And just like that it’s Christmas time again. I know it sounds like a cliché, but really, how is it that Christmas surprises me every year?
You get to June and July and every association I have with these months is still summer and warmth and holidays. But it’s different here, it’s cool and so-called winter. Then my birthday comes along, in spring now,which will probably never sit right, and the next thing I know it’s Christmas time, with summer just around the corner. Although this morning with mist in the fields and low hanging clouds in the rolling hills it could or should be Easter.
Maybe it is this confusion in seasons that came about since swapping the Northern Hemisphere for the Southern one – maybe that is part of the reason that Christmas time or Advent is always a surprise. There is no typical ‘golden autumn’ (as my Omi always called it), followed by a grey November, where blue skies are rarely seen. Where children sit at the window (or was that just me?) watching those grey skies, hoping that the temperature finally drops low enough to make soft white snowflakes out of that drizzling rain.
So without all that, Advent and Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere still arrive. Biscuits, decorations, chocolates appear in the shops, and of course the never ending array of potential presents in the stack of catalogues are there. And with the surprise “It’s Christmas Time”, something stirs in me and gives me a guilty pang in the pit of my stomach. Have I prepared enough? I was meant to do this and that and the other. And I wanted to FINALLY make that Advent calendar and create a beautiful handmade Christmas card to send to friends and family. And my daughter might be old enough now to be excited by Christmas – so we should make it special – make gingerbread houses, beautiful presents and stars for the windows and place twinkling lights in and around the house.
With all these thoughts racing through my head I stumble across an ad for a German supermarket, stopping me in my tracks:

Why do we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect for Christmas? What is it about this time a year that drives us completely insane?
I’ve decided to take this very timely lesson on board and change. This time will be different and the change is noticeable right away. Let’s focus on the essentials – let’s make our home nice and feel a bit like Christmas is on its way. And most importantly enjoy the possibilities that living in Australia and away from a cold European winter bring.
So instead of giving you instructions on how to fold stars for the window out of tissue paper, which I would have had to draw up in a rush, I sat down and ‘recorded’ my small craft session on Sunday.

In Germany, we celebrate Advent in the four weeks leading up to Christmas and every Sunday is marked as an Advent. The Sunday that just passed was the 1st Advent and we normally light the first candle on our Advent Wreath. Instead of a wreath with candles, I decided I’d make a small ‘arrangement’ instead, with candles in it and a small wreath to hang on the door or a wall.
Armed with my secateurs I did a quick round through my garden and took small clippings of greenery. It doesn’t need to be spruce, pine or other traditional European Christmas green such as holly. Summer is just around the corner and the garden is alive and bursting with new growth, green and colour wherever I look. The only reason the spruce became our traditional Christmas tree is because it is an evergreen. And if you look around in a German winter, you won’t find much else that is green to decorate your house with. So instead I collected a small amount of a type of conifer (thuja) and a lot of Christmas Bush, Paperbark (Melaleuca) and Bottlebrush (Callistemon).

If you’d like to create something similar for your house, you might find it useful to gather these other items first:

  • A circular piece of wire to use as a frame. You might be able to find this in a craft shop. It is optional, but would make your job a bit easier.
  • Wire for tying your greenery together and to the frame
  • Household scissors and secateurs
  • Candles (4 if you’d like to light one each Sunday in the lead up to Christmas).

To tie the wreath select one piece of your greenery and use the wire to tie it to your frame. Tying it in one spot should be enough.

wreath-tying-1Then select another piece and repeat while slowly making your way around the frame.

wreath-tying-2 wreath-tying-3
You can make this a lot fuller than I have of course and you could wrap it tightly or keep some leaves a bit looser. I found the Christmas Bush much nicer left informal than tied too closely to the frame. But that is of course completely up to you.



wreath-on-door wreath-on-brick wreath-on-timberAs mentioned previously, my Advent Wreath is not actually a wreath this year. I instead found an unused basket I liked and found a stable spot for each of the four candles.

I then selected pieces of greenery, just like I did for the smaller wreath, and arranged them around the candles until I felt it was finished. As much as possible, make sure that the twigs don’t get too close to the flame.

We are spending most of our Christmas time outside – so both the wreath and the basket with my candles will be outside. You may be nervous having candles inside the house but for me Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without candlelight and the smell of beeswax. I do of course watch any candles I do light very carefully and it goes without saying that they should never be left unattended.

These two projects were quite simple and I managed to complete them while the toddler was having her nap. And I already enjoy them every time I look at them and we made sure we lit the first candle on Sunday night.
The poem from the ad still plays in my head. It starts with me thinking: “still need to do this and that” but I now try and correct myself and think instead: “no need to do this or that” and remind myself to take it slower this year. And maybe – just maybe – I might surprise myself this year by making Christmas a time to relax with my family and take the time to enjoy the small things. And who knows, maybe by changing things around a bit, it will also help ease the longing for a cold German Christmas that still tends to linger even after so many years…