On the 12th Day of Decorating

On the 12th Day of Christmas

Don’t go all-in on one big decorating day. Gather up your friends and family for these fun decorating projects that will get everyone in the holiday spirit.

with Lindsey Romain

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … plenty of holiday decorating ideas to make the home beautiful and festive for the season.

From new crafts to updates on traditional staples, holiday decorating doesn’t have to be a chore.

Take this advice from Linnea Johansson, a chef and event planner for the stars who originally is from Sweden, or as she calls it: the “home of Christmas.” She says, “The thing about the whole process of Christmas is not to be stressed out. Make it a fun thing that goes throughout the month. That’s something my family has always done.”

Getting others involved means that decorating becomes a part of the holiday celebration. Homemade projects also can alleviate stress and inject some fun back into the planning process. Crafty projects get the kids involved and the creative juices flowing.

So gather your friends and family and prepare some extra holiday treats to get an early start on holiday decorating.

1. Wrapped Frames

Kara Allen, party planning expert and author of the blog KarasPartyIdeas.com, has a fun idea for sprucing up a standard item: Wrap it!

“We wrap picture frames in gift wrap and make them look like gifts and then hang them back on the wall,” says Allen of one of her favorite family tricks. It’s perfect for leftover gift wrap that isn’t big enough to contain a whole gift.

Snowball Garland. Styrofoam snowballs are available at Michael's
Styrofoam Snowballs are available at Michael’s

2. Snowball Garland

This fun garland is perfect for a children’s tree or even a tree set-up under a covered front porch.

Cut white yarn or twine the length of your desired garland. Thread the yarn through a large darning needle. String Styrofoam® balls onto the yarn alternating between sizes. Note, try using a skewer to make the hole first to make inserting the needle easier.

3. A Tisket, A Tasket

A fun spin on tradition is to use baskets instead of regular ornaments for the tree, says Johansson, author of  “Perfect Parties” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012). They fill the baskets with candy, and when the holidays are over, they invite friends to the house to socialize and eat the candy from the tree. “We call it tree-plundering,” she says.

“People will sneak some pieces during Christmas,” she admits, “but the plundering is a good way to keep the celebration going. We are pretty Christmas-obsessed.”

4. Sweet Sentiments

Use old Scrabble® letter tiles to form a favorite holiday phrase, like “Joy to the World.” Glue the tiles together and hang from the tree on a piece of ribbon.

Homemade Advent Calendars

5. Homemade Advent Calendars

Tamara Maynes, an Australian craft designer and author of “The Maker: Beyond Decorating: Crafting a Unique Space” (Murdoch, 2017) offers up her Advent advice.

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count or celebrate the days of Advent in the days leading up to Christmas. To create your own, Maynes suggests removing the backs from 25 graphic Christmas cards and stamping the numbers one through 25 over the images on the front. “Write a message applicable to Christmas on the back of each and tack [them] on the wall in an organic, clustered style.”

Or add a chocolate or treat to each day so kids will look forward to counting down the days to Christmas – if they aren’t already.

6. Cake Stands and Pastry Dishes

Sometimes, new holiday decorations can come from repurposed household items. Allen suggests using cake stands and pastry dishes to display Christmas objects. “Stack three cake plates in a tier and throw ornaments and Christmas trinkets and gifts on them,” she says. If you have a cake stand with a lid, she says to turn the lid upside down and fill it with ornaments.

7. Stocking Stand-Ins

Apart from the tree, the most standard Christmas decoration is the stocking. But if you want to branch out from the traditional thumb-tacked sock on the chimney ledge, Maynes suggests, “Line objects like gumboots or tin buckets beside the fireplace, and stencil names on them to personalize.” Other items that work for stocking stand-ins: hats, vases, gift bags, empty paint cans or vintage jars.

8. Mason Jar Centerpieces

The rustic decorator’s darling, Mason jars, can wear many hats in Christmas decorating plans. One idea is to fill them with candles and group them together as table centerpieces.

Another suggestion is to fill them with white craft snow and silver jingle bells or other decorations and to group them together in different shapes and sizes.

Decorate with cloved oranges. The smell is amazing!
Decorate with cloved oranges. The smell is amazing!

9. Decorating with Food

Don’t want to stock up on paper or cloth decorations? Try making decorations out of something everyone loves: food.

Johansson says that one of her favorite decorating projects is hanging gingerbread hearts, since it’s a multi-step process that allows everyone to contribute.

“You make the dough, have to wait a bit, then bake them,” she says.

Then others can help with decorating them and writing holiday messages with icing. Afterwards, “we put little holes in the middle and hang them in the windows,” she says.

She also decorates with cloved oranges. “Leave the orange whole, and stick cloves into the orange in different patterns,” she says. The orange will dry out and stay good for a few months. “Put them in a bowl on your table or hang them around the house. It smells amazing.”

The biggest benefit of decorating with food? You can eat the leftovers.

Glitter Glasses
Find a large assortment of glitters at Michael’s

10. Sparkling Stemware

Raise a glass of holiday cheer with this sparkling idea! 

Start with clean, dry glassware. Apply a thick coat of dishwasher-safe

Mod Podge® to the bottoms of the glasses with a paintbrush. While it’s still wet, drop large pieces of glitter over the Mod Podge®. Allow to dry overnight then apply a second coat to seal in the glitter. Let dry. Cheers!

11. Light it Up

While not exactly a craft, one non-traditional way to inject some color for the holidays is to use different colored lights around the house – not just the string lights.

Rather than spending money on lights that might not be used again, Johansson recommends buying inexpensive spot lights and covering them with heat-resistant color film. “You can place those spot lights on a bookcase or whatever you want people to look at,” she says.

For the general ambiance, “I use a lot of pink light bulbs,” Johansson says. Contrary to people’s beliefs, she says, “it does not create a girly hue, but actually everyone looks 15 years younger!”

The “soft pink” light bulbs are available at most hardware stores.

Every room in the house can have a Christmas tree even when you're short on floor space!
Every room in the house can have a Christmas tree, even when you’re short on floor space!

12. Christmas Tree, Minus the Tree

One of the easiest ways to free up some decorating time in a creative way is to ditch the tree altogether and look for simple, trendy alternatives.

Maynes suggests a hand-drawn tree. “Paint a large sheet of lightweight plywood with blackboard paint and draw on a stylized tree, including decorations, in white chalk,” she suggests. Or experiment with colorful chalks to add depth.

Prop up against the wall and arrange presents around the bottom for a simple, easygoing Christmas “tree.” Just take extra caution, especially with children in the house, to secure the “tree” to the wall to prevent tipping.

With some creative imagination, every room in the house can have a Christmas tree!