Growing up, I watched my mom unleash her Christmas decorating ideas and utterly transform my parents’ house on the day after Thanksgiving. She hung garlands peppered with big red bows and gold bells over every window. She filled oversize apothecary jars with ball ornaments and unfurled her homemade tablecloth over the dining table. Then there was the tree… While mom furiously bedecked every window, table, and horizontal surface; my sister and I dressed the tree, opening box after box of ornaments, each triggering a memory from a previous Christmas. It took the three of us a full day; but at the end, it felt like we were living at the North Pole…with central heating. Even dad would sit in his arm chair that evening and look around in amazement.
Mom set the bar pretty high and I think about her brilliant Christmas decorating ideas and passion for the holiday every time I pull out my own Christmas decorations. And, while my house isn’t exactly transformed into a winter wonderland, I have to remind myself that mom had 20+ years to amass her Christmas decorating treasures and perfect her set up. When I sit down and really think about what I can learn from my mom about decorating for Christmas, here are my takeaways…
Christmas Decorating Ideas I Borrowed from Mom:
Establish a holiday palette
Mom’s a stickler for a tight color palette. For the other 11 months of the year, my parents’ house is purely blue and white with a uniform medium honey wood finish throughout. However, when Christmas rolls around, red and gold nearly take over. This is a pretty traditional Christmas color combo and a handsome foil to the complimentary blue and white base on which it is so enthusiastically lavished. However, my house has broader palette with mixed blues, greens, and grays combined with black and white, varied wood finishes, and mixed metallics. Thus, I opt for a Christmas palette that melts into the existing decor: silver, gold, white, and green.
Employ metallics with abandon
Nothing imparts the magical feeling of Christmas quite like the luster of metallics. As I mentioned, my mom favors gold and has an impressive collection of gold ornaments. My love affair with gold, on the other hand, is perennial. My house is no stranger to gold leaf or patinaed brass. So, for Christmas, I try to incorporate textured, glittering silver. It feels more precious and festive than the gold, chrome, and gunmetal that’s already taken up residence in my house.
Make a statement with garland
Of all the Christmas decorating ideas, few achieve the visual impact of garland. Mom uses loads of it–on the tree and over the windows. However, even a little garland can go a long way. I have one long garland that I drape over my fireplace and decorate with a few ornaments. It lends a festive feel to the room’s focal point and has the added benefit of echoing the greenery of the Christmas tree in the corner for a more complete holiday look.
Display extra ornaments in vessels
Not all ornaments have to hang on the tree. Ball ornaments, in particular, look fantastic when displayed in vessels. My mom bought huge shapely apothecary jars especially for this, but even a pretty bowl you already have will do the trick. This one of the easiest Christmas decorating ideas to execute and has the added benefit of portability, letting you add a dash of Christmas cheer to whatever corner of the room may be lacking.
Add or upgrade something each year
Mom’s Christmas decorating arsenal wasn’t purchased in a single year, but rather, over time. Most years she would add something new or upgrade some element that had fallen flat. One year she had us string popcorn for a tree garland (which has miraculously lasted for 15+ years) and every time we wrap it around the tree, I remember stringing popcorn with my sister and our friends, watching Christmas movies and eating a fair amount of popcorn in the process. Another year, she simply switched out our multicolored tree lights for white ones. In that spirit, I upgraded my tree skirt this year. Previously, I had a brown velvet one with mother of pearl beads sewn around the hem. However, after a few years of packing and unpacking, the shell embellishments were cracking and falling off. I replaced it a silver sequined skirt that feels like a more appropriate partner for the silver star that presides over my tree.
Relish the results
I think that this is probably the most important step: enjoying the fruits of your Christmas decorating labor. After you’ve finished, take some time to sit down with some eggnog (or holiday beverage of choice) and just take in the scene. Let the joy of the holidays wash over you, enhanced by your now-festive surroundings.