The buds begin to appear towards the end of November, just before Advent. Thoughtfully, the trees vary in their timing, some retaining their vibrant heads of blossom well into January, but for the most part, their display is at its most spectacular in the third and fourth weeks of Advent with a show that always thrills me. And how did they know that red and green are the colours we would come to associate with Christmas? What reds, orange-reds and green they are. They fairly burst with joyful colour.
It’s Brisbane, and the trees are, of course, Poincianas, named after Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, who was a governor of St Kitts. Officially, they are Delonix regia, and are also known as flame of the forest or even flame tree, but we have a better candidate for that. The name which probably suits them best is flamboyant. They go by many names across India and S.E. Asia.
Keep your pines and firs, with their un-snowed-upon branches gracelessly upright, desperately needing baubles and drapes of tinsel to convey festivity. I’ll walk outside and, where the passion for subdivision and six-packs has not destroyed them, look across the suburban hills to pick out the splashes of red, even yet, with contributions from the occasional flame tree still afire with the fading remnants of its peculiarly intense red.
I know Advent is penitential, but, but… what a season it is. If we must forgo a springtime Easter, we have at least subtropical summer Christmas. Praise God!
O come, O come, Emmanuel!