Tammy’s Top Ten (t3 report) Holiday Decorating Ideas

The irony is that I’m not doing it this year. We’re busy. We’re traveling. And I don’t want to arrive home after Christmas only to have to pack away decorations that I didn’t get to appreciate. But I keep thinking about it!

flickr.com/photos/marissamullen

flickr.com/photos/marissamullen

Perhaps it’s my recent post on tradition or perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired but in the absence of decorating, here are 10 ways to create a holiday setting with just a bit of effort and little cost:

1. Use pine cones. You can dip them in paint or spray them or use them naturally. Fill a large, clear vessel with them or tie a ribbon around a couple and dress up a lamp.

2. Decorate a window with paper snowflakes. I believe we learned to cut these in kindergarten and the technology hasn’t changed much. Do it after dinner and have everyone do 2 or 3. It’s quick and clever and inclusive.

3. Go for the mistletoe. We’re fortunate to live near places where we can harvest it directly. Tie a sprig with ribbon and place it overhead!

Face deserving of a Kiss

Face deserving of a Kiss

4. Place candles everywhere and be safe about their use. Today there are some great options that burn much cleaner than they did when I was younger. Small votives floating in a bowl or large, ornate candles all work well to induce a holiday spirit.

5. Find amazing ways to recycle and reuse! Check out this Altoid Advent Calendar created by Linda – a favorite reader.  Also consider using the plastic bands the hold soda cans together to create ornamental hangings.

Altoid Advent Calendar

Altoid Advent Calendar

6. Deck the Halls with your kids’ artwork. I still keep a full file of handprint angels and reindeer droppings and every year, I pull them out and put them up and down the halls.

7. Tie bows in unexpected places. Put red ones on the light fixtures and a couple of glittery ones on the ladder back chairs. Maybe even a green one on the faucet in the kitchen and more sparklies on the door knobs.

8. Display holiday cards. We pack a big basket in the kitchen so that we can browse at our leisure but they can also be hung over a string and displayed on a wall. They’re colorful and festive and bring good thoughts.

9. Use extra greenery from your tree on the mantle or if you don’t have a tree, consider bringing in some branches to add a natural element to your table decor or above your doorways.

10. Consider every meal a decoration! Use holiday colors with ingredients such as watercress and red pears or spinach and pomegranate seeds or in this case, broccoli raab and cherry tomatoes.

IMG_0741

What are sustainable, low cost ways that you decorate for the holidays?

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64 Comments

  1. Love the theme of this post: clean, green festive trimmings with little effort and expense!
    We like to make paper lanterns: take normal construction paper, fold and cut out holes like you would for snowflakes. Open paper. Staple into a tube shape. Snip half inch snip lines to flute the bottom of tube. Staple to a circle of cardboard. We like to use cereal boxes for that… guess that’s the green part. Secure tea light inside. These lanterns make great luminarias to hang from trees, line sidewalks, window ledges, or the table. They can be dressed up with dried citris wedges as “stained” glass, or wrapping paper scraps. This style lantern is traditional in Germany in November to celebrate St. Martin’s Day, ushering in the season.

    Reply
    • That sounds interesting – especially the dried citrus wedges part. I’d love to see a photo.

      Reply
  2. What a well-timed post for me. I’m thinking about getting a tree and decorating for the first time in a long time. Like you this year I am usually with my family elsewhere for the holiday, but I feel like having some festivity around. Paper snowflakes, here I come!

    Reply
  3. Great ideas, many that I’ve used over the years. I rarely decorate these last few years, bt I do miss it. I always have at least one string of light hanging up, and lots of candles, though. Thanks, Tammy!

    Reply
    • Candles. I got through stages where I use them all the time and then I sort of forget about them. Time to get them out again.

      Reply
  4. I loved your ideas! I keep doing a little less each year, or being more selective about it! I do like lights though and put them up inside and outside. Oh, the advent calendar was genius! Thanks Tammy, for always inspiring us!

    Reply
    • The advent calendar really is genius. A few years back I ran a contest on my blog to use a few items, one of them being Altoid tins. One blogger submitted that idea and so I shared it with a friend and she made those! I love it.

      Reply
  5. I have a small ceramic tree I put on the hearth, the years we don’t get a tree. Trying to decide this year. Indoor tree or just the two outdoor ones.

    Put pine roping on the mantel. Cut evergreens and holly to put in a shallow vase on the table as a centerpiece.

    Put a Christmas scented candle in the powder room.

    Get out all the small homemade pieces, like my mom’s yarn wreath, and the découpage angels that were my MIL’s.

    Hmmm, you inspired me with a topic for a post. Thanks, Tammy!

    Reply
  6. Thanks for an inspiring post! I started saving small jars (yeast, olives, chutney, jam) and now have a collection. I put tea lights inside of the jars. I have a wooden trug, and I’ll nestle the jars in between evergreen branches someone set out at the curb the other week.
    I just can’t decide if I want it on my sideboard or table!

    Reply
  7. Hi Tammy,
    Oddly, like you, I will be having a leaner holiday-decorating season. I’ve been in DC since Thanksgiving with my daughter, and will continue to be here until the grandbaby is born! He/she was due December 1—so it could be any day now…
    at some point, I’ll get home, and hope to put up a tree.
    In other years, I’ve followed many of your holiday decorating tips–which make the season bright! This year, a baby will be brightening everything!

    Reply
  8. Super ideas. I think I was born without a decorating gene, but one thing I do like to do is put cranberries in clear jars – old vases, canning jars of different sizes – and cluster these jars on the dining table. The day after a holiday dinner or party, I’ll cook the cranberries so nothing goes to waste.

    Reply
  9. Those are great ideas! I love the pine cone idea and taking outdoor elements inside. All I’m doing this year is decorating my potted Norfolk Island Pine with lights and a bow. Like you, we will not be at our place for Christmas, since all the family is in the mid-west, we must make the annual trek to the north country. Happy Holidays!

    Reply
    • It makes it less stressful not to come home to work. Those Norfolk Pines are really sweet too.

      Reply
  10. Oh, I almost forgot about paper snowflakes! Do you think I can get my 18 yo son to make a few for old times sake? You know, I bet he’d go for it. :)
    Thanks for these great ideas. I haven’t done any decorating yet and this post made me smile this morning

    Reply
  11. Love these ideas. You can never go wrong with pinecones! Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    Reply
  12. I have made pinecone tree decorations in the past by putting them in a very low temp oven until the sap kind of glazes on them and then gluing on a ribbon loop for hanging. Simple.

    Reply
  13. I like Jane’s cranberry idea!

    Reply
  14. I love the cranberry idea! Well I do use some of these already so getting a new idea is fun!

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    ¸.•*¨*•♪♫♫♪Merry Christmas to you ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥
    ˜”*°•.˜”*°•.˜”*°•.★★.•°*”˜.•°*”˜.•°*”˜”

    Reply
  15. I haven’t made those paper snowflakes in years! That sounds like fun – might have to pull out the craft paper!

    Reply
  16. A few drops of orange or frankincense essential oils on the pine cones adds to the Christmas feeling. I’ve got a wire Christmas tree on our windowsill and fairy lights hanging from the loft as decoration :)

    Reply
  17. Hi, I promoted your blog on mine this morning. I get an email each time you publish, and thoroughly enjoy what you do. It’s the Blog of the Year award if you do such awards … but the value, I think, is that you get a (somewhat) broader exposure as I promote you to a wider audience. In any event, thanks for what you do!

    Reply
  18. Lisa H

     /  December 8, 2012

    These are beautiful ideas and so easy to accomplish. I like that very much! Simplicity can be so inspiring and really brings out the true feeling of the holidays.

    Reply
  19. I love the smell of oranges studded with cloves in festive designs . . . fresh greenery along the mantle or table top with red candles and gold bows . . . and big bowls of holiday wrapped chocolate. :D

    Reply
  20. Some fantastic ideas, Tammy: I love the idea of not being sniffy about kindergarten snowflakes! And that altoid advent calendar. Now that’s a classic.

    Reply
    • Don’t you love it? It was from the contest that I ran ages ago on what to do with the tins Kate. It is amazing.

      Reply
  21. Thank you for the suggestions, Tammy. I like your idea about every meal being a decoration. Isn’t that fun! Heading off to eat green broccoli soon.

    Reply
  22. I still use my kids hand print Christmas decorations too! It always brings a smile to see how teeny they were…

    Reply
  23. Such great ideas, I especially love the Advent calendar you’ve made! :)

    Reply
  24. Happy travels.

    Reply
  25. I love going through Christmas cards, one by one almost weekly. It reminds me that I’m not alone in this journey

    Reply
    • I enjoy that too David. One year, we took the ones with photos and cut them into a card deck size and kept it on our table all year and would choose from the deck for our prayers.

      Reply
  26. My favorite here: Tie bows in unexpected places. Adds a little whimsical fun and surprise.

    Reply
  27. I’ve been eating so many salads lately that cause me to yip “Christmas colours!” (i.e. kale and pomegranate); I just hadn’t thought of this as my sole effort into Christmas decorating! I’ve never seen real mistletoe, either… Maybe that’s why I’m still single? :P

    Reply
  28. I do almost no Christmas decorating But I do get a live wreath for the front door and string a strand of lights on my fireplace mantel. I have a cool basic that I put Christmas cards I’ve received in. I think I’ll go to my yard in the 50 degree Chicago “winter” and pick up some pine cones from Colorado blue spruce and put them with the Christmas cards. That a Christmas-y hand towel or two and a table cloth ought to do. Loved your post and I think I liked the Altoid advent calendar best of all – cool!

    Reply
  29. Fun ideas! We did make a little swag for our front door from some extra branches on the bottom of our tree, but when it started dropping needles every time we opened the door, we had to get rid of it! :) Happy Holidays!

    Reply
    • Same to you Camille. I hope that your holidays were bright and that the restaurant is going well.

      Reply
  30. We also didn’t decorate (I was traveling, roommate was working), but I love the pinecones idea. My parents have a holly tree, so holly was always a feature around the house. A pretty bowl with a napkin, fruit, and a few bits of holly or pinetree makes a simple but attractive centerpiece too. Even better: it’s low enough you can see across the table.

    Reply
    • That’s funny about seeing across the table. A couple of months ago, someone gave us a lovely orchid and it is so tall, that we always comment that it’s perfect since we can see across the table.

      Reply
  31. I’ve just found your wonderful blog, a bit late for holiday decor, but love the idea of bows in unexpected places! And the green and red salad is pretty and festive AND delicious and healthy. Can’t beat that! I did a post in December called Inexpensive Holiday Decor from Nature because I so enjoy decorating with pinecones and greenery. Thanks for more great ideas :) Cheers, Gina

    Reply
  32. We’ve always had a green and ivory theme going on with our tree in the past. This year I wanted to add in some eggplant and lavender. {Christmas decor doesn’t have to be red and green!} But I didn’t want to spend any money. I had seen Belinda over at The Happy Home string floating holiday words across her living room with fishing line and decided to give it a try. {If you haven’t visited her blog before, you must.} I dug out some cardstock in celery, lavender and eggplant. I folded a piece in half lengthwise and freehanded a few Christmas-y words.

    Reply

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