For me the sounds of Christmas from my childhood are my sister Kate excitedly clapping because she can’t sleep or the sound of my Little Nanny whispering to both of us as we cuddled up on the sofa and she told us how Christmas would begin; who would arrive, what they would bring. The clapping isn’t something my sister does anymore – as she’s a full grown woman with two kids. But I do. I love Christmas so much that I can’t help but clap spontaneously at the thought of it and every Christmas starts with decorating. I love nothing more than getting up when it’s still dark and gazing at the magic and beauty of the twinkling lights.
One of the most exciting things about spending my first holiday season here in the US is how many people but up their decorations right after Thanksgiving. I usually wait until the 1st of December – mainly because I like a real tree and I want it to still look good come New Year’s Eve (we used to have some epic parties in London!) but as any of my former flatmates would attest, I continue to decorate and add more every day until then. It’s basically like living with Buddy from the movie Elf.
This year is my first year alone at Christmas time. Usually I get to trim my tree with my flatmates and then my family. We ice gingerbread cookies with our names on them and trim the tree together. I once went full Elf and made popcorn garlands – it took me all night to make one that only went once around the tree and then the whole house smelled like a stale cinema – #christmasfail.
The last real tree we had was called Eric. My flatmate Rowls and I got up early to go and get the best tree in the whole of London. As we stepped out of our apartment building we were greeted by two rather worse-for-wear elves selling Christmas trees right outside the pub at the end of our street. We got the best tree we’ve ever had for a steal of a price but the Elves insisted we name him, so he became Eric. If you’ve ever had a real tree you’ll know, some don’t drop down, or they’re too wide at the bottom or too tall and skinny at the top. One dark night I bought a tree that was so lopsided I had to decorate every night because it would always fall over whilst we were out at work. Eric was, and will for ever be, the best Christmas tree ever. In fact, I’ve just realised I haven’t had a real tree since then.
He was perfection!
My Mum and Dad always wait for me to come home for Christmas for me to trim their tree.
We put on Johnny Mathis ‘When A Child is Born’ which has been THE Christmas album all our lives and it’s like I’m five years old again. Last year was really emotional because I knew that I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas with them next year. I decorated the dining room but made it my mission to use every single decoration in the box. It was an awesome Christmas grotto by the time I’d finished. Christmas is the one time of year when more is more!
When I moved to Minnesota at the end of January this year every house was covered in snow and still had their decorations and lights up. It was like touching down in the North Pole! So this year I’ve decided to keep my theme generic and seasonal (so I can keep it up for as long as possible!;) I’ve decorated my balcony with a swag and Mother nature herself has gifted me icicles.
Inside I’ve kept my theme festive but versatile so I can keep it up for New Year and beyond into 2017. I’m off to the UK in January and I’ll be too excited to spend a belated Christmas with my family to be putting the decorations away. I’ll be listening to Johnny Mathis and looking forward to eating mince pies!
Here’s my quick guide to creating a seasonal theme that will last all winter:
The message of the season
Peace, love and joy. Signs that capture the spirit of the season work all year and remind you what’s it all about!
If you want to create a contemporary theme that extends beyond December 25th step away from the red and green. I LOVE pink! Think outside the box and embrace your favourite colours. I just used some spare glass jars I had in the kitchen to create this look.
Stars & snowflakes
They are an easy way to create a theme that gives a Winter Wonderland feel for the whole season and that you can add to easily.
Metallics & holographics
Metallics maximise your lighting to create more magic and are perfect for parties.
Poundshop, dollar stores and party stores
Some of the most effective decorations are the cheapest. Ikea are great for fun pieces that won’t break the bank and party stores for ceiling decorations you can re-use every year.
Fruits of the season
Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, oranges slices and berries are a feast for the eyes and fill your home with a wonderful, welcoming smell. This is an easy how-to guide I found online that I used to make these orange slices.
Lights and candles
Twinkling lights look magical all year-round. I have a timer on my balcony lights so I don’t have to brave the cold and it’s lovely to come home to.
Keep it safe with battery operated candles. These are great value at 6 for less than $20 and are remote controlled!