My daughter Amy and I made our annual visit to a nearby Christmas shop the other day. We walked through the display of themed trees to get ideas for decorating our own. Those who have been using the same artificial Christmas tree for many years will understand the draw I feel to buy a new one whenever I browse the tree department of a big box store or holiday shop. Brighter lights, more realistic branches — each new generation of trees gets brighter and better.
An artificial tree is convenient and clean. You pay for it one time and most will last a good 10 years. The downside of putting up the same tree year after year is that it can be boring. And what do you do when the lights on a pre-lit tree fail to light? I browse the new models and contemplate buying something different. Maybe a blue spruce with white lights or a flocked fir with colored bulbs. But then I suffer sticker shock. Those new, better quality trees also come with bigger price tags. Do I really want to spend $300 to $1000 or more for something displayed in my living room for only a few weeks each year?
I think not.
I may eventually buy a new tree but it won’t be this year. Instead, I dragged my old tree up the basement stairs. I no longer worry that my tree will be boring. I’ve found a way to make it new and different each year.
Long before tree decorating day I choose a theme. I might want a glittering tree or I might be in the mood for something more primitive. Last year I created a candy cane themed tree trimmed out in red and white with lots of striped ribbons and, of course, candy canes. This year, I wanted a tree with a lightly frosted look. Sort of an “outdoors in nature” tree but with a lot of sparkle.
Once I had my tree set up, I stuffed it with additional greenery. If you own a cheap “dollar store” tree adding different kinds of branches will work wonders to make it look fuller and richer. My tree doesn’t need to be filled out but because I didn’t want to permanently change the look of my tree I bought artificial blue spruce stems that could be “frosted.” I didn’t use flocking or artificial snow. I didn’t want the look to be that heavy. Instead, I lightly touched the extra spruce branches with a can of white spray paint to give them a “barely there” frosted look that still let the blue color show through.
When my painted branches were dry, I bundled them together with bright green cedar sprigs, added several icy look branches, tied them all with burlap ribbons and tucked them into the tree. I made a dozen branch bundles which was the minimum needed for my small, 6 foot tree. I would have liked a half dozen more but to make do I didn’t use any on the back side of the tree.
The lights on my pre-lit tree quit working a couple of years ago. Like most older pre-lit trees it never had enough lights anyway. I have always added more. Stringing lights takes time, but it allows me to choose two or more different styles and/or sizes of bulbs which make the tree sparkle all the more. In the past, I’ve often decorated with colored mini lights plus C7 bulbs. I always add one or two strings of white lights too. Adding a bit of white light brightens the tree and makes my ornaments glow.
This year, at the Christmas shop, I fell in love with and bought a set of twinkling white rice lights. Another favorite tree in the shop was strung entirely with red bulbs. For my tree, I combined the two looks and wrapped my tree with the white rice lights, several strings of white mini lights, a string of white pine cone shaped bulbs, plus a long string of 100 red mini bulbs. I plugged all the strings into a power strip so that I can turn them on and off with a flip of the switch.
Next I added my ornaments. I added every ornament I had that would suit my tree theme and color — any glass balls or figures that were red, silver, gold or white. Wood ornaments, handmade ornaments, anything that reflected an idea of nature, anything homespun or primitive got added. There can’t be too many ornaments. If you think about the trees you see in Christmas displays they are usually heavy with baubles and they look magical. It is the magic look that I’m going for. All of the ornaments that don’t fit my chosen theme are used on a second tree or displayed somewhere else in the house.
To bring out the nature theme I add a dozen red poinsettias which compliment the red lights and add a festive look. They are large and have a beautiful velvet texture. I add pine cones, some feathered clip-on birds, and a dozen or more red apple ornaments. A garland of wooden beads wrap the tree from top to bottom.
One final touch is the addition of more of sparkle. I hang every glass icicle and snowflake that I own from the tips of branches so that they dangle in front of the lights.
On the tree top I add a simple white crocheted star.
And there it is – my old tree wearing a fresh new look!