When to Decorate for the Holidays
Although some grocery stores and other shops around Charlottesville were pushing the season way back in October, the days just after Thanksgiving are when most people start to think about decorating for the upcoming holidays, usually to coincide with the start of Advent.
This year, some people might be looking for new ways to dress up their homes.
One way to start is to pick a theme. Decorations can go beyond the usual with beautiful results. Try a holiday theme such as vintage, all-white, gold, natural, or even beach-inspired.
The traditional colors of Christmas are pine green (evergreen), snow white, and red. Blue and white are often used to represent winter, or sometimes Hanukkah, which occurs around the same time.
Gold and silver are also very common, as are just about any other metallic colors. Typical winter icons include snowflakes, snowmen, icicles, and even penguins and polar bears.
Front doors & outside lights
Front doors everywhere like being dressed up as well and what better way than with a wreath? For a live wreath, you can gather boxwood, leaves, nuts, holly and twigs from your backyard. For a longer-lasting wreath, stop by your local craft store for faux berries and dried flowers.
Outdoor lights also help bring a festive air to your street or neighborhood. Give your home holiday curb appeal by adorning the facade with lights. You might want to recruit a helper as hanging lights can be tricky alone.
A few tips: Don’t forget to test each strand of lights before you hang it — you’ll want to make sure each bulb works. Also, measure the distance you want to cover with the lights to determine how many strands you’ll need.
Don’t forget the outdoor decorations
Lights aren’t the only way to add cheer to your front yard. You can also use topiaries, icicles, and lawn figures to dress up the outside of your home. Think simple when decorating (and avoid climbing ladders, when possible) by opting for greenery or a garland around the front entry and a big red bow on the door.
It’s time to move indoors.
Bring out the stockings, Santas, elves, and nativity scenes to truly deck your halls. If your family has a collectible village or nutcracker collection, find a place of honor for those favorites. Liven up mantels, stairways, doorways, and entry areas by draping them with festive garlands. Put on some holiday music to really get in the spirit while you decorate.
According to legend, Saint Nicolas would creep in through the chimney and slip gold into stockings hanging by the fireplace. Various forms of stockings are available; from simple velvet ones to sock-shaped bags to animated ones.
Children also really love Advent calendars.
Starting on December 1, count down the days until Christmas morning with an Advent calendar. Designate a specific time each day and let your children take turns marking each day on the calendar. You can purchase a paper Advent calendar that has pictures, chocolates, quotes or little boxes for small toys behind each day’s door. Or make your own Advent calendar with your kids.
Artificial or live tree?
Artificial trees can go up sooner than live trees so now is a good time to get your tree up and decorated. To determine how many strands of lights to use (50-light strands are your best bet), decide whether you prefer subdued, moderate, or showcase lighting.
For subdued lighting on a 6-foot tree, use 12 boxes of 50-light strands; for moderate lighting, use 20 boxes; and for showcase lighting, use 40 boxes.
For a live tree there are many varieties to choose from. Some of the most popular include Douglas fir, Eastern white pine, Scotch pine, Frasier fir, and Eastern white cedar.
When selecting your tree, look for a straight (or almost straight) trunk and branches that bend without breaking. Check the freshness of a tree by pulling gently on a handful of needles. The fewer that fall off, the fresher the tree. Make sure to keep it watered so it doesn’t dry out and become a fire hazard – keep it away from any heat sources.
The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. From Germany, the custom was introduced to England, first via Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, and then more successfully by Prince Albert during the early reign of Queen Victoria. The influential 1840s image of the Queen’s decorated evergreen was republished in the U.S, and as the first widely circulated picture of a decorated Christmas tree in America, the custom there spread.
Display poinsettias and hang mistletoe
Since the 19th century, the poinsettia, a native plant from Mexico, has been associated with Christmas. Poinsettias can be used individually for a burst of color or grouped together for a for a lush look.
Also, no home is ready for the holidays without a sprig or ball of mistletoe dangling from a doorway or chandelier.
Dress up the dining room table
Chances are, you’ll spend a good amount of time gathered around the dining room table with family and friends, so create a design that’s sure to impress your guests. Some ideas: add a pretty table runner or napkins. Use small Christmas ornaments as napkins holders, or float candles and holly leaves in a punch bowl filled with water for a romantic centerpiece.
A final touch: turn on the Christmas tunes to make your home even more festive and welcoming and put some cider on the stove and keep it warm for guests.
When to take them down
In some places Christmas decorations are traditionally taken down on Twelfth Night, the evening of January 5 or January 6.
The difference in this date is due to the fact that some count Christmas Day as the first day of Christmas, whereas for others Christmas Day is a feast day in its own right, and the first full day of the Christmas Season is December 26.
In Hispanic and some other cultures, this is Christmas Eve, as the Three Wise Men bring gifts that night, and therefore decorations are left up longer.