God really wanted me to know about it, ensuring that two people I already involved told me about it separately. I don’t often get to spend time with the women, thanks to work, but I love it when I do. What I especially love about these decorations is that I know who made them – the blue ones above were made by Adele, who only makes blue jewellery. We had a great chat about the decorations before I bought them and she taught me how to make my own. The other two in my collection were made by Cathers, who I can credit with getting me properly involved in Sweet Notions in the first place. 
It was quite a while before I fully realised that Sweet Notions is just one part of the larger Matryoshka Haus, which the fabulous Shannon Hopkins heads up. Getting to know Shannon has definitely been one of the year’s highlights – little did I know that one invitation to Thai food would result in a trip to France to build a house; my social life hub moving to the East End; a host of new and interesting friends; and involvement in an incredibly exciting missional project. In October, I found myself in Chichester with other members of the community, where I bought this beauty in a little art shop:

It seemed appropriate to mark the importance of the Matryoshka Haus community with the ultimate accolade – a place on my Christmas tree. Thus, in years to come when my grandchildren ask for the story behind the heart shaped glass bauble, I’ll be able to tell them about the strange collection of great people I lived life with in my early thirties. [God help me, that’s the first time I’ve ever referred to my ‘early thirties’. Terrifying.]


  1. Threads? Did it have lots of gifty things in?

  2. I too am a decoration hoarder. My tree is pretty full so I am now extending out to decorating other parts of the house. This year was the introduction of some sparkly twigs and a robin to perch on them to commemorate my new (and very popular) bird house in my garden (I’m not at all sad…!) Love Harpenden and am sure there are a feast of goodies there and the report looks really interesting too. That’s my favourite drum to bang so will be giving it a read for sure!


  3. @Jenni – Threads! That’s the one…

    @Nicola – Good to hear. Glad I’m not the only one!

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