The spirit of Christmas.


My dad did not like garlic nor plastic flowers. Any devon sausage infused with garlic was not for him. Worse were the plastic flowers. Already then, plastic flowers and even plastic plants were a normal occurrence in people’s homes. ‘They last forever and look so pretty, almost like real flowers,”  many would say. Dad despaired about the country that so loved gardening, yet so accepting of that which wasn’t real. Is there anything else that is not real, he felt like asking?

Years later I worked for someone who had a holiday house at Palm Beach, North of Sydney. Avid readers of my blog might remember, my ruminating over my first visit to Palm Beach noting a total absence of waving palms. How  could anything be so blatantly wrong? Was this legal?

While in Palm Beach working, I came across a garden where the owner had actually planted plastic peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) in the garden. They were in full flower (perennially), a bit faded, but none the less flowering profusely. They weren’t real but that did not seem to bother the owner at all. I find that terrible. What else is accepted that is not real?


Recently, our local council has e-mailed all those with e-mail  asking residents for input about planning the future of this shire. This includes the planting of trees along streets. In the past many cherry blossom trees were planted which looked out of place. The profusion of pink cherry blossoms in Spring at odds with the beauty of the native Eucalypts and fiery  Callistemon.

This area is very dominated and historically been peopled by many from England. Ireland and Scotland. The highlands with its much cooler climate reminded many of the ‘old’ country and subsequently many tried to make their houses and gardens a bit like Sussex, James Joyce’s or Oscar Wilde’s hair,  or Edinburgh castles. Some  gardens have little rose covered arches. Cute white painted cement-cast angels keeping watch over equally cute cement toddlers reading a book together in dappled light of an aged oak. You can’t help but take out a Thomas Hardy book and then try find a yeoman…, a Timothy the Thatcher or perhaps do a tempestuous Pride of Erin at the local food court.

Yes, the council plants year in year out the same plastic Christmas tree. A large one in the middle of a cosy town square. It doesn’t  even look real. It’s plastic shimmering in the baking sun.    My dad would have written a letter  to council, back in 1974 but now it is 2015, almost on the cusp of 2016!

With all the love of gardening and asking for input, council puts up an artificial tree?  What has changed? Surely a live tree could have been put up or even a cut-down pine or spruce? Something real. Christmas deserves that. What an example to the children!


The Christmas tree isn’t the only plastic greenery council has put up. The shopping streets in the small towns have all been decorated with cute little baskets of petunias, but…they are plastic. Of course in cold winters one would not have petunias, so…it makes it worse. And…council is employing town-planners…asking for input from locals…? What is going on here? They know better in Bali or Thailand. Nothing plastic flowering there.


This year we bought a small tree made from small slats of sun- bleached driftwood. It isn’t real but it does not pretend (to be real).  Each year we normally take in a real conifer that we have growing in a pot. This year we thought it just too heavy to drag in. On the front door we hung a garland of intertwined wooden sinewy twigs which could also have been made from flotsam found along a Balinese beach. It is artistic and honest, unpretentious. In the middle of this garland is suspended a little wooden star ringed by very small electric little lights that go on as soon as it gets dark. Both look so nice and more real.

We will look at our driftwood decorations together and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

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32 Responses to “The spirit of Christmas.”

  1. berlioz1935 Says:

    Our “modern” time is a pretend time. We pretend so much nowadays. Not much is real anymore. We even go shopping with pretend money. And when the real bills arrive we are shocked.

    We live in a virtual world. Even the wars we are haveing are not real anymore. For sure, people are still dying in those wars, but we are making no effort to end them. We pretend we love peace but bomb innocent people. We dig out coal and pretend it is good for humanity. Our new PM even wants to sell the coal, because if we don’t, others will. This is the argument of the drug and weapon dealers.

    We keep pretending we are a good society but doing everything contrary to that concept.

    Plastic is made from oil and coal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It is pretend time, Berlioz. But what can one do?

      Being retired I just want peace and tranquillity. Christmas is mainly plastic and baubles.

      Most of us like that and happily sit around the Christmas tree and never even worry it is plastic and false, not real. An escape from the real. We don’t want the real.

      I noticed we were given a caramel milkshake served in screw-top jar this morning. I don’t mind, it was at least in glass but why in a screw top ex- jam jar?

      It is all becoming so baffling and complicated.
      First the Himalayan salt and wooden platters and hot on the heels, screw- top jars.
      It is not normal anymore. Nothing is normal. I want out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • berlioz1935 Says:

        There is only ohne way out, you know that and it is too early for you. We are here to sustain ourselves to observe. You are doing just fine. The older one gets one realise that human life is a charade. At least the Western way of life is.

        We too have a plastic Christmas tree, but for practical reasons. In Australia a natural tree dries out too quickly and starts to stink after a few days.

        The “Silent night, holy night” Christmas is here unknown. Even after fifty six years I have not got used to the contrived merrymaking.

        Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Not too worry, Berlioz. January 1, 2016 is coming and all will go back to normal.
        Are those screw top jars used in cafes, in your region too?Have you spotted them yet?
        It is all the rage here. Soon we will be drinking our latte with the use of a fork!


      • berlioz1935 Says:

        No, I have not spotted those screw top jars here. But then you, in the highlands, are more avant-garde than then plebs at the coast.


  2. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    The best thing about your little tree is that you can leave it out all year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. auntyuta Says:

    “Pride of Erin” – some real music?

    How about showing us your driftwood decorations in some photos?
    I am all with you, Gerard, we should aim at enjoying the Christmas spirit. Have a great second Sunday of Advent with dear Helvi. 🙂
    We go for lunch tomorrow to Bulli Beach Cafe with our family. Three in the family have their birthdays in early December. So this is the Sunday when we can get together for some birthday celebrations.
    We still would love one day to go for lunch to the book barn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Thanks, Uta.
      We did not make that driftwood tree. We bought it and the photo on top is the tree. That’s it! We love it. It was probably made in an Asian country. We love the simplicity of the idea and using what was freely available without the use of plastic.
      Lot of plastic is floating around oceans killing fish, even large animals.
      The book barn is very busy with weddings and corporate bookings right now.
      We will be at the Bendalong Camp-side this Monday and Tuesday meeting up again with my brother who likes camping in his Campervan. Is it possible to meet up then? It would be nice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yvonne Says:

    They were selling real trees today near my home away from home in Venice. You would have approved. Oh, and a charity is selling real poinsettias for Christmas. I’ve got one in the hallway here.
    The photo of the driftwood tree refused to reveal itself to me, shy little thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Yvonne.
      The same is happening here. I noticed Big W selling potted conifers for $50.-. Poinsettias are also very popular. You can’t see the driftwood tree? I did not think it was that small! 😉


  5. auntyuta Says:

    Gerard, you say: “Each year we normally take in a real conifer that we have growing in a pot. This year we thought it just too heavy to drag in. On the front door we hung a garland of intertwined wooden sinewy twigs which could also have been made from flotsam found along a Balinese beach. It is artistic and honest, unpretentious. In the middle of this garland is suspended a little wooden star ringed by very small electric little lights that go on as soon as it gets dark. Both look so nice and more real.”
    Did you decorate the conifer for Christmas to enjoy it while you sit outside? Could you please show us pictures of the conifer and of your front door the way it looks like right now? I mean, you described it very well. But it would still be nice to see some pictures of all this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I took some photos of both the garland on the front door and the potted conifer which is on the right of the photo. At the back are some really stunning Hydrangeas/ Hortensias. On the farm we always had a good supply of pine trees. In fact, people used to steal them from our land when the Christmas spirit overtook them!

      This year we will just have the wooden driftwood tree without any decorations. It doesn’t need it and is beautiful on its own.

      Having just read The Saturday Paper on the widespread institutional abuse of children by the church from Cardinals down to the local priests, I wish it was possible to distance the Christmas from man-made Christs’ churches.

      By the way, Big W is selling potted conifers for Christmas right now. We look forward to meeting up in the next year Uta.
      We are off to Bendalong tomorrow and then a range of grandparental visits, the annual friends getting together in Balmain and all sorts of other dates with links to festivities and much jolliness.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. stuartbramhall Says:

    Your council should plant edible trees to feed the homeless and hungry. When I lived in Chico California, the main streets were planted with orange and walnut trees. It was an important source of food for the poor.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I don’t like fake Christmas trees, or fake flowers. Neither makes sense to me. Fake plastic flowers on a grave it’s the ultimate insult (in my eyes).


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Those fake flowers on graves are the ultimate insult. It is saying, “you were fake and useless alive, and even more useless now”. “Be gone and never darken my doorstep again”.
      One reason the dead never come back.

      Liked by 1 person

      • shoreacres Says:

        I don’t think that’s always so. My mother and father are buried in Iowa, and I’m a thousand miles away, in Texas. If I were in Iowa, I would tend their graves — water the peony bushes, and trim the rose bushes I’d plant. But I’m not there to do it. So, I put silk geraniums on their graves, flowers that hold up better than you’d think. It comforts me to think that they have a sign of care, and I don’t think my folks care one bit that the flowers aren’t real. My love is.


  8. petspeopleandlife Says:

    The driftwood tree is unique and I think you could remove the star and use it for decoration after Christmas. The same thing for that really pretty wreath on the door. Remove the star and you could leave it up all year long. It is made of natural materials and therefor appears appropriate. Lots of folks here , wealthy included hang wreaths on the front doors during the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, Ivonne. that’s what Helvi said too. I suppose that star signifies Bethlehem. A reminder of a religion that had a bad start by nailing people on a cross. Since then we seemed to have been sucked into a black hole, going by all the killings that have been going on off late..

    The good news is though that The New York Times, for the first time in sixty years, published an editorial on its front page, condemning America’s gun loving culture.

    How are things with you?


  10. Yvonne Says:

    Now all the photos are revealed to my me.


  11. Says:

    I’m no fan of plastic flowers, though in certain contexts silk flowers have great charm. Christmas trees? I have mixed feelings as cutting down trees to kill them slowly for three weeks is not so good (though I do it). Having one in a pot to bring in each year is good. Homemade is even better.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Big M Says:

    Yes, Gez, we seem to be living in a virtual world. I was just reminiscing about the Iraq War, the way the US missiles had almost perfect targeting thanks to GPS, and they had a camera with live feed, so the assembled world audience could watch the horror, whilst some Colonel blabbed on about the strike being only cm off target. No pics of dead innocents, burning townhouses, or rape and pillage.

    Anyhoo, you will be glad when you visit Nelson Bay to find the council has put lights around the biggest Norfolk Island Pine near the marina…no plastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Ok, We’ll keep a look out for the big tree near the Marina. We and kids with their mother will be staying at Cote D’azur if that’s of any help. No WiFi at that place. (It will be a big surprice for the grandkids.)


      • Big M Says:

        Cote D’Azur looks very up-market. We stayed at a little place called Bali at the Bay, in Shoal Bay. I know the bloke who built it. He spent 1000s importing authentic Balinese artifacts, etc. Unfortunately, adults only.


  13. Charlotte Hoather Says:

    Fairy lights are the most important, those little globes of coloured lights cheer up dark nights I hate taking them down in the New Year, have a lovely Christmas.


  14. Patti Kuche Says:

    Your driftwood decorations are so tasteful Gerard. Wow on Bowral going plastic. Made in China, dreaming of Sussex.


  15. Forestwoodfolkart Says:

    It is sustainable, being able to be used year after year. But I do prefer ‘real’ trees! Plastic just doesn’t cut it.


  16. Therese Trouserzoff Says:

    Reblogged this on Window Dresser's Arms, Pig & Whistle.


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