Christmas – deck the halls with boughs of holly

We all want our homes to feel magical at Christmas.  From our front doors to our hallways,  the Christmas table, and the star of the show (excuse the pun), the Christmas tree.

Is there such a thing as a socially acceptable Christmas decoration?  Do you mind that Father Christmas is called Santa and that people have fake trees?  Or at heart are you an out and out traditionalist – glass baubles, no tinsel on the tree, candles, and stylish stockings hanging from the mantelpiece.  I think Christmas is a time to live and let live.  Each to their own.  It is the season of goodwill after all.

Even if you choose to join the masses who now decorate the outside of their homes as well as inside, what style will you pick?  Will you use white only fairy lights that show off the architectural beauty of your home?   Perhaps you will have floodlights in trees or uplight your home.   Maybe you aspire to the inflatable Father Christmas or Snowman, or perhaps you drain the national grid as you power your personal West End light display.

FAIRY LIGHTS

I believe that you can never have too many strands of fairy lights to create a twinkling Christmas, inside and out.  I am a huge fan of warm white lights.  Get creative and wrap them around things or pin them to an alcove or beam.  Use the everyday space around you, drape them along shelves or artwork.  Go out foraging and collect a branch and greenery. Decorate it and add your own decorations or lights.  If you can’t hang something from the ceiling try attaching it to the wall.  Alternatively hang it above a window or use a curtain rail or alcove.   With the invention of the battery operated fairy lights you can now put them anywhere.  Most importantly you can run them down the centre of the table or around the room without creating a health and safety hazard for Auntie Mabel.

LANTERNS AND CANDLES

Another staple for me at Christmas is the loyal candle and lantern which features in many homes all year round.                  

 

Add holly or ivy to the bottom of a candlestick or foliage at the base of lanterns, inside or out.  Remember the humble pine cone – look out for them on your woodland walks.  At this time of year all florists will sell sprigs of ivy, holly and pine cones.  Just a more expensive way of decorating, but if needs must….  Pad out any of the natural foliage with the faux variety.  Eucalyptus, and olive make a great addition to real greenery.

I have always thought that tea lights are under appreciated.   They work really well when you use a lot of them together and they are inexpensive.    They look great around the base of our stainless steel spheres as they reflect the flickering light making a fabulous statement table centrepiece.  Equally try putting them on a mirror in the centre of the table.  Mirror tiles are a cheap alternative, you can find them in any homeware store.   Cover your table with a table cloth then run some silver foil on top along the length of the table.  I use catering foil which is wider.  If you are having to add a table to your original table to accommodate more guests and your tablecloth doesn’t fit, buy sheeting from you local fabric shop.  

                                      

 

Remember when decorating your table that your food will form part of the display, so leave enough space for your serving bowls.

CHRISTMAS TREE

A Christmas tree is a must and we have always gone for the real deal.  OK, confession time, we did once buy a white fake tree in Portugal.  Needs must, young kids, just off the plane, Christmas eve and supermarket about to close.  They really don’t do real Christmas trees in the Algarve.  We have in subsequent years paid a king’s ransom for a real one!  Anyway I digress, I secretly loved that little white tree. Funky and fun!

My way of decorating a tree still amuses our children to this day.  I like a very big tree – my husband is fussier than me however and always has the last word on the tree we choose.  White fairy lights only and lots of them and oh did I say NO tinsel!  A colour scheme is a must in our household and we are currently on silver and white decorations only.  No fairies to be found at the top of our tree which in the style of Mary and Joseph is a star like the one that guided them. 

To add a little bit of colour we do like to add some candy canes.   Even though our children are now older they can’t resist the temptation to swipe one off the tree each time they pass.  

Perhaps a little known fact about the humble candy cane is that they originated in Germany about 250 years ago.  A story says that in 1670 a choirmaster was worried about the children sitting quietly through the long nativity service.  So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet!  As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook to remind them of the Shepherds that visited baby Jesus.  Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavoured with peppermint or wintergreen.

However, the earliest records of ‘candy canes’ come from over 200 years later, so this story, although rather nice, probably isn’t true.

STARS

Stars are said to represent good fortune, love, hope, harmony and energy amongst other things.  They are also said to have led the Wise Men to baby Jesus.

                            

They are a gorgeous addition to any festive scene but are also a contender for all round decoration.  Think longevity rather than seasonal.  The Metal Amish star has been around for many years now.  I have had this blue one for over ten years now and it has had many homes during that time.  I love it against this red brick outside wall.  This is definitely something that does not need to come down when you put the other decorations away.

WREATHS

As for the front door – go all out on the most stylish wreath money can buy.   It’s the first thing people see when they arrive at your home and the last thing they see as they leave.   It gives the warmest of welcomes to your house guests.  Traditionally wreaths are evergreen, this was because they would be able to survive even the harshest winter outside.  Their circular shape with no beginning and no end was to represent eternity.  Whatever your interpretation of the humble wreath, rest assured that today anything goes.  Pom pom’s, faux wreaths adorned with fake snow, even feathers will be seen adorning many a doorway this Christmas.   But remember sometimes less is more.

                                                                                                                                     

Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas,  over the years they have been brought inside.  Hang them over a mantlepiece, or on a door.  Add a few to a wall.  I have some faux wreaths out all year round in the dining room as a table centrepiece with candles inside. 

TABLE CENTREPIECES

Never be afraid to experiment with your table decorations.  What have you got to lose?  A bit of greenery in a mirror glass vase, a  fun twisting Christmas trees?  Perhaps try a mirror as the centrepiece of the table or on a coffee table decorated with gorgeous festive ornaments or greenery.   Our rusty revival metal spheres which are suitable for outside use, also look fabulous as a dramatic centrepiece.

                             

 

 

FORAGING FOR GREENERY

All of the greenery above was collected from the hedgerows or from trees in the garden.  Add two faux Mushroom eucalyptus wreaths and a box of Mushroom faux snowball flowers and bingo.  The roll of hessian is from a builders merchant.

Anything is possible just let your imagination run wild.

When it comes to seating add indulgent seat pads, or perhaps a sheepskin to a dining chair.  Give your dining area a little bit of nordic hygge.  Cosy, warm and nice to snuggle into.  Auntie Mabel will love it I promise.

I have seen many decorations already up even in mid November.  Ideally we shouldn’t be putting up decorations before the 17th December.  However I ask in a home with small children, are you going to deny them the fun of decorating the house? Aren’t we adults secretly desperate to decorate the house too?  Talking of small children, in my view it is perfectly acceptable to have a second smaller tree (maybe even tucked away) so that they can decorate it to their little heart’s content.  This way they can put all the ornaments on the same branches and add all those special decorations they have made for you at school.

Back in Roman times, people are said to have waited until midday on Christmas Eve to decorate their trees.  That simply wouldn’t work in this house!  According to tradition Christmas decorations should be taken down on Twelfth Night (January 6) otherwise you might be unlucky. … But it all depends on whether you’re superstitious. … A day sooner or later is considered unlucky, and if they haven’t been removed on Twelfth Night, then they should stay up all year.  Er I don’t think so!…..

Merry Christmas everybody, enjoy and here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.