Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. Has been since I was a very young girl. I think much of the reason is that it was the one time of the year we went to church, and I know I loved to visit with my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. And who doesn’t like presents? As I grew up, I found something I could add to the list of things I love about the season: decorating!
Of course, decorating for Christmas centers around the tree. While I was working on setting up our tree this year, I thought I’d take some shots and make a little tutorial here for those of you who are avoiding decorating this year because you’re not sure where to start, or who feel like your tree is just a hodgepodge of “stuff.” Let’s have some fun and make it pretty!
First, determine where it will live. Every year part of the fun of decorating the tree is deciding where exactly we want to put it! Your tree will take up several feet of space in your house, so you will want to pick a spot where it won’t be too much in the way. Most likely, you also want it to be visible from all areas of the room. Personally, I enjoy trying different spots from year to year. It’s fun to swing the furniture around and have a change of scenery for awhile! Placing the tree in the room’s natural focal point–between bookshelves, at the pinnacle of a peaked roof, or in front of a window–makes for a lovely setting.
Now, onto the tree itself! If you have a child with allergies, trouble-making pets who are likely to mess with a real tree too much, or an aversion to sweeping needles, you might want to consider an artificial tree. While you lose the natural pine scent as well as the ambience of a real tree, artificial trees have many advantages over natural ones. They can be set up quickly with no trip to the tree lot, and generally hold heavy ornaments with less coaxing than a real tree will. Either way, you want a tree that will give you at least 6 inches of clearance to the ceiling, so make sure you know the height of the room at the place you’ve decided to display it. Keep in mind that a taller tree will generally also be fuller, so consider both the height of your room and the usual clearance around it–and don’t forget people will most likely still need to be able to walk around the room! In my area, the two most common types of trees available are Douglas fir and Fraser firs, which we prefer because of their softer needles.
Here’s the tree we chose this year. It’s a little smaller than usual, and we like it–in this area of our living room, smaller seems better! We’ve placed it in front of a front window so we can see it from outside. And yes, I painted the walls in this room several years ago over the summer, but with the Christmas season in mind! It’s called Drama Red, and does make a perfect backdrop.
Time to add the lights! The usual rule of thumb is to use 100 lights per foot of tree. Therefore, a seven foot tree would take 700 lights; a 9 foot tree would use 900, etc. I admit to being a bit of a light fiend; one year, I had 1500 lights on a 9 foot tree. It may have been a tad much, but hey, what’s Christmas for if not abundance? I actually decided to step it back a little this year, because when you have sooo many lights, it can become a bit overwhelming. This is 800 lights on my 8 foot tree …
I like it! Run an extension cord up the back of your tree and wrap the plug-able end into a branch. That way you can plug each set of lights into that, rather than having multiple cords to the wall. It also makes it easier to turn your lights off and on. If you want to get really organized, purchase a timer which you can set to turn off and on at chosen time each day and plug your extension cord into that. My favorite time of day is settling into my quiet time chair with my Bible and a cup of coffee, and watching for the tree to turn on … all by itself. 😉
When you’re wrapping lights into the tree, most manufacturers recommend that you don’t plug more than three strands end to end. Finish each strand and plug in the next close to the center of the tree so they won’t be visible once the decorations are up.
I add my special touch next: snow! If you want to go all out this year, you might like to try my trick. It’s simple to make and adds a really nice touch. Here’s where you can find out how to make it: Christmas Tree Snow!
After the lights and snow, it’s time for the fun stuff! I like to wrap something garland-y into the tree first. Whether long strands of beads or pearls, ribbon, or actual tinsel garland, this creates continuity in your tree and also helps separate it into even areas to help you arrange ornaments later! You could weave garland from top to bottom, or wrap it around your tree. This year we have a ribbon woven around the tree …
Choosing a theme is the answer to the problem of Christmas tree hodgepodge! If you already have lots of ornaments but want to make your decor look a little more cohesive, you only need add a few things to the mix. The easiest thing to do is to determine what color (or colors) you’d like to go with! Some years my tree is done in creams and pinks, one year it was silver and blues, and for the past several years we’ve celebrated Christmas wrapped in red. You could also choose a subject theme: candy, or the Nutcracker, or angels, or music … you get the idea! Head to the seasonal aisles at your local Target or a craft store for inspiration! And don’t worry–you can still use your favorite, collected, non-themed ornaments; those are the important ones, after all! But having a base of similar items is the trick to a really nice-looking tree. Gather a garland, and a few similarly colored items in your chosen theme and have them ready to go.
Next, add your “sets.” Matching ball ornaments, bows, or even flowers are great. Just grab one set of matching items at a time, space them evenly throughout the tree, and do the same with the next and the next. Here I’ve used roses and poinsettias, and added a second set of garland in gold. Later I added gold glass balls.
Here’s the thing: you really could quit here, for a very classy look. But if you’ve got some wonderful ornaments you’ve been collecting for years, now’s the time to add them! The ballet shoes you see in this picture were bought at a Christmas shop in Vermont while Rob and I were dating. And the framed pic of us is from our first year here in Jacksonville. Adding new pictures every year is a great way to make sure your tree is personal, and they will assuredly be some of your favorite ornaments to unpack! Handmade ornaments are great, too!
Of course you must have a great topper for your tree. Star? Angel? Even a puffy bow can make a perfect crown! This angel was acquired at a Yankee Swap, and perfect for us this year!
And without further ado, here it is; the final product!
Of course, you’ll want to cover your tree’s base. There are beautiful skirts available in the stores, but they can be quite expensive; I often wrap mine with a tablecloth as you see here. In the past I’ve used white sheets or the fluffy white “snow” fabric you can buy in a bag. You could even try sewing your own skirt!
And there you have it–a pulled together tree sure to make you smile every time you see it! I pray you’re enjoying your Christmas preparations as much as we are!