Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Tour of My Decked Halls

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Everyone has a decorating style at Christmas. Some put their best efforts into the elaborate lighting displays on the outside of their house. Some love the deep-hued Victorian look, or perhaps a minimalist all-white display. Just stroll down the magazine aisle in December and you’re bound to be reminded that decking the halls can be as unique as the halls themselves.

So for fun, I thought I’d invite you to peruse my halls, take a peak at Christmas decorations the Cider Mill way. I’ll be sharing some family traditions and my own style, which I would describe as some sort of simple-country-vintage-Scandinavian hybrid.

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I love to use live greenery whenever I can. This is mainly because I abhor fake greens. Sorry R. and L. (my in-laws), I know you love your fake tabletop tree, but my home just doesn’t feel Christmassy without the peppery scent of fresh pine—and no, Glade plug-ins do not count!

This year, a wind storm provided us with ample trimmings to make a wreath, swags for the windows, and even to fill this little old watering can that used to belong to my mother—and used to contain dusty little fake flowers. With a length of lace ribbon, it has now been seasonally repurposed and can hold stalks of wheat in autumn and fresh flowers in summer. Maybe pussy willows or flowering cherry branches in the springtime?

But enough about authenticity. I have to confess, there is a special place in my heart for good ole American kitsch when it comes to the holidays. I like blinking colored lights and metallic tinsel on my Christmas tree. I know, I know, this may border on hypocrisy since I won’t use a fake tree. What can I say? The sweet vintage decorations I inherited from my great-grandmother (especially her tiny, glittery village complete with pinecone gnomes and feather-skirted angel) are some of my prized possessions.

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While gnomes of all shapes and sizes are more than welcome in my walls for the holidays (I am Swedish, after all!), I prefer to avoid decorations of fat, jolly Santas or red-nosed reindeer. Don’t get me wrong, I love the television specials as much as the next child-at-heart, but I prefer for our seasonal décor to speak more about Christ the King than Chris Kringle.

Our ad hoc advent wreath sits in the center of our table, ready to be lit at meals and remind us of the Light of the World who was and is and is to come. The pillar candles are much sturdier than spindly tapers when you have young ones at home.

Our nativity creche, a wedding gift from my mother, is carved from olive wood and crafted in Bethlehem.

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And, of course, my family loves to display our Scandinavian heritage at Christmas! The Jul Tomten plate and candle mobile once belonged to my parents and actually came all the way from Sweden, gifts from my aunt and uncle the Christmas that they lived in Finland. I was elated when my mother offered to mail them to me this summer! What precious heirlooms to pass on to my own children one day.

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Now that you’ve taken a peak inside my home for the holidays, here are a few tips for decking your own halls, whatever your style:

  • Hold with tradition. I know that it can be fun to toss the old stuff out and begin fresh, but the holidays is hardly the time for it. However, this doesn’t mean we have to let our lives be dictated by our pasts. Take some time to evaluate which traditions (material and non-material) are the most important and helpful for ringing in the season the right way with your family. Hold on to what is good and let the rest of it go. If you’re starting from scratch, start small, adding just one or two things each year. You won’t be overwhelmed and, in time, your family will have a bevy of truly worthwhile traditions for the holidays.
  • Be sustainable. Try to be kind to the environment this Christmas. Use gift bags or recycled wrapping paper where appropriate. Reuse the same decorations each year, rather than falling into the vicious cycle of consumption and disposal each Christmas. Make what you can. If you have to buy, buy local. Use timers on your lights and be judicious with your wattage. Use soy or beeswax candles rather than parafin, which creates much more air pollution.
  • Simplify. If you are always overwhelmed by the holidays, trim the fat! When you open the boxes this year, pay attention to which decorations, ornaments, or pieces give your heart that childlike leap. Which do you put out merely from habit? See if a sibling would like to have that wooden Santa that Uncle Jerry made you all those years ago, or if no one wants it and Uncle Jerry’s feelings won’t be hurt, donate it! Remember, what doesn’t build you or your loved ones up is merely clutter.
  • Be kid-friendly. Even if you don’t have children living in your house, Christmas is the season when you’re likely to have little feet pattering through your door. So, do yourself and your littlest loved ones a favor and make sure your Christmas décor is child-proofed. Don’t put fragile heirlooms on display where curious fingers can damage them. Be careful with candles. Put delicate ornaments on high branches. Try to put out a few items that are safe and sturdy enough for play. Incorporate children into your preparations. Kids love mixing up batches of fudge or spiced nuts—and helping you polish them off, too! Whatever you do, take care not to overwhelm or over-stimulate your precious little ones! Too many gifts, too much candy, or too much activity is a sure-fire way to spoil the holidays for young ones.

How are you decking the halls this Christmas? Share here, or link up at A Holy Experience with a post of your own. This week, the community is exploring how we practice Christmas.

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  1. Everything is so beautiful. Thanks for the pic of the advent "wreath," I was getting all stressed because I don't know how to make one and I'm not crafty. I needed the reminder that you can simplify.

    I especially love that olive nativity set.

  2. I love those little kitsch ornaments and knick knacks too. My grandparents were married in 1931, which meant that their Christmas collecting began about the same time. I was blessed to inherit many of those same adorable little things when my grandmother broke up housekeeping, and now I look forward to pulling them out every year.

    I'm with you on the pillar candles as well. We don't have little hands around, but I still worry about those thin, sometimes wobbly tapers.

  3. We are in the fake tree camp. With five kids to buy presents for, coming up with 60-70 dollars for something that will be tossed or shredded up is extremely difficult during Christmas. In the past, we've had to even go without a tree (and tree sellers in our area DO NOT give discounts, even the last weekend of Advent). Add to that the worry of it becoming dry, the endless dropping of needles, the stringing of lights, water leaking on presents, etc. It's just too much hassle for a smell! Bah humbug! ;^)

  4. Anonymous - You make a good point! And where I live now, real trees are just as prohibitively expensive as you state here. But, where my husband and I grew up, real trees were usually, um, FREE! It was called an ax in your backyard. And, I must confess, I am still childishy partial to them :-)

  5. I suppose we could have a free tree here in Texas... maybe a cedar shrub or mesquite tree?

  6. Following from Holy Experience. Lovely photos! Liked your "tips"


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