12 Days of Christmas – Freya Blackwood

What a thrill to have Freya join these 12 Days. Freya was awarded three times in the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards last year, the first time in the awards’ 69-year history that this has occurred. And her art is just exquisite.

Read on and discover her very different Christmas Memory and a new tradition.

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My family don’t adhere to any typical Christmas traditions. We were brought up as atheists and encouraged to question all forms of normalcy and tradition, Christmas and Santa Claus included, which as a kid was dreadfully disappointing. But this was how it was with lots of things at our place – birthdays, holidays, dinners, parties – we always did things differently and never fitted in with.

My favourite part of Christmas has always been putting up the Christmas tree. But because we weren’t normal, our Christmas tree wasn’t normal either, it had to be something different. My grandfather, a painter and staunch atheist, started the tradition of using the flower from the agave plant as a Christmas tree. Their’s was painted silver. My mother maintained the tradition throughout my childhood. Determined to carry on the tradition, I set out in my VX Golf a few years ago to get our own agave flower. They’re delicate and beautiful, but really quite enormous and tall, so I transported it back home upright through the golf’s sunroof. My Christmas tree is a slightly modified version, chopped up and reassembled as it wouldn’t fit through the front door.

As a child, unwrapping the decorations for the tree was the exciting part. We didn’t have nativity scenes, angels or stars, we had a bizarre collection of hand made decorations – a clay witch riding her broomstick and a naked woman with a head of real human hair, shapes and figures made from shim copper (copper sheet), fimo figures, and one shim copper figure with moveable joints, only one leg and a set of crutches, as I was obsessed by breaking my leg and using crutches.

My grandparents had beautiful decorations for their tree, glass baubles and birds that clipped to the branch, and 1970s sparkly foil decorations. When my grandmother died I inherited a collection of their decorations, so now every Christmas I get to unpack them and put them on our weird agave flower Christmas tree.

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Freya Blackwood lives in Orange, NSW with her daughter, their naughty whippet Pivot and four noisy chickens. She has worked as an effects technician at Weta Workshop on The Lord of the Rings trilogy but now creates amazing art for her picture books. Her latest books, and those that won the awards last year, are Go to Sleep, Jessie! and The Cleo Stories: The Necklace and The Present, both written by Libby Gleeson and My Two Blankets (Irene Kobald).

And do check in at her website home:  www.freyablackwood.com.au.

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