On Linens and Life: Baubles, Wreaths and Ribbons

December 09, 2013


The run-up to Christmas is only days away.   For many, December 1st is to the Christmas season what the ring of the starting bell is to horse races.  On cue, folks head up to the attic, out to the garage or down to the basement to fish out boxes of baubles, wreaths and ribbons.  Ladders are perched precariously against soffits and tree trunks, and the electric meter begins its vertiginous spin.  

And every year, we try to find creative new ways to decorate the house for our families and our guests. The problem is, being original isn't as easy as one might think.  Over the years, we accumulate a rather diverse collection of ornaments and develop an almost superstitious routine about where each of these treasures belongs.  The garland, embedded with sparkling white lights, is always draped over the mantle and around the banister.  The tree belongs in that corner.  The dancing Santa (yes, cheesy decorations are among our treasures)  always swivels his hips in the foyer.  

Interestingly, we often go all-out on decorations for the Christmas tree, possibly manage a Christmas mat at the front door and a festive hand towel in the guest bath but then we peter out on the rest of the house.  I can't explain this phenomenon.  You'd think that as Christmas gets closer and the attending spirit reaches its zenith, our Christmas decorating mania would also spread out in concentric waves around the home.

For the last ten years, I've promised myself that we'd make our own kind of advent calender.  For the twelve days before Christmas, I'd put a tiny wrapped gift on the children's breakfast plate every morning.  Maybe the gifts would be according to a theme or perhaps they would be pieces that could be assembled to make something larger.  But, somehow, as soon as December 1st dawns, I switch back into my old habits faster than you can say Christmas automaton.   

Last year, something wonderful happened. I inadvertently left our Christmas boxes unattended for a period of time and when I returned, the nutcrackers had taken up residence on the dining table instead of the window sill, the Christmas balls were in bowls instead of on the tree and our dancing Santa... well,  let's just say that someone decided he was considerably overdressed.  There may have been a plot to exchange those photos for an improved gift haul... but I digress.  

The changes demonstrated Christmas decorating as seen through a child's eyes and we discovered that it's quite refreshing to shake up the holiday decor a little.This year, instead of one big tree, we're going to scatter little ones all over the house and decorate them all differently. We'll hang tree ornaments from curtain rods and chandeliers in hopes the whole house will glitter by candlelight and, perhaps uncharitably, we'll record our own carol singing to play when the doorbell rings. 

The meaning of Christmas is solemn and sacred but decorating for the holiday can be anything but. Go ahead.  Get in touch with your inner Martha.  Most of all, have fun out there!