Top tips for Christmas decorations

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Read our top tips for Christmas decorations. Have your festive decorations lost their sparkle? Are they gaudy rather than gorgeous, tacky instead of terrific? Katherine Sorrell has some ideas to bring back your home’s Christmas cheer with wreaths, baubles and garlands galore.

Choose a theme
Rather than assembling any old cacophony of Christmas decorations, choosing a theme brings unity to the overall look. It should suit the style of your house and the way your family celebrates the festive season, whether laid-back and relaxed, sophisticated or formal. For some, that might mean a traditional, living fir tree and a colour theme of red, green and gold. For others, a kitsch fake tree with fluorescent ornaments; or perhaps a minimal, modern style with pure silver and glass. A Scandinavian theme would involve simple decorations in red and white, while a colourful, contemporary theme would be based around one or two bright colours.

Dress the tree
Start by winding it with lights – making sure they’re evenly distributed by occasionally switching them on and standing back for an overall impression. Use a small stepladder if necessary to reach the top. Next, drape your garlands, again aiming for evenness and an impression of generosity without overloading the tree. On small or slim trees, use slender garlands; on larger trees you can afford to go for heavier, fancier garlands. Last, hang your ornaments, with the largest first, filling in around them with smaller ones. Don’t hang all the ornaments on the tips of branches – placing some nearer the trunk creates a sense of depth and interest.

Hang a wreath
For some, the making of a family wreath using foraged leaves, flowers, seeds, nuts and fruit is a significant part of the holiday season; for others, creating a decorative wreath offers the chance to experiment with exciting new materials, from tinsel to feathers, pearls to buttons. Alternatively, ready-made examples are available in any style imaginable, from classic to contemporary, heart-shaped or circular, small or large, utterly simple or lavish and complex. Whatever its style, a Christmas wreath always provides a wonderful sense of festive welcome.

Make some decorations
Home-made Christmas decorations can be as elaborate or simple as you wish, be they charmingly childish or ultra-sophisticated. Multi-coloured paper chains are the ultimate in family favourites, as are cutwork paper stars and clove-studded oranges. How about pom pom snowmen, peg-doll angels or glitter-covered pine cones? Or mini stocking shapes cut out of felt and ginger biscuits to hang from the tree? It’s all great fun and will create happy memories for years to come.

Wrap your presents
Transform present-wrapping from a chore to a pleasure by taking a little extra time and trouble. When they’re piled under the tree they will look so much better if they’re colour-coordinated and criss-crossed with ribbons and bows. Inexpensive paper – even brown paper or newsprint – looks lovely if adorned with a home-made label, while sequins, feathers, glitter, stamped designs and wired beads can all provide additional allure. For a frivolous finishing touch add a tiny pine cone, iced biscuit or small bauble.

Sort out your cards
An abundance of cards can soon appear to cover every available surface, so it pays to establish a system as soon as they start arriving. The most straightforward option is to clear a shelf or two, and arrange them close together, large at the back and small at the front, in neat rows. Smaller cards can be tucked around a mirror or picture frame. An alternative is to staple them to ribbons (weighted by a bauble or pine cone) to hang in rows from a mantelpiece or along the side of the staircase.

Create displays
Nothing says Christmas like poinsettias in pots, scented candles on the mantelpiece and ivy, holly and mistletoe draped over every available surface. Bowls of clementines or nuts are both ornamental as well as edible, while baubles or fairy lights (the latter placed near a handy socket) can also be bundled into a glass bowl or vase for a glittery effect. Now’s the time to dig out that special table runner and your best crockery, glassware and cutlery for an eye-catching table display, finished off with a dish, tray or platter filled with greenery, candles and other festive Christmas decorations.

Looking after your tree
Buy a tree that’s as fresh as possible; bright green and, ideally, displayed in water, out of direct sunlight. As soon as possible, cut half an inch off the bottom of the trunk, to help the tree absorb water. Trim away low-down or interior branches that you don’t need. Put the tree in a stand that can hold plenty of water, and never let it run out. Try not to stand the tree in a sunny window or near a radiator. If you wish, you could add a couple of cups of corn syrup to the water to provide the tree with extra nourishment.

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