Meditation: On All the Trimmings

Meditation: On All the Trimmings

Dec 17, 2006

The holidays aren't about department store Santas and department store sales. And, for lots of folks, they're not about a baby, a manger, and three magi either. Whatever our backgrounds, on this we can agree: the holidays are about compromise, and indulging others as well as ourselves.

Take E. and me, for instance. She grew up in a part-Jewish, all humanist household whose tradition was to fly down to Mexico to escape the jingle bells, whereas my family tends more towards stockings on the mantle, a full-on turkey dinner, and three church services on Christmas Eve. So these days, we've got blue lights in the front windows and a little Norfolk pine in the back room. I focus on the Advent; she's into the Advent chocolates. We're both fans of Sufjan Stevens's Christmas box set.

And making stuff is another thing we both like to do, so over time we're building new traditions together. We make paper snowflakes to decorate our front door, stick cloves into oranges give the house a holiday scent, and collaborate on homemade gifts for our friends and family. E. uses a lot of cut-up pictures of birds in her collage paintings, so this year we're thinking of a paper bird theme for our little tree.

Back in the day, my family used to go out into the woods and cut a few branches off a thorn tree. Back home, we'd stick gumdrops on the thorns, which made for a satisfying but slightly hazardous counterpoint to the traditional fir. Sometime in December, two shoeboxes would arrive from Great-Aunt Violet, one filled with all sorts of homemade cookies, the other with a skilanti, a sort of Lithuanian kielbasa only she could find. Both shoeboxes were tied with (clearly used) shoelaces and wrapped in brown kraft paper, and nothing was ever more festive, not even the Christmas village with its working train and styrofoam snow.

Nowadays, my folks often forgo hauling out our old homemade sequin-and-syrofoam-ball ornaments, the crumbling, beloved flour-and-salt-dough ones, the few remaining unbroken old-style candles inherited from their parents (or eBay, I forget which), and even the amazing eggshell dioramas--most of the shells are cracked now, and the diorama deer have all keeled over--in favor of decorating one of the evergreens in their yard with popcorn balls and berries for the birds.


Bonus: a compendium of ideas for DIY holiday decor from around the blog.

from the opoponax, who started the discussion:

  • jute twine and sewing tape measures for deconstructed/process-oriented/pomo garlands.
  • 12 little ceramic tag thingies from fishs eddy decorated with china markers.
  • 12 funny little papier mache apples from the dollar store, to be spray painted gold.
  • old lefty political buttons i don't wear any more.
  • paper snowflakes.
  • cut-outs from last year's christmas cards

and from around the blog:

  • small simple bows made from fabric in the xmas colors of your choice make a nice filler. Half a yard of fabric cut in 3/4 inch strips will make a ton of bows....Small bunches of dried baby breath flowers ( cheap at crafts stores) also work. (Francesca)
  • small origami cranes and other animals out of colorful paper (Shawn)
  • Playboy Bunny air fresheners in balsam and fuzzy dice (pinkmohair)
  • something shiny, pine cones, one really exquisite store-bought ornament every year (Joanne)
  • candy canes (Joan A.)
  • dangly eaarings (Mayabee)
  • red velvet bows and ribbon garlands, loosely twisted and woven through the branches (2T)
  • strings of popcorn, dried cranberries, jujubes or wooden beads (angelune)
  • fresh cranberries and popcorn, donated to the birds later (Pixie)
  • paper snowflakes (smallcitybeth in canada)
  • making a toy each year that symbolizes an important event from that year (olya)
  • Altoid tins and red stripe beercaps (anonymous)

ideas for alt trees:

  • Monica Ricci shares her mom's great alternative tree ideas, including a candy cane tree, a stick tree, and a chicken wire tree.
  • The Ladder Tree and other ideas, collected over at AT Chicago

There are lots of other great ideas over at, including instructions for the eggshell dioramas (OCD strongly suggested).

Finally, for the bah humbug set, how about the article "Deck the halls with ugly dreck" from Canada's National Post?


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