This is the first of a series of posts about having a fun and pretty Christmas, even if the cupboard is bare, the overdraft is large and everyone else is ignoring you in favour of your much cuter new nephew.
Because Christmas is not aimed at people in their twenties. All the seasonal adverts pitch squarely at exhausted mums trying to fill every stocking and bake every mince pie, or at children who, by 1st December, are already delirious with excitement about all the new plastic stuff they’ll be allowed to break on Christmas morning.
But if you’re still in the first uncertain flush of your career, university a recent memory, it’s easy to feel a bit at sea about how to do the whole festive thing properly. Especially as what lots of us lack in funds we make up for in well-populated Pinterest boards, so most us have a clear idea of the charming, vintage, tastefully decorated Christmas we’d like to make. We might be low on cash, but we’re pretty high on the creativity front. How to reconcile the two? I’m going to try it.
The first in this series is about canny decorations-purchasing. In the fledgling years of my independent life, I’m lucky enough to live in my own (rented, but still) flat, so I quite wanted a tree for my first year in my own place, before I head to my parents’ house for the business days of the season. But the trusty box of beloved family decorations is with my mum and dad, and there’s it’s gonna stay. If I want pretty things for my flat, I’m going to have to furnish my own festivities from the ground up.
First stop was Tesco, where I picked up the wreath at the top of this post for £1.55, reduced from £5. It needed some garish gold adornments stripped off it, and it was a bit bashed up, but after a bit of TLC it looks great. There is no shame in those yellow ‘REDUCED’ stickers. And then, on to the charity shops.
I think lots of people are put off by charity shops when they’re thinking of Christmas decorations, partly because, well, John Lewis is just so nice, but mostly because when you walk into your average thrift shop come December-time it’s awash with nothing but fundraising card packs and half-eaten tinsel.
Reader, I share your woe. A glance around my beloved local charity shop, from which I have bought everything from a coffee table to a chopping board in times of need, didn’t look promising. But there were, in fact, treasures to be had.
What I soon learned was that I wasn’t rummaging enough. Lots of the charity shops round by me seem to have a big box of scary-looking Christmas stuff, with broken baubles and things spilling out, but when you really search through properly and take time to look at everything, you can quite easily find some unusual things.
One of the shops I went into was selling a variety of decorations of different shapes and sizes, all for well under a pound each. If, as I did, you rocked up to the till with an an armful of approximately 8,999,600 of the glitzy little blighters, they said bloody hell, let’s just call it £3.50.
I live in an area with quite a lively Eastern European community, which is probably the source of these patterned bells and the little wooden figures under the umbrella, above. If you’re going for a mismatched Christmas theme (and if, like me, you don’t have a lot of cash, then you probably are), you’re pretty much guaranteed to find your entire Christmas bling lurking underneath the dodgy cuddly Santas.
One last thing: this year I have noticed an epidemic of what, in our house, we’re calling ‘sexy golden reindeer’. We first saw them at Christmas central, John Lewis. They’re golden reindeer decorations, often covered in glitter, posing flamboyantly with one hoof raised, a showgirl prance or an artful turn of the head. They are utterly ridiculous and I like to give them Mean Girls style personalities: they are the beautiful people of our Christmas tree.
We found a set of five matching ones in one charity shop, and in another, a resplendent glittery king reindeer (though his antlers could do with a little re-gilding). We made sure he was well-lit on the tree, higher than his peers. He loves the limelight.
Coming soon in the TsC series: last-minute gifts, easy food and free entertainment.