Christmas Means Decorating

christmas

The Christmas season is upon us and, ho ho ho, it’s time for decorating.  The main event for many of us is a Christmas tree, which can be real, meaning it was once alive, or artificial.  There are a variety of options for real trees.  And within each class of tree, there are choices as well.  Fir trees, for example, include: Balsam, Fraser, Canaan and Douglas to name a few.   Some real tree enthusiasts remain steadfastly loyal to Spruce or Pine.  Because a tree purchased from a lot may shed its needles before the New Year, some people cut down their tree.  Today, many tree farms allow you to roam around the selection of trees in the Fall and label your tree for cutting in December.  This eliminates all those freezing ventures, stomping through deep snow, trying to select just the right one.  Most of us who’ve cut down our own tree have not experienced an adventure equal to that of the Griswald family.

Artificial Trees – From Feathers to Foil

Alas, in my family, we’ve gone to what some may consider the dark side and now have an artificial tree.  It’s prelit which eliminates all that tension around stringing the lights. Artificial trees have been around since the 19th century, with Germany developing this new concept in the 1800’s.  The German’s used green-dyed goose feathers and attached them to wire branches, which wrapped around a central dowel rod that served as a trunk.  The poor geese were now unadorned.

Eventually, the feather trees gave way to ones made from brush bristles.  The Addis Brush Company used their toilet brush machinery to construct the trees that were then dyed green.  And then, in 1958, aluminum trees were manufactured in Chicago.  I have a clear memory of my mother-in-law’s white tree perched atop a card table with a rotating light shining on it, changing it from red to green to blue.

christmas decore

Ornaments and Tinsel

In addition to lighting, there is a plethora of ways to decorate a Christmas tree.  Some prefer themed trees using only one color.  Other trees may have a variety of shaped and colored ornaments, but still maintaining a theme such as Nutcrackers. My Christmas tree has many Santa’s from my collection and ornaments my children and grandchildren have made.  One Little Lucy ornament is quite old, as I made it when I was a child.   Notice I did not say how old.

A popular decorative item adorning Christmas trees is tinsel, which has been augmenting Christmas trees as early as the 16th century.  It was used to enhance the flickering of candle flames, which were the original tree lights.  Candles on a resin-rich tree were, of course, dangerous.  To make this custom as safe as possible, branches above the candle had to be carefully trimmed back.  In addition, the candles were usually mounted on holders that had a metal dish to catch any hot wax as it dripped.

No Tinsel For Me

My Christmas tree does not contain tinsel.  And this is mostly because of my distressing childhood memories regarding placing tinsel on our Christmas tree.  Tinsel placement was a tedious and painstaking process supervised by my father.  We were all required to do our part, carefully lining up the tinsel on the tree one strand at a time.  As a child, I could sit and read for hours, but hours spreading tinsel on the tree?  No thank you.  When I got older, I realized that if I asked to do the back of the tree, I could get away with less precise tinsel placing.  That didn’t last long as my father liked to inspect all sides of the tree.  And when he saw that my technique did not meet his standards, I was relegated back to the front.

christmas tree folk tale

Spiders To The Rescue

There’s a Ukrainian folk tale explaining the origin of tinsel, spun over and over again, from family to family in Europe.  It’s called The Spider and the Christmas Tree , and as is the case with most folk tales, there’s a couple of versions.  But they all involve a poor, down-on-her-luck widow with children and a plain Christmas tree with no decorations.  While they sleep, spiders come to the rescue, spinning webs that sparkle in the morning light.  This story is so popular that natives of Ukraine decorate their modern Christmas trees with spider webs, believing they represent good fortune.

The tale of the Christmas Spider is similar to many magical stories about Christmas traditions.  We can create our own magic with personal choices of beautiful Christmas decorations that bring us joy year after year.

Don’t Let the Coronavirus Steal Christmas

outdoor nativity

This Christmas season, the Coronavirus could be a metaphor for the cantankerous protagonist in Dr. Suess’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  The Grinch is an unhappy creature with a heart “two sizes too small” wanting to ensure that everyone feels as lonely as he, which isn’t too far from reality right now. The Coronavirus is an insidious virus made up of spike proteins that act like grappling hooks, ensuring practically everyone who comes in contact with it gets sick. Yikes!  Well we know what to do about the virus, but what about feeling woeful about Christmas?  Maybe Dr. Suess’s book can give us direction.

The Grinch’s Plan Didn’t Go As Expected

In Dr. Suess’s book, Cindy Lou Who is concerned for her mother and twin infant brothers.  She thinks her mother is overworked.  Does that sound like a familiar theme right now?  She hatches a scheme to capture Santa Claus, so she can speak to him personally and convince him to give her mother a happy and joyful Christmas.  She instead mistakenly captures the Grinch, disguised as Santa, on his way to steal Christmas from Whoville.  Cindy Lou almost enlarges his grinchy heart and stops his dastardly plan, because of her generous spirit.  But he proceeds to steal Christmas from all the Who’s in Whoville.

When Christmas morning arrives and there are no festive decorations or presents, at first the Who’s are quite dismayed.  But then they begin singing the Christmas Song which has a lot of the non-words that Dr. Suess is so famous for, and a magical sentence that makes everything okay:  Christmas day will always be just as long as we have we.  And there’s our first line of defense against the possible loss of Christmas spirit.  We have we.

We Can Hold Onto The Christmas Spirit

By focusing on the “we,” Christmas is within our grasp.  In the story, Cindy Lou feels empathy for the Grinch and invites him to her home for Christmas dinner.  Surrounded by a loving family, he confesses that it wasn’t Christmas he hated so much as feeling alone and neglected.  One little act of kindness begins to enlarge the Grinch’s heart.

We’re not going to demonstrate empathy toward the Coronavirus and invite it into our home.  In fact, we’re doing the exact opposite.  But we can invite Christmas into our lives with empathy for ourselves and others that are feeling alone and neglected during the holiday season.  There’s a good amount of psychological evidence that when we extend kindness and compassion to others, we enlarge our hearts.

 santas chair

Decorate!  Decorate! Decorate!

We all have our Grinch moments, but we can dispel them with action that brings us joy.  This Christmas will not likely be the same old, same old holiday.  For Christmas 2020, we may need to change things up.  Instead of pulling back, maybe go all out with holiday decorations inside and out.  Outdoor decorations, like giant snowmen or Santa and his sleigh will instill a festive spirit for our neighbors and people passing by our homes.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that decorating the outside of our homes, may give our neighbors a lift and indicate to them that we’re friendly residents.

It’s likely that we’re going to connect with loved ones via Zoom or some other video platform, and for that, we can set the stage with a variety of charming and magical decorations inside the house.  So, in addition to seeing the faces of those we love and cherish, they can derive pleasure from what they see as our background.  Psychologists posit that when we’re feeling anxious, calling up happy childhood memories can lift our spirits, and Christmas decorations can evoke those positive feelings.

The Grinchy Coronavirus may have stolen some of our Christmas traditions, but it cannot steal our Christmas spirit!  We can hold on to that by filling our homes inside and out with heartwarming decorations.

A Brief History of Christmas Carols

Santa Claus with Jingle Bells carol sheet music

There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something.

— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


Of all the Christian holidays, Christmas must be the most sociable. Since at least Victorian times (and certainly before) it has been a season for family and friends to spend time together and engage in joyful group activities. And one of the most joyful of those activities is the making of music and the singing of holiday songs by outdoor Christmas carolers.

Imagine Christmastime without music or carols. It just wouldn’t be the same. And yet, ironically, in the very earliest years of Christianity there was no Christmastime to speak of, much less music to celebrate it. Easter—commemorating the miraculous resurrection of the crucified Jesus—was the main holiday of devout Christians. The birth of Jesus, by comparison, seemed an unimportant affair and simply was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, however, church officials decided to proclaim the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The history behind that proclamation illustrates the genius of Roman Catholicism for incorporating secular, pagan traditions into its religious rituals. One of those is the tradition of caroling.

Carol sheet music, The First Noël
The First Nowell from an 1879 book by Henry Ramsden Bramley
(Source)

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Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes

Outdoor Nativity scene

 

“All cultures…have grown out of myths. They are founded on myths. What these myths have given has been inspiration for aspiration.”
— Joseph Campbell, Mythology and the Individual (1997)


From church iconography to Easter baskets, from Yule logs to small indoor crèches and huge outdoor Nativity sets, the backstories behind the outward manifestations of Christian belief, in all their rich variety, remain a source of endless historical interest, and not a little speculation. Continue reading “Historical Origins of Outdoor Nativity Scenes”

Different Ways to Decorate Buildings

While homes seem to lend themselves naturally to Christmas decorations, decking out a building can seem like an insurmountable challenge. It’s not. The key to effectively decorating buildings is to ensure you match the size and scope of the building with the décor. Check out some ideas on different ways to decorate buildings we put together here at Christmas Night Inc.

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Create Your Own Christmas Light Show

One of the most fantastic elements of the holidays is all the glimmering, shimmering, brilliant lights, and you can create your own Christmas light show in your very own yard. These tips from Christmas Night Inc. outline how.

Sketch an Overview of Your Yard

Creating a rough yet accurate sketch of your yard gives you a bird’s eye view of how much room you have to work with. It also provides a working draft of all the different areas you want to cover. Once you have an overview of how much space you want to fill and elements you want to light, you can more easily assess how many larger light displays and what type of backdrop lighting will produce the most dramatic effects.

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The Best Collectible Christmas Gifts

While giving Christmas gifts like socks and candies may be useful and delicious, neither one is going to be around for the long haul. Collectible Christmas gifts, on the other, can be enjoyed for years to come. Collectibles refer to gifts that are beloved, cherished, passed down through the generations, and may often align with a specific theme as part of a larger collection. We here at Christmas Night Inc. are big fans of collectible Christmas gifts of all sorts and sizes, and we gathered up the best collectible Christmas gifts to share with you.

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Indoor vs. Outdoor Christmas Decorations

For those serious about holiday decor, Christmas decorations don’t stop at decking the halls. You are also likely to deck out your living room, kitchen, foyer and areas around your living space, both inside and out. While you may be tempted to use whatever holiday decorations you purchase anywhere you choose, you’re better off keeping indoor Christmas decorations inside the home. Christmas Night Inc. will tell you why.

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Last Minute Christmas Decorations

Despite the weeks of excitement and fanfare, Christmas can still sneak up on you quicker than you think. This can leave you expecting a house full of guests with nary a Christmas decoration in sight. Don’t fret. Get creative. We’ll even show you how. Christmas Night Inc. gathered up a handful of last-minute Christmas decoration ideas you can implement in a jiffy.

Go for Bulbs, Bulbs and More Bulbs

Maybe you have some glittery bulbs stashed in the basement somewhere, or you can make a fast trip to the store or have a few boxes delivered quickly. Bulbs and other Christmas ornaments can be hung, strung, placed and propped just about anywhere around the home to create a festive look.

Weatherproof Christmas ornaments can grace outdoor trees or shrubs, while those meant for indoor use can add a holiday touch in any number of creative spaces. Try hanging Christmas bulbs and ornaments in your front windows, from light fixtures or chandeliers, around the bannister, in the center of your front door, or even around interior doorframes.

A batch of Christmas bulbs can also make striking centerpieces for the dining table, or holiday décor for end tables. Simple pick several holiday bulbs that share a common theme, them place them in a decorative bowl or vase.

Just Add Lights

Christmas lights add instant ambiance to your space, and strings of them can be quick and easy to install. Gather up several strands of holiday lights, then use thumb tacks to secure them around windows and doorframes. Drape them generously across the mantel, down the bannister and around picture frames.

String lights also make a striking statement when gathered inside Mason jars, vases or other glass containers that let you see the glow. Bookcases, cabinets, desks and mirrors are also work as places to drape strands of Christmas lights.

Grace Your Home with Greenery

Like holiday lights, Christmas greenery has the power to decorate your place in a flash. Go for long lengths of garland you can wrap around the same type of areas you can hang lights. Spruce up the greenery even further by including a few evergreen boughs and wreaths.

Try Some Sticks and Stones

Tree boughs don’t have to be covered with pine needles to be festive. You can make your own mini tree decorations using sticks. A single larger stick can work as a mini tree on its own. Simply place it in a heavy vase and add lights and ornaments as desired. Smaller sticks can be arranged in vases in batches, and again adorned with ornaments and lights.

Stones can take on the role of Christmas décor if you paint them with festive colors and designs. Use acrylic paint or paint markers to decorate rocks you can then place in strategic areas around the home. Line them up along the fireplace mantel, place them in a decorative bowl, or arrange them in a circle in the center of the table.

Even better, you can gift your painted rocks as stocking stuffers or as a parting present for your guests as they leave.

Dazzle with Glam Candles

Candles of any shape, size, scent or color can contribute to dazzling Christmas candle display. Once you round up your existing candles, or purchase several you can acquire quickly, arrange them into groupings. Perhaps one group is all white candles, while another features candles of all the same size.

Glam up the candles by placing a small ornament on each candleholder, and place each group of candles on its own decorative tray. You should now have several warm and cozy collections of Christmas décor to place around your home as desired.

Build Your Own Tree

No time to go out and get a Christmas tree? Why not try building your own. Take a look around your home and garage to see what types of materials you may have handy. Then build a tree with what you find. Options may include a wire sculpture Christmas tree or a tree that features rolled-up brown bags or paper as branches attached to an old broom handle.

Some of the more creative DIY Christmas trees we’ve seen include one created out of a stack of books and adorned with lights, several made out of glued-together sticks or planks of upcycled wood, and a Christmas tree made out of a ladder. Simply place a ladder in a highly visible area, wrap it with lights and dangle several ornaments from the light strands and ladder frame.

Whether you want to quickly spruce up your home with holiday décor to impress your guests or for your own enjoyment, these last-minute Christmas decorations have you covered. Try one, two or combine all of the ideas to having your house feeling a lot like Christmas in no time at all. For future reference, you can also order Christmas decorations from Christmas Night Inc. all year long so you’ll be set with plenty of time to spare for next year.