“Deck the halls with boughs of holly. . .” You hear the song every year. But should you really deck your halls that way? Isn’t there anything else?
Of course there is. Decorating for the holidays has been going on for centuries. Early Romans celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) because it meant that farms and orchards would be soon green and fruitful again. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples, inside and out, with evergreen boughs. The Germans, however, in the 16th century were the first ones to bring decorated trees into the home. And Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, is credited with adding lights to a tree. According to lore, he was walking home one night and was awed by the vision of stars twinkling through the trees. Wanting to share the beauty with his family, he brought a tree inside and lit it with candles.
Christmas trees made their way into the hearts of Americans toward the end of the 19th century. Ornaments began flowing into the states from Germany, but homemade tree decorations became fashionable as well; popcorn, apples, nuts, and pastries were popular materials. Electricity begat Christmas tree lights, which became a standard decoration for indoor trees. But our very own McAdenville, NC is believed to have begun the tradition of putting electric lights on outdoor evergreens.
So how should you decorate this year? Why not try a mix of traditional and new? Don’t you have prized ornaments that have been in your family for years? This year make them stand out. Buy some beautiful felt ribbon and hang those cherished heirlooms from the tree with extra-long strands so that they will be the first ones noticed. If they’re heavy, make sure to hang them farther back and on the higher, sturdier branches.
But you can also make some new ornaments for your tree this year, and it’s especially fun when the kids can help. Purchase some air-dry clay (available at any craft store) in a variety of festive colors. Roll them out on a cutting board like you would dough and cut them into holiday shapes with cookie cutters you probably already have. (If you don’t, you can also pick those up at the craft store.) Poke holes with a straw for the string at the top of the ornaments and then place them on wax paper to dry. If using white clay, you might also dabble with paint to create a specific look.
Do you have a ton of pictures on your hard drive that you’d like to use in some capacity? Make them into ornaments! Print them out in sepia or black and white and put them in small gold or silver frames. Hang them from those strong branches and take a trip down memory lane every time you look at your tree!
Another great idea is to have a small children’s tree. When you’re picking out your Frasier fir, buy a miniature version as well. Let the kids decorate it any way they choose with leftover ornaments, tinsel, and ribbon. It’s a great way to avoid the low-hanging, clumped-together ornaments on the big tree that you desperately want to rearrange. You type-A parents will completely understand.
Want a makeover for the tinsel look? Try ribbon garland instead. Find a 12-inch ribbon to wind from the top of the tree to the bottom, wrapping it horizontally around the branch ends. It’s a different and sophisticated look.
With the tree handled, it’s time to focus on the rest of the house. If you didn’t pick up a wreath at the tree lot, and are feeling creative, you can make one on your own that’s unique and displays your personality. Do you have any red, green, or white balls of yarn? Wrap a styrofoam wreath form as well as a bunch styrofoam balls (use two different sizes to make it interesting) with the yarn and then hot glue the balls to the form. It will make your door look especially welcoming and homey. Spray with a protective finish, though, if you plan to use it outside.
Do you have extra Christmas cookie cutters in your kitchen drawers? Glue some scrapbook paper onto the backs, arrange them in a circle, and then hot glue them together. Add a bow and you have a festive addition for your kitchen.
For a more traditional wreath at a great price, grab a few bags of metallic and colored stick-on bows. Glue the colors of your choice to a wreath-shaped wire or foam frame and you’ll have an inexpensive and cheerful display on your door.
Do you find yourself wondering what to do with all the Christmas cards you receive? An easy solution is to hang a length of chicken wire from the wall and then use clothes pins to affix the cards as they arrive in your mailbox. Everyone loves looking at holiday cards; it’s a great conversation starter.
Every home needs an advent calendar and it’s not too late to create your own, even a few days into December. Find a long branch and then tie small gift bags to it with varying lengths of ribbon. Use the to/from tag for the number. If you have little kids, candy inside will never disappoint. Hang the branch on your wall and enjoy their excited faces every morning as they open each bag.
With some creativity, imagination, (and some quality time on Pinterest), you can have your house ready for the holidays in no time. And you can do it without breaking the bank. Fa la la la la la la la la!