Christmas is a busy time of year for us all but none more so than for Liverpudlian Ged Comerford who has found himself in charge of decorating the Christmas tree in Bethlehem, just yards away from Jesus Christ’s manger.
“When the job first came in, I thought it was a prank call,” says Comerford, the head of operations for The Christmas Decorators, the Liverpool company who have flown to the West Bank to do this colossal job for the past five years. The local Palestinian authority builds the 55 foot steel structure which Comerford and his team of six then work 14 hour days for a week to cover in foliage, over 40,000 lights and 7,000 baubles.
Creating a tree in the holy city may be Comerford’s most surprising job but it’s not his trickiest. He’s also hired by celebrities from Peter Kay (“We did Jason Manford ‘s tree and he told Peter about us”) to Jonathan Ross to a hoard of Premiership footballers.“ Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne have a reindeer farm and then a huge tree in their lounge. They want very luxurious decorations in and around their estate with lots of floral arrangements, garlands and lights everywhere,” says Comerford. “Sharon says she likes to be able to see her house from the aircraft when she’s flying home.”
Another year, Mariah Carey enlisted the Scousers at her hotel in Aspen, Colorado. “She was staying at the St Regents hotel and she wanted us to go and decorate the pent house suite for her.”
Yet it’s not always the A-listers who want the most outlandish Christmas decorations, says Comerford. “A very wealthy man who made his money in loo rolls wanted live penguins to entertain his guests. He flew in Lionel Richie, Charlotte Church and Westlife to entertain his guests while the penguins just walked around. In that particular year there was real snow.”
A more fun request came from Grenadian-British footballer Jason Roberts, who wanted black Father Christmas figurines for his tree – “not easy to find.” Then there was the cosmetic dentist in Chelsea who wanted a tree dripping in 22-carat gold baubles, and this year he’s done the Prince of Dubai’s £90 million rented home in London.
“We had to decorate it twice because he was so particular about it.” It’s Christmas all year round for Comerford and his team who spend the entire year planning their client’s lavish trees – and in January they’re back to take everything away.
Comerford might have thought someone was pulling his leg about the Bethlehem job but since then, he’s recruited a waddle of penguins and tracked down diamond-encrusted nativity scenes. So does anything surprise him anymore when it comes to Christmas? “I believe I’ve seen everything but you just never know what people might want next.”
TREE TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
- The more lights the better. Wind the lights from the bottom of the tree, up the trunk and around the branches.
- Use as many glass ornaments as possible to give the tree lustre and brilliance.
- Ribbons and flowers look good on artificial trees, but don’t use them on real ones.
- If you want to give your tree more height, use a Grecian urn as a pot.
The World’s Best Christmas Lights Saturday 23 December 8.00pm C4