Deck the Halls



Decorating for the holidays is one of the most pleasurable of Christmas activities. Whether you do it on your own or it's a family affair, you are creating memories and traditions that will last a lifetime. Read on for some fresh ideas on how to spread the spirit of the season throughout the entire house. Get those boxes out of the attic, put on some festive music and transform your home into a Christmas delight.

The tree is usually the focus of holiday decorating. Unless you have a pre-lit tree, you'll have to do the honors yourself. Lights should be the first to go on; be sure to put them on the inner branches of the tree, near the trunk, as well as the outer tips. It will look fuller and have more depth.  Next, drape on garland or long lengths of ribbon. Ornaments are last. As with lights, place them on the inside of the tree as well as the ends of branches. Mix your special ornaments (family heirloom, themed or handmade) with lots of more generic ones (glass balls, crystal drops, snowflakes) for added richness. Fill in any holes with Christmas picks.

A twinkling Christmas tree creates such a warm ambience in a room, why limit yourself to one? Let every family member decorate their own miniature tree for their bedroom to suit their personality. Group a mix of small trees in different heights in an entryway so guests feel as if they are entering a winter forest. Add an assortment of nutcrackers for even more flair. Small trees also make wonderful centerpieces on dining tables or other large pieces of furniture. 

In addition to the tree, wreaths and garlands bring greenery into the home, warming every surface they touch.  As well as their traditional roles, they can also be used in inventive ways. Create a candlescape with a wreath by laying it flat on top of a charger and filling with pillar candles of different heights. Add picks to the wreath in colors to coordinate with the candles and your décor. Twist two different styles of garland together to drape over mantles and banisters. Lay a garland down the center of a runner on a long dining table or buffet.

At parties or family gatherings, people tend to congregate in the kitchen, peering into pots to see what smells so good, chatting with the hosts while they prepare drinks. It's often the heart of a home, so don't neglect it while decorating the rest of the house. During the holiday season, transfer the contents of canisters into holiday tins to be displayed on countertops. Keep lots of holiday baskets on hand to hold a selection of real or faux fruit or to serve baked goods. Cheerful holiday mugs are perfect for warm beverages and to keep candy canes and cinnamon sticks handy.

In the dining room, pack up some of the contents of a china cabinet or display shelf during Christmas to make room for displaying illuminated holiday villages. Tie ornaments and sprigs of greenery to a chandelier with gossamer ribbon. Bend berry picks into circles for quick yet elegant napkin rings.

Small details add the finishing touches throughout the rest of the house that make your Christmas atmosphere complete. Hang dangling lights of snowflakes or stars around window frames. To complete the wintry look, add a teaspoon of liquid dish soap to blue or white craft paint and sponge snowflakes and stars on the windowpanes. After the holidays, it will wash off easily with window cleaner and a non-abrasive scrubber. Wrap ribbon around pictures in ornate frames as if they were gifts and finish with a pretty bow in the corner. Embellish plain candlesticks with bows of festive ribbon and sprigs of holly.

Think of your beautifully wrapped presents as decorations as well as gifts. Tie on an ornament with ribbon or hot glue one to the center of a bow. Use a holiday stamp to stamp onto a plain package for a special wrapping. Small packages can be mounded on a pedestal plate for a unique centerpiece or use them to enhance a decorated mantle.

When every bow and bell is in place, light the candles, pour some eggnog and enjoy the holiday cheer you've created.