There was one Christmas when my father in a fit of rage pulled our Christmas tree up by its branches and ripped it from its soil filled pot in one corner of the lounge room.
The tree fell heavily and there was a clattering of baubles, a sea of cut glass that my mother later tiptoed through with her dustpan and brush.
My father sulked off to his room.
Some of the Christmas baubles had come from Holland, where they had once adorned the Christmas trees of my mother’s childhood. Through them she had held onto hope for a better life on the other side of the world.
Did she lose hope then, at the sight of the smashed tear drop bauble, the one that hung from the topmost branch and glittered from its many edges? This was a bauble renowned for its shape and the way its maker had caved in one side and filled it with a different colour and texture from the smooth round outside.
How could my father have done this? How could one person so destroy the beauty of Christmas?
It was never the same again. So many baubles smashed.
Over the next few years we went to Southland and bought new trinkets to put on the tree but none so glorious as those that came from Holland.
Today my mother is too old and tired for a tree. She prefers her ancient nativity set, careful as ever to leave the baby Jesus hidden behind the crib until Christmas eve.
Once more this Christmas one of my daughters has decorated a potted olive tree from our back garden with origami birds and butterflies in subtle colours, alongside the glow of white lights from Target.
In our house where no nativity scene appears, there is only the spirit of Christmas, a time when tensions are high but love cuts deepest; where we help one another; think of one another; grow frustrated with one another and sigh at the advancing of another year’s ending.
May your Christmas be as good as mine, with all its hard edges and joy.