by Kim Winslow
1. Fresh Greenery
I grew up with large cedar Christmas trees from my Papa’s farm, but now we buy a fresh Fraser tree from the stand outside of our neighborhood. I know there are many reasons to use an artificial tree, but we are still in my fantasy world where big items don’t have to be stored, so I opt for fresh over boxed trees. But don’t stop at the tree, add greenery throughout the home-from your yard or the woods.
There are the ubiquitous Christmas plants like pine, holly, and cedar, but what about boxwood, ivy, pittosporum, magnolia, etc.? Also, while foraging, pick up pine cones, moss, nuts, and berries. Don’t forget flowers such as paperwhites, roses, poinsettias, amaryllis, and orchids.
Perhaps you have tall or short glass cylinder vases. In the picture, I filled three of them with berries and greenery from my yard and then just added fake snow.
There is the nostalgia factor of decorating with long-treasured Christmas items, but that doesn’t mean that this simple form of adding holiday cheer is without personality. Place the greenery around collections to highlight them. Bring out sentimental vases, baskets, silver, or glass.
Also, I save handmade cards from year to year and place them with the greenery.
So begin with large amounts of greenery and natural items as your base, and then use the next four entries to complete your decorations.
2. White Lights and Candles
I have nothing against colored lights, especially the old-timey large ones, and I often use both, but keep in mind the point of this blog is simplification, and few things are simpler than warm, white lights. In the UK, these are often referred to as fairy lights.I think they are truly magical.
Along with fairy lights, add natural candles. Nothing says special more than candlelight. A few lit votives, or even one, can elevate a box of take-out pizza to gourmet level.
Wide ribbon, wired ribbon, velvet ribbon, and sparkly ribbon can all finish off a wreath, garland or display, and nothing is easier to save from year to year. There is no need to make room for Christmas decorations when you can just wrap ribbon and lights around your regular decor to give them holiday party glitter. Also, forget the fancy bows, unless you are skilled with making them. I am not. Just tie a regular bow or let the ribbon free flow.
If you love books, wrap ribbon around some of your favorites and add greenery. Put ribbon on family pictures to emphasize.
In the 1970s, we lived in a white colonial. My mother filled the two large plants on each side of the door with velvet bright-colored pears and placed a large partridge on each plant. On the light fixtures above them, she tied a mix of citrus-colored ribbons. Chartreuse green, lemon yellow, and bright orange ribbons blew in the wind, heralding our own version of the 12 Days of Christmas.
Ornaments are incredibly versatile. If you have hand-blown ornaments, then definitely showcase them, but I am mainly talking about the inexpensive round glass ornaments widely available, the kind so cheap that you won’t mind if they break: I accidentally broke three today! I buy all sizes of these shiny ornaments, and I use them everywhere! I tie them on wreaths, hang from garland, place in bowls, and dangle from chandeliers. Sometimes I add the tiny ones inside my picture frames.
I also have some vintage Shiny Brite ornaments that I look forward to greeting every year. Go crazy with ornaments, although they are slightly more difficult to store than lights or ribbon, their footprint is still fairly small if your storage is compact.
5. Fruit and Food
Food is the ultimate decoration because it satisfies all of the senses. A glass bowl filled with navel oranges is not only beautiful to look at, but triggers our sense of smell, taste, touch, and even sound as we remember peeling away the thick rind to get to the juicy insides. Seriously, there is a YouTube video entitled Super Satisfying Orange Peeling Sounds.
There are obviously some foods made for Christmas display like gingerbread houses, but many foods can be lifted to new heights, by well, lifting them to new heights with cake pedestal plates or footed compotes. Take that glass bowl of oranges and tuck in some fresh greenery. Decorate your cookies and place some on top of a cake along with edible trees and both the cookies and cake become an edible scene. In one of the photographs, I created a small tree with Pellegrino bottles and added ribbon.
I love the look of wine and bourbon bottles (I also like the contents). Create a fun bar using lights, ornaments, greenery, and food. Also, a great place to put candy canes and lollipops.
After the holidays, the food should be gone, and the greenery composted. Put away your vases and candles in their everyday cabinets. All that is left to store are lights, ornaments, and ribbon.
Although I still use many decorations that I have been gifted or purchased over the years, the photos I have included from my home illustrate how just the 5 items can lead to a simple, personal, and festive holiday. Please write about or post your own photos of simple but festive decorating.