A Memoir of Christmas Trees Past (with tree trimming tips for the present)
Long before my daughter and I started ‘Practical Spaces’ and long before we discovered minimalism, we were Christmas tree masterminds with a new tree theme every Christmas. The process of brainstorming ideas, foraging for supplies and execution of our vision are some of my favourite mother/daughter memories. Joy was indeed sparked when we would stand back and behold a completed masterpiece and declare that particular tree to be ‘the best tree ever!’ The tradition began in 1999, when Amanda was eleven, with blue and silver ornaments to welcome the new millennium. The next year we reused the silver ornaments, added white snowball ornaments and had fun cutting out paper snowflakes that evolved into a ‘Winter Wonderland’ theme. As the years went by, we got more creative with our themes and colour palettes. Our ‘Rainbow’ tree featured as many hues of greens, blues, purples, pinks, reds, oranges and yellows as we could find. One of our most imaginative trees was adorned with golden dragonflies, pastel butterflies, fanciful birds and various ornaments in serene blues and greens to depict an ‘Enchanted Garden’.
Perhaps one of the richest looking trees was inspired by a popular movie at the time ‘The Great Gatsby’. We reused ornaments from previous years—black & whites, silvers and golds for an Art Deco/1920’s feel. Ironically, it was actually one of our more economical trees as all we purchased that year was a few items from the Dollar store- some fake white poinsettias and a white feather boa which we cut into bits and affixed to existing white balls. A more handsome tree could not be found in all the land—even if Leonardo DiCaprio himself was perched upon the top in place of the star.
In addition to amassing a stockpile of holiday ornaments, we have also accumulated many tree decorating tips and helpful hints that you may want to incorporate into your own family tree trimming traditions.
1. Set Up Tree & Lights
Whether your tree is real or artificial, the initial set up can be the most time consuming and ‘unfun’ part. Be sure to position the tree so that you have 360° access while you decorate—this will make the stringing of lights (start at the bottom, near where they will plugged in) and the actual decorating much easier. Do not leave the tree stand visible- I still use an antique lace tablecloth that belonged to my grandmother as a tree skirt, but a current popular trend is a wicker tree collar.
2. Organize Ornaments
Lay out all your ornaments, garland, hooks, ribbons etc. that will be adorning your tree. Here’s where you strategize the look of your tree by grouping similar items and colours to reveal a theme. You may decide to retire some outdated ornaments and decide to add a new element or color to your current collection.
*We highly recommend that you execute these first 2 steps ahead of time. If you have an artificial tree, it can be tempting to rush through the tediousness of individual branch bending and fluffing to get to the ‘good part’. Maybe you discovered at this point that you need an additional string of lights or you can’t find the ornament hooks. This break allows time to gather any missing pieces and ensures that the actual tree trimming festivities are nothing but fun.
3. Tree Decorating
All the hard work is over, time for the fun part: make it a party! Play Christmas music and set up a hot chocolate bar. Start deep—layering ornaments in varying depths is the key to a full looking tree. Start with the least liked ornaments/balls and hang them in the deep gaps of the tree.
Next is garland (optional in our opinion) which can add an element of texture as it can be anything from a tinsely strand to a string of popcorn. Regardless of what you use, you will need to double the length you think you need and be sure to drape it loosely and evenly. Next are the remaining balls and ornaments, keeping the special ones until near the end for pride of place. Occasionally step back and check for gaps and balance.
Once you are happy with the overall look and all your ornaments have been hung, its time for the crowning glory traditionally in the form of an angel or a star.
4. The Big Reveal!
We liked to decorate our tree in late afternoon while there was still daylight without the lights plugged in. It’s easier to see gaps and check for balance without the glare and distraction of illumination. By the time we were finished decorating our masterpiece, evening had set in and made for a much more dramatic reveal when we did plug in the lights.
There is no ‘right’ way to decorate a Christmas tree, as long as you had fun during the process—the final satisfying result will always be ‘the best tree ever’. Happy tree trimming and Happy Holidays from Megan and Amanda