How to Decorate a Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree decorating seems logical enough. Find a hapless tree, chop it down and cover it with a hundred mismatching plastic ornaments that mean so much to you but nothing to anyone else. But every now and again one gets the urge to have one of those "magazine" Christmas trees. The kind of majestic beast of foliage and glitter that strikes a perfect balance between festive and fantastic without looking tacky, half naked or like it was dropped into an industrial blender with a packet of pink tinsel. If you've been "honoured" with the task of decorating your work, store or businesses Christmas tree this year read on. I will save your creative ass this year. If only I could guarantee you that pay rise...

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: Part 1

Preparing a Christmas Tree

Real Trees:

If you can, use a live tree that can live in a large pot for the rest of the year or get replanted after Christmas. Just remember to water it regularly and have a saucer under the pot so you don't leave huge wet stains on the carpet.

For a cut tree, place into a bucket and stabilise with rocks. You could also use a fancy tree holder but that money is better spent on the next morning tea shout (or bottle of red). Fill the bucket 3/4 with water and remember to top up. Keep a live tree away from electrical equipment because those little needles can bugger it and a dry, dead tree is a fire hazard - doh

Plastic Trees:

Decorating an artificial tree starts with remolding the branches. You need to open out every single branch for best effect and run your hand up and down the branches to fluff up the fake pine needles. It will look completely dodgy but it makes the tree look twice the size it did in the box. Twist the branches up and down to cover all your gaps. 

You know the tree is never going to fit back in that tiny box so chuck the box away now and find a large rubbish bag to store the tree in until next year.

Decorating a Christmas Tree: Part 2

Christmas decorations don't need to be expensive; just follow the following simple rules:

Pick a color theme. For a look that enhances your home or business, pick a colour theme which matches the decor. You may want to try a blue and white tree to match your favourite dinner set or a red and yellow tree to match your company logo. Traditional Christmas color combos include:
  • red and green
  • navy and gold
  • burgundy and gold
  • silver and white
  • gold and white 
Blue and silver Christmas decorations from

If you want to push the envelope try:
  • turquoise and silver
  • pink and silver
  • purple and orange
  • black and white
Pink, purple and gold Christmas decorations
On top of the colour theme you can use a little silver and/or gold as accents but only in small quantities (unless they're a main color already); it's a tree not an Elton John costume

Use quantity; pick one type of decoration per foot of tree (ie. four different decorations for a four foot tree, eight for an eight foot tree etc.) and have enough to cover the tree - about one of each decoration per main branch. This helps to keep the look unified. 

Keep your decorations in proportion; large baubles on a small tree will look ridiculous and small decorations on an eight-footer will get lost. 

Mix textures; instead of all plastic tinsel, use a mixtures of media such as glass, velvet, satin, metals, natural materials such as pine cones and seashells and beads. Some will catch and reflect the light and others will absorb it adding depth to your tree's look (just remember that phrase when explaining your genius to the boss)

Use many more lights than you think; about 50-100 lights per foot of tree; that's 200-400 bud lights for a four foot tree. Generally clear lights will work best with your colour scheme and can be reused each year with different decorations. When buying lights check that they are wired so when a bulb blows the rest keep going or you'll have to work your way through 200 bulbs to find the f@#$n blown one; it's so worth your sanity paying a little more. Be safe and get your lights checked by an electrician every year and use a multi way power outlet with a surge protector. 

Decorating a Christmas Tree: Part 3

Sourcing Cheaper Christmas Decorations

The best way to get the best deal on Christmas decorations is to buy them in January; technically this means you need to decide what color theme your Christmas tree will have 11 months in advance...

while checking out the holiday sales check out what the stores are doing with their displays and decorations; many stores will chuck out their decorations each year and get a new batch from head office. My mother picked up three decorated Christmas trees from a shop display one year for $10 - complete with 6 sets of lights! I've also found old signage, bunting and trims which I've reused in other projects or donated to the local Sunday School's craft store.

Head to your craft store and buy a big roll of satin or velvet ribbon. Make small bows and slip a piece of wire into the knot so you can wire them onto the tree branches. Brighten up the bows by gluing on a button, brass bell or other embellishment. You can also use a couple metres of wide, wired ribbon to make a large bow for the top of your tree and drape the ribbon down the sides.

Forage in your local forest, park or at the beach for nature's Christmas decorations such as seed pods, pine cones, feathers, seashells and stones. Spray paint them if you wish and attach a hanging wire or loop of thread with a hot glue gun. 

Look for specials at the supermarket and decorate your tree with candy canes, lolly pops (who says it has to be Christmas candy?), staple together pieces of wrapped candy to make a chain, make strings of popcorn or dried citrus fruit (cut a fresh lemon, lime or orange into slices and dry in a warm, dry place until fully dry and hard, then use a large needle to thread onto a piece of string).

Buy plain baubles and spray paint them with a stencil (try pieces of lace) or hand paint for a custom look. 

Get back into finger knitting and makes some chains with some wool or metallic thread

A small doll from a dollar store makes a great angel for the tree top at a fraction of the price of a "collectible" decoration or try a pair of birds from a craft store.

Get baking and make a big batch of gingerbread; you can make gingerbread people or try stained glass star shapes by cutting a hole in the middle of a star shaped piece of dough and sitting a boiled candy in the center before you bake your cookie (just make sure you REALLY oil the tray and use baking paper!), make a hole in the top with a straw so you can hang your treats. 

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