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  • Category: Damien Barrett


I don't know what it is about the impending festive season that brings out the christmas Nazi in me.


Maybe it's seeing all of the beautiful professionally decorated trees in the shops which look so perfect; or maybe it's my lifelong aversion to hanging christmas "craft" lovingly made by my nieces and nephews on my perfectly appointed tree. Or maybe I'm just bloody sick to death of seeing shoddily decorated christmas tree after shoddily decorated christmas tree in the hundreds of homes I visit from November through to christmas when I'm on the job as Tupperware lady extraordinaire.


Now don't get me wrong. I am not averse to $2 shop decorations - after all, very few of us can afford to spend thousands in the christmas departments at DJs and Myer. My singular most important rule when it comes to decorations is that they can be cheap as long as they're covered in a shit load of glitter. It must be the drag queen in me - if it looks like it's just right, add more sparkle!


As soon as I get that first whiff of christmas - whether it's the ludicrously early presence of decorations in the shops; or that first time each season you hear Mariah Carey belting out All I Want For Christmas Is You while you're in the supermarket buying toilet paper, I know it's time to get my elf on and start decorating the town house.


My partner and I started doing christmas for our families at our place about 7 years ago. My motivation was that if we hosted christmas, it was the only family function we had to do for the whole year. And if I was preparing lunch, it meant that I was in the kitchen all day and didn't have to speak to anyone. What initially horrified me (spending Christmas Day with relatives instead of my gay family) now delights me, once I discovered that no one does festive or christmas spirit better than the gays.


Let's face it - the straights can have Australia Day, St Patricks Day, Easter, ANZAC Day, Halloween, and any other holiday you can think of but when it comes to christmas they can back the fuck off. A snow flake themed paper serviette and a disposable plate printed with red poinsettias does not a glamorous christmas make. Whenever someone in the family even hints at the suggestion that christmas should be anywhere but at our place, I rather snidely mumble under my breath that if you don't regularly entertain to a high standard throughout the year then you have absolutely no business hosting Christmas Day. That usually shuts them up very quickly.


The actual installation starts at the beginning of November and this year it was extra special because I bought a new tree a few days before christmas last year. A beautiful 225cm Lincoln Pine that stopped short of hitting the roof by about 10 centimetres. When it comes to Christmas trees I am a size queen. Yes, I start preparing 12 months out - nothing is left to chance. Countless hours are spent from early August, scouring every online christmas super store worldwide to find just the right decorations, with just the right amount of glitter in just the right shade of aqua for my tree. I don't do traditional - I do a modern mix of aqua, silver and white.


And here is where I can oft times run into problems with tacky children's christmas craft made by nieces and nephews. Everyone knows that Uncle Damien and Uncle Adam's tree is aqua, silver and white so they will often attempt to make a decoration for us in keeping with our colour scheme. My strategy in dealing with their crudely made pieces of Yule tide "art" is simple. Rather than flat out refuse to put it on the tree when the little darlings proudly present their festive masterpieces to me, I stare wistfully at their glued together mess of elbow macaroni and glitter and very sadly confess to an 8 year old that I couldn't possibly put it on my tree because Grandma would be devastated if I deprived her of the opportunity to display such a beautiful piece of art on hers. Whatever works.


damien treeWith a new tree, comes the inevitable issue of fluffing. You can't just take a tree out of its box and assemble it like a bookshelf from IKEA. So after my new evergreen beauty was assembled, there was a week of fluffing the branches so the shape looked just right - just like a real one! We also do our staircase with garland dressed in the same lights and decorations as our tree. It's pretty much like doing a second tree and if truth be told, I love my christmas stair case more than the tree itself. In fact the gays have been heard to say at our christmas night open house that it's just not christmas without "Judy" Garland on the stairs.


A gay christmas needs appropriate accessories, and to quote Clairee in Steel Magnolias it's our ability to accessorise that separates us from the apes. So I have a big box of Christmas statues, vases, ornaments, candle holders and mugs that gets brought out of storage each November. (Yes, I even have seasonal coffee cups). This Miss Merry Christmas will not be caught with her tinsel down around her knees.


Then there is the all important question of the Christmas Day playlist. Everyone who is anyone has a christmas album in their back catalogue - from Elvis to Bing Crosby, Celine, Boney M, Dolly, Paulini, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Buble, Faith Hill, Susan Boyle and Hi-5. Even Barbra and Bette have have festive tunes in their back catalogues - odd given their Jewish heritage. But when Barbra belts out a sped up "Jingle Bells" or Bette does the hula to "Mele Kalikimaka" (her Hawaiian Christmas song), Christmas magic is made. All of these are on constant rotation during November and December at my alfresco candle light suppers but for my money, you can't beat Mariah Carey's "Merry Christmas" album. A true christmas classic, there is not a bad track on it (unlike her rather gratuitous attempt to make a few more squillion dollars off the season of gift giving with the atrocious "Merry Christmas II You").


Most Christmas albums in recent years simply don't have the style or finesse of Carey's first offering. I couldn't quite come at Destiny's Child's "8 Days of Christmas" - an RnB holiday album? I think not. Jessica Simpson's 2004 effort "Rejoyce: The Christmas Album" was truly heinous - Simpson's high pitch screeching was only audible to neighbourhood cats and dogs. Even the Biebs had a go last year with the cute but just bearable "Under The Mistletoe". He even managed to convince Mariah Carey to revive "All I Want For Christmas is You" as a duet which sounded like he was singing it with his mother.


This year's new releases show some promise. Anthony Callea's "This is Christmas", Human Nature's "The Christmas Album" and Kelly Clarkson's "Wrapped In Red" are all fabulous - expect to see Clarkson's title track popping up in December drag shows.


However, for me, despite months of preparation, fluffing trees, stringing lights and wrapping presents for my friends and family, it never really feels like Christmas until one thing happens. It's that moment on Christmas Eve when "Queen of the Carols" Marina Prior, steps onto the stage of Carols By Candlelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl wearing a gorgeous gown, botoxed to the hilt and belts out "Angels We Have Heard On High". I know then that Christmas has arrived.