By Sara G. Stephens
We’ve all been in such a house at Christmastime–whether it was our own home or not– and we can remember that the experience of being surrounded by sights sounds, smells and tastes of the holiday made everything seem magical.
When you are in the company of the people you love, the Christmas spirit shines through, regardless of the setting. But isn’t it wonderful to infuse your home with the joy of the season, wrapping all that love into a cozy blanket that will warm your holiday memories for years to come?
My gift to you this holiday season: a list of my favorite ideas for making your home for the perfect backdrop for Christmas joy and magic.
Ready? Ho-ho-ho… Here we go!
1. Give your home a soundtrack for the holidays. Tune your Pandora playlist to a Christmas channel. Play some beautiful choir music, like Handel’s “Messiah.” Or if you live in yesteryear, like I do, and you have a record player and some hand-me down vinyl, dig out Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” for a smooth serenade into the holiday.
2. Grab some sheet music for popular Christmas carols and place it thoughtfully on end tables. Someone’s bound to pick it up and start a round of caroling in your living room. Who knows? You might be inspired to take the music down the street and to the neighbors (don’t forget the hot chocolate to go)!
3. Set up a multiplayer DVD in the den, stocked with your some classic, seasonal movies: Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Prop the DVD jackets up visibly so passersby can be reminded of their viewing options. Anyone in the mood for some holiday entertainment can press play and relax.
4. If it’s not moving, stick a bow on it. This is the absolute quickest and cheapest way to give your home a facelift for the holidays. Just make sure the bows coordinate with or complement the color scheme in your house.
5. Turn off the lights and set the Christmas mood with flickering candlelight and a dancing fire in the fireplace. While you’re at it, put candles (battery operated might be best) in the windows at the front of your house so people passing by can feel the spirit that lives within.
6. Use holiday tableware for every meal in December.” We love this tip from interiordec.about.com. “Discount stores often carry seconds of name brand china, as well as fun designs that are not so common…If you’re adventuresome, choose a different pattern and one place setting each year. Arrange the different dishes around the table and get lots of comments and rekindle memories. When they’re not in use, the dishes can be displayed around the room.”
7. Hang holiday wreaths, not just on the front door, but on every door in the house. Get the kids to help you decorate the wreaths with pinecones, ornaments, candy canes, etc.
8. While the crafts are still out, cut out a bunch of paper snowflakes. Paint them with glitter glue, punch holes in their tops and hang them from the ceiling (we dangle them from the top of the staircase) to create a Winter Wonderland.
9. Wrap empty boxes with gift wrap paper and place them throughout the house–stacked in empty corners, maybe going up the staircase, piled on countertops. It’s a great way to build anticipation and to remind folks this is the season of giving.
10. Decorate the fireplace with green garland, pinecones, ribbons and plants. Don’t forget the Christmas stockings. We have a tradition in my home. Every year, we each add one decorative item to our respective stockings. It’s fun to see how each design has developed over the years.
11. Decorate the staircase with garland sprayed with artificial snow or frost. The banister is a good place to hang all your Christmas cards, too.
12. Add smaller, even miniature, trees and snow-capped branches around the house to give it the feeling of an enchanted forest.
13. Place a few ready-made pies on the dining room table. You don’t have to bake them all. Houston’s very own Three Brothers Bakery offers its award-winning Pecan Pie–boasting a flaky, scratch-made pie crust, gooey filling and crunchy, southern pecans–for $22.95. These pies will be the star attraction in your Norman Rockwell home (and who’s to say you didn’t bake them, by the way?) If you really want to be the hostess with the mostess, give the pies to your guests as take-home holiday treats (3brothersbakery.com).
14. Make marshmallow snowflakes (look up a marshmallow recipe and cut the pieces with a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter), and set them next to some festive mugs, ready to be filled with steaming hot cocoa.
15. Set up a Christmas village. Kids of all ages love to get lost in the scenery of Christmas past. You can find charming, snow-topped bakeries, churches, and houses just about anywhere (Wal-Mart and Walgreens included), but you might want to drop by some Houston shops that specialize in holiday decorations (Christmas Rocks, Classic Accessories and Christmas, and Regina Gust Accents and Accessories, for example). Use a small vanity mirror as a frozen pond and put some miniature skaters on it. I use a roll of quilt batting as snow; it’s smooth and looks freshly fallen.
16. Place a festive Christmas theme doormat at your entryway, inside and outside. We have a rugged piece we use every year outside. For the inside, we use a round Nutcracker rug I fell in love with and bought from a garage sale….It’s so pretty, and it really sets the mood for magic and whimsy.
17. Make the front lawn festive. In less than the time it takes you to set up an inflatable decoration you can set up a magical, twinkly scene. For starters, look into Blisslights, a low voltage lighting projector that you simply plug in to cast a magical light display on your house or trees (prices start at $139).
18. Let it snow! Did you know you can rent a snow machine right here in Houston? You can get real or artificial snow delivered to your home! The real snow offers authenticity, but it melts. Fake snow can be just as much fun to play in, and the flakes will last a long time before evaporating, creating a dreamy, winterscape on your lawn, bushes, and trees. You can get 50 gallons worth of artificial snow at lonestarparties.com for $139.
19. Include outdoor living spaces in your decorating plans. You can create a warm and cozy backyard retreat simply by placing a lighted and trimmed Christmas tree out by the patio furniture. Drape a string of lights around the patio cover, and form a pinecone centerpiece around your citronella candles (it may be Christmas, but in Houston, that still means mosquitoes).
20. Put a sleighbell (jingle bell) on the front door, like they used to have on the doors of old storefronts. Every time someone walks in, exclaim, “An angel just got his wings!”
21. On Christmas Eve, take on old pair of boots, dip them into the ashes from the fireplace and leave Santa footprints from the fireplace to the Christmas tree. If you don’t have a fireplace, scoop some ashes out of a neighbor’s fireplace. The look on your kids’ faces are well worth the small mess you have to clean up the next day.
22. Send your guests home with a cheerful momento of your extraordinary holiday spirit $13. Lovepop.com offers delightful, holiday-themed pop-up cards for $13 taking some holiday hospitality from your home to theirs.