“Today I’m going to share a bit of family tradition – quite a new one that we’ve been doing for maybe five or so years. We put some winter twigs into a jug, and put fairy lights on them and decorate the branches with stars and moon decorations – just stars and moons. By the jug, we have a bowl with a pen, and small squares of coloured paper and ribbon cut into short lengths. Over the course of the run up to Christmas, Christmas Day and the days after Christmas, we write our hopes for the coming year – for ourselves, or family and friends and for bigger things – on the squares of coloured paper. We roll them up and tie them to the branches. They’re secret: you don’t tell anyone else what you hope for. It’s our hope tree.
“As the days go by, there are more and more hopes on the tree: this is what it looked like this morning, and we have friends coming to dinner today so I expect there will be more before the hopes-on-the-tree deadline of midnight tonight.
“On 6 January – sometimes earlier, but never before 1 January – we’ll burn the “hopes” on a small bonfire outside – if it doesn’t rain, and in the stove if it does.
“I thought that this idea was entirely original. But of course, it’s not. My elder child pointed out that I had pinched it from references to the Japanese (summer) festival of Tanabata, that I had read as a child in Rumer Godden’s Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. In the book,Nona, unhappy and lonely in England, makes a wish tree as she is inspired to learn about Japanese culture by the arrival of two Japanese dolls. She ends up making a house for them while she herself finds herself increasingly at home. It’s all there in the book: the stars, the tree, the wishes (or hopes) and even the burning of the wishes (or hopes). I loved that book as a child, but I’d completely forgotten that part of it until my daughter read it and reminded me. It’s interesting to think that something from a children’s book lay forgotten and dormant in my head for almost three decades: just one reminder, for me, of the unexpected power of reading for pleasure as a child.”
And happy 2011 from all the Crows: we hope that your hopes are fulfilled.