I debated waiting until next Advent to post this, since most people have their house decorated by now. However, this last week of December and even into early January is actually the best time to shop for Christmas decor—it's the time of year when I have bought most of my decorations—so I want to post it now to remind you to go do some discount Christmas bargain hunting these next few days if you can!
Tip #1: Have a color theme and stick to it.
This is an easy way to tie your house together and keep Christmas decorations from looking too disorganized. For example, my colors are red, gold, and white, but there are so many options—blues, grays, greens, silver. Of course, this doesn't mean you are limited to those colors in a strict sense, but the more you can do it, the more uniform and elegant your decor will look, versus chaotic.
Now, for me, this also applies to my Christmas tree, but I know people disagree with me pretty strongly on this. I think that a color-coordinated tree looks very elegant and calming, whereas a tree with the more random assortment of hand-made, special occasion, and gift ornaments can easily get distracting. If I were to put these out (I get it—these ornaments are the important ones, usually!), I would designate one smaller tree to be the "fun" tree, and put it in the playroom, an upstairs landing, or just some place a bit less central. I really like to use my tree to tie in all of the colors and decor I'm using elsewhere, but hey, if you like the fun stuff, go for it. As I always say, you're the one who has to look at it every day, so make sure you like it!
Tip #2: Know when to keep it real—and when it's okay to go artificial.
I am probably a bit of an enigma when it comes to the real vs. artificial debate. I love the real stuff. I use it as much as I can. I even make my own garland and wreath out of a cedar and magnolia tree on the property. But, as much as I love real Christmas trees, I am a strong supporter of the artificial Christmas tree. This is mostly because it allows me to decorate around the Church calendar, not the secular one. There is something so special about getting the tree up and decorated the night of Christmas Eve, and this just isn't always possible on Christmas tree farms—there is hardly a green thing left! Likewise, I enjoy the ability to keep the tree up with the other decorations until Candlemas without worrying about what has essentially become a huge pile of flammable kindling by that time with a real tree. So, absolutely, save money and use the plants and trees on your property for the greenery wherever you can (it doesn't take much for that "Christmas" smell!), but don't sweat it if you need to throw in a few artificial greenery for logistics.
Tip #3: Have decorating themes you can use to pull the different rooms together.
Don't over think this one, but the goal here is to make the house seem cohesive, and not cluttered. You can see I have a pretty loose "nature" theme going in different rooms that (I hope!) pulls it all together. And there are lots of ways to do this—I just recently visited someone who did it with cardinals, and had a cardinal-themed accessory (be it a placemat, tea towel, or pillow) in the different rooms. It was a nice touch that made everything come together without it all having to be the same (not every decoration had a cardinal on it, of course!). Get creative and do what you love—maybe it's reindeers, collectible Santas, poinsettas, Madonna and Child, or something broader like my "nature" theme.
Tip #4: Transform your table—even if you don't have a formal dining room.
Bare tables—especially bare breakfast tables—are a wasted opportunity, in my humble opinion. They can add such an elegance to your living space, and they're a good reminder for the formality of eating (my ode to table cloths and china is hopefully coming in a future, separate post!). Plus, it has practical ramifications: if you have a nicely set table, you are less likely to throw stuff on it (and more likely to go ahead and put things in their proper homes), you are more likely to take meals seriously, and you can more easily teach your children the seriousness of meals, and thus manners. Seriously, try this just for Christmastide, and watch the effects on you and your family! For Christmas especially, your table setting complements the nice meals that you have on the significant feast days, and is a great place to emphasize your themes and colors.
Tip #5: Quality over quantity.
I would rather have a few nice, well-made decorations than a surplus of cheaply made decorations that will break in a few years and make my house look chaotic. Adding Christmas decor to a home can easily turn into something that seems to just add clutter. This is the opposite of what we want to do: we want to transform. Decorate the things and places you have with nice pieces that will last for years and be treasures to pass onto your children.
For example, these ornaments are shown are nice, "fancy" ornaments—but I'm happy to spend money on these versus cheaply made ornaments that will break in a few years and can't really be replaced! Of course bargains are great, but say you have $100 for Christmas decorations—sometimes it works better to buy five nice, $20-pieces to go around the house than one hundred $1 items that clutter and break, especially when it's for something you want to remember, like baby's first Christmas and the like.
Tip #6: Let your decorations reflect what you see in your parish church.
Decorating along with the Church calendar really has it's benefits. If you have Christmas decorations up before Christmas Eve, you are going to get tired of them long before the Christmas season spiritually ends on Candlemas, or even liturgically on January 13. Likewise, if all you put up are cartoon snowmen and fat elves, you might not like looking at them for a month—where as if you fill your home with nativities and pictures of the saints, you really don't tire at admiring such beauty!
Tip #7: Don't be afraid to build up your decoration supplies over time.
It takes a long time to figure out how you like everything in your house—so it's perfectly fine to let it take a while to acquire it all, too! If you go out and buy everything in one year, not only could you break the bank, but you run the risk of getting things you just don't like once it's all together. My suggestion is to get a few things each year, and before you put your decorations away, update your list for what you think you still lack. Sometimes you just don't know until it's all up and you've had some time to sit with it all.
One example of this is Christmas china and other collectable items. If you did not have the blessing of getting family hand-me-downs for things like china, silver, and other collectables, no sweat—build up a nice collection for your children and grandchildren! Every year, buy one piece for Christmas (individual pieces are usually very affordable), and you will have a nice collection pretty soon—be it china, silver ornaments, or other collectibles.
Tip #8: Hit the after-Christmas sales.
You can save big by doing this. Many stores have big discounts on everything from Christmas decor to wrapping paper. We usually make a family outing of it! The great thing about being Catholic is we can use most of the things immediately, because we are still celebrating Christmas! Some places mark their items down the further from Christmas it is, so it makes more sense to wait. Others don't, so you'll want to hit those a bit earlier, since they won't get cheaper and you'll risk things being too picked over. Overall though, don't be afraid of things being picked over if you can get better prices—this goes back to the previous tip: if you know you'll be doing this every year, you can be in it for the long game, and just work with what's there. I have done this for most of my decorations that were not gifts or hand-me-downs, and you will be amazed at how quickly you can get everything you need!
That's it for my tips—what are yours? Reply in the comments!