Creating Your Own Simple Christmas
Paging through each special-edition magazine brimming with new ideas for Christmas decorations can take your breath away. Yes, the pictures are dazzling–but interior design photos illustrating holiday décor can also be intimidating and make you feel overwhelmed. As you drag out the old boxes of mismatched and worn ornaments, don’t be discouraged. There are a few simple steps to help add some strategic glitter to your holiday habit.
Step One } Time
First, decide how much time, effort and money you are willing to spend on decorating for the holidays. Most of us would agree that the less the better, but we also want to be delighted by the beauty of Christmas.
Step Two } Create a Blueprint
Second, create a blueprint for your Christmas decorations by deciding whether or not you want to use a theme. Lots of things can inspire a theme. For example, a favorite scripture, poem or even a Christmas carol can be the spark for all your holiday décor. You can also be inspired by color. In fact, changing your holiday color can make a fabulous difference simply and inexpensively. A few new ribbons, a few new ornaments and natural plant materials can give an otherwise worn collection of decorations a completely different feel.
The whole point of decorating is to create an atmosphere that invites all to feel good about the season and to know that it is a special time. Theme decorating makes the entire process simpler, because it allows you to focus and not be confused by so many options. As most who know me realize, my favorite place is the beach, so despite the fact that I live in a community far from the beach, I use shells as the theme for my holiday decorating scheme. The combination of shells, greens, lights and ribbon makes a festive appearance that announces Christmas in my unique style without breaking the bank. I finally gave in and ordered a fine, artificial pre-lit Christmas tree from QVC. Rather than pretending it was like all the real trees of the past, I chose not to use most of my old colored ornaments. Instead, I stuck with my shells and old white ornaments and added large teal and white bows, along with a few new teal ornaments. The tree was beautiful. Almost every time he walked past it, my husband said, “You really outdid yourself this year.” Actually, it was one of the easiest trees I’ve ever decorated.
Simplicity Made Simple
Make decorating the tree a special family tradition. Start by assigning everyone a task and setting aside a whole day for the event. Be sure to reserve certain ornaments for each child to hang. Make the crowning star or angel a privilege for the youngest child to place on top of the tree (with a little help, of course). You could also make this a tree-trimming party and invite the neighbors or extended family. Set the mood with your favorite holiday music and eggnog. Encourage young children to make things to hang on the tree, and be sure to have the family collect ornaments year-round. I always shop for Christmas ornaments on vacation in the summer. Give your child or grandchild an ornament every year–eventually this can become a treasured collection that lasts a lifetime.
Master the art of tree lighting. David Stark, a Brooklyn, New York, floral designer, says the trick to hanging lights on your tree is to go up and down, not around. Start by dividing the tree vertically into three sections and string the lights by sections. Always plug in the lights before you begin, to identify any defective bulbs. Start at the bottom and weave each string in and out of the branches, to the top of the tree and back. David Murbach, manager of the decorators for New York City’s Rockefeller Center, says to use the trunk-to-tip method to create “not just a shell of light but an inner glow and a three-dimensionality that cannot be achieved any other way.”
The visual appeal of candlelight and the warmth it evokes have an undeniable attraction. References to candles date back to the early 13th century B.C. in Crete and Egypt. The quality of candlelight depends upon the type of material used. Although beeswax is still considered the best, soy candles are the cleanest burning. And there’s a specific height to which a candlewick should be trimmed–one-quarter inch. You can completely avoid those black ugly specks melted into the top of your candle by trimming the wick after each use. To create a very pretty tablescape, combine candles of uniform color in a variety of shapes and widths. For an elegant look try placing different-height tapers in a straight line down the center of your table. Of course, never leave a burning candle unattended. Because I have cats, I thought I was smart when I placed a candle high up on a shelf. I then left the room to put on some lipstick. When I returned, the candle had started to burn through the shelf above! Now I usually use the new battery-operated candles. They are made of wax and come in several shapes and sizes. But instead of a flame, they have a flickering light placed deep into the center that operates with a switch on the bottom. I love them!
Indulge your senses. Incorporating smell into your Christmas décor will make your rooms most pleasing. Scents infuse and transform the season into a magical and unforgettable experience. The alluring aroma of spices and freshly baked goodies, the clean, crisp scent of pine needles, or the perfume of frankincense and myrrh are sure to put you in a holiday mood. Essential oils are an easy way to add holiday aroma. Homemade potpourri and sachets can be prepared five to six weeks ahead of the holiday season. In a plastic bag, sprinkle essential oil, dried flowers, leaves, nuts, seeds and berries. Or simply place a wreath of silk or dried florals and greens in a bag and scent with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. I love using juniper, cedar wood, spruce and balsam. You can also choose heady scents like myrrh and sandalwood.
Keep it simple, year after year, with a basic wreath. When I was a young bride on a very tight budget, a friend made four little wreaths from tiny little pinecones for me. Those wreaths were the basis of my holiday dŽcor for years. I changed the ribbon and included a few additional ornaments and accessories to give them a fresh look each year. You can do the same with a basic grapevine wreath. Add ribbon in your chosen style, whether it’s country plaid or fashionable satin for a truly personal touch.
Lord, thank You for making our smallest efforts seem grand in the eyes of those we love. Set loose creative ideas in me, so I will learn to use what I already have in order to bless people on Your behalf. Amen.
Excerpt from A Simple Christmas: A Faith-Filled Guide to a Meaningful and Stress-Free Christmas by Sharon Hanby-Robie. Reprinted with permission from GuidepostsBooks. Copyright © 2006 by GuidepostsBooks. All rights reserved.
A popular speaker, author and QVC’s resident home décor expert, Sharon Hanby-Robie has crafted the new book series The Spirit of Simple Living (GuidepostsBooks). Sharon has been featured on numerous television programs (“The Today Show,” “Later Today,” QVC, HGTV, DIY Network, The Discovery Channel, etc.) and has authored My Name Isn’t Martha, But I Can Decorate My Home; Beautiful Places, and Spiritual Spaces. The first titles in her new series are A Simple Christmas and The Simple Home.