When the holidays come around, it’s hard not to reminisce and think back to past family traditions. Mama’s sizable snow village, a primary part of her living room decor, created excitement every time it was set up and illuminated. Grandma’s abundance of snow globes and music boxes—which covered every last inch of her tables—made everyone laugh out loud when the little ones tried to get them to all play music simultaneously. Placing the decades-old nativity under the tree with Dad meant decorating was finally complete, and there was nothing left to do but sit back together and admire the work. For many, holiday decorations are infused with meaning and nostalgia. On the other hand, this time of year can be a chance to think outside the red and green boxes, be creative with bright and bold colors, and have fun creating new memories and traditions. Whether you’re going for a classic or brand new look, when it comes to the holidays, there is no right or wrong way to express your seasonal cheer. We’ve broken down several distinct themes, with suggestions and tips on how to create each one in your holiday home…
For those favoring a traditional scene, it’s hard to top the warmth and welcome of red and green decor. Wrap lighted, green garlands around railings, and drape them around a variety of wooden nutcrackers standing tall on the mantel. Hang red, green, or white stockings by the fireplace, and accent furnishings with coordinating blankets and throw pillows. Mistletoe in the entryway offers a truly classic look. Set up a nativity, perhaps one that has been passed down from previous generations, under a multicolor lit tree topped with a beautiful angel. If space allows, display a Dickens-style Christmas village that will be sure to serve as a conversation piece when visitors come around. Illuminate windows with battery-operated candles to give off a soft glow, and adorn outdoor windowsills with greenery and red or burgundy bows. Add a matching wreath to the front door to pull it all together. Wrapping paper in reds, greens and golds, perhaps with a plaid design and topped with big shiny bows, will complete the scene.
If you love midcentury style, consider incorporating vintage decor this season. This is especially fun if you have family heirlooms or collections that have been passed on to you over the years, such as antique snow globes, and Norman Rockwell prints or plate collections. Generously dress your tree with antique glass ornaments and lots of shiny tinsel, and top it with a bright star. Make a wreath out of brightly colored pink, blue, green, yellow and silver ball ornaments. For the mantel, place retro Santas, snowmen, or small bottlebrush trees among a casually draped garland or twinkle lights. Finish the old school vibe with long knitted stockings hung by the fireplace. A holly wreath on your front door or over the mantel will have you singing along to 20th century holiday tunes. Presents wrapped in printed paper— Santas, trees, reindeer, ornaments, or snowflakes—and tied up with yarn will evoke merry memories.
A winter wonderland theme provides plenty of holiday glamor, and also allows you to extend your decorations past the holiday season if you so desire. Use cool-toned LED lights and icy white, blue, and silver colors. Incorporate snowflakes, snowmen, and glass, crystal and other sparkling accents. A flocked tree could be the perfect focal point of your wintry scene—there are artificial trees that can be bought pre-flocked, or you can add some “instant snow” yourself to one you already have, or even to a real tree. Snow flock can be purchased at various craft or home improvement stores and can also be used on garlands, wreaths, or on a bouquet of branches as a centerpiece on a table. Decorate the mantel with small, glittery trees, a frosted garland and a strand of twinkle lights. Add some shiny ornaments to the garland and hang a few faux fur stockings for some extra glitz. Spray paint a bushel of twigs with silver glitter and stand them up in a vase. Pull the icy colors from your decor into your wrapping paper as well, and top boxes with glittery bows and die cut, snowflake gift tags.
For a more low-key look straight from Mother Nature, try a natural theme. From live greenery and vibrant seasonal fruits, to adorable woodland creatures and rustic pinecones, the natural world offers many ways to decorate your home this time of year. For garlands and wreaths, magnolia leaves are a lush alternative to fir, spruce, or pine—or mix them together for textural interest. Accent with pinecones, and real or faux seasonal fruit for a fresh look. Top your mantel with natural-toned deer figurines, small trees or interesting branches, and illuminated lanterns. Incorporate wooden signs with holiday sayings such as “Joy,” “Let it Snow,” or “Merry & Bright.” Fill large glass bowls or vases with pinecones or pears, apples, plums and cranberries. Keep your tree simple with warm white twinkle lights and white or natural-hued ornaments with rustic texture. Surround the base of your tree with burlap. In the entryway, place small trees in buckets or baskets. Farmhouse-style pillows and cozy quilts on sofas will add extra charm. Use kraft paper as gift wrap, and finish with twine and a sprig of berries or greenery for a splash of color.
If you are looking to keep it simple this holiday season—maybe you’re traveling a lot, a recent empty-nester, tight on space, or just plain busy—there is most definitely a way to go minimal while still being festive. Instead of putting up a full-sized real or artificial tree, opt for a tabletop model instead. A small pre-lit artificial tree is easy to set up and adds instant cheer. It can stand on its own, or add a few of your favorite ornaments for extra impact. Craft stores sell various festive picks that are fast and simple to insert. If you’ll be home for the holidays, a live tabletop tree from the garden store is another great option. After the season, keep it in a sheltered spot to enjoy its winter greenery, and in spring it can be planted in your garden or transferred to a larger pot. You can also string up a “wall tree” by zig-zagging a string of lights, garland, or pom-poms on a bare wall in the shape of a tree. Use it as a place to display holiday cards from friends and family.
If you don’t have time for a tree, you can add a touch of holiday cheer with a glass bowl or jar of ornaments surrounded by a bit of greenery and chic candles. A few plug-in or battery window candles will give your home’s exterior a welcoming gleam without the hassle of putting up outdoor decorations. Instead of worrying about decorating throughout your home, center your efforts on one visible zone—perhaps a dining or coffee table, or the mantel—and create a single holiday focal point. When wrapping gifts, choose one pretty, all-purpose wrap and ribbon for a unified look that you won’t have to overthink.
Playful & kid-friendly
The holidays are extra magical if you have little ones added to the mix, or if you’re just a kid at heart! To create a playful mood, try experimenting with pastels or bright colors. Use multicolor lights, fun-shaped ornaments, feathers and garlands on the tree, or even set up an all pink, silver, or white tree with colorful ornaments—the more eclectic and whimsical, the better. Have your children make their own ornaments and popcorn garlands and let them join in the decorating fun. Spend an evening making a gingerbread house with your family and then use your delectable creation as a decoration. Use pom-poms for cheerful wreaths and garlands. Set up a toy train to circle the tree. Hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling, mantel, or in windows. Be sure to incorporate candy canes, North Pole-style decorations, and, of course, for all the brave parents out there, Elf on the Shelf. When wrapping gifts, use a mix of brightly colored solid paper and fun patterns, with a variety of eye-catching ribbons.
From traditional decor to modern style to full-fledged whimsy, each theme offers an appealing way to reflect the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to switch it up from year to year if you want to try new things. It’s also not out of the question to pull from several different styles to create your own unique look. Maybe you love the rustic, farmhouse feel that comes with natural decor, but you also love pops of color and splashes of sparkle. Whether you find yourself wanting to deck all the halls, or favor a simple look, your holiday decor should bring merry memories for you to enjoy! ✦