Did you just pull out the dusty-bearded nutcracker from Aunt June, or the red but now somewhat brown ribbon garland? Well this is the year to move on from tired Christmas traditions and spice it up. Have some fun with your tree this year and for many years to come with a themed Christmas. That’s right, themed Christmas trees are not just for Macy’s anymore. Sit the family down, brainstorm, and take a vote. Anything goes! Whether it is an eighties theme complete with cassette tape tinsel, or a cozy teddy motif with handmade Christmas sweater bears, this annual décor explosion gives you great opportunities to nerd out and go crazy either with Christmas crafts, or with collecting ornaments to compliment your theme (or a little bit of both).
Let’s say you’ve been outvoted and it will be a teddy bear Christmas; you still have lots of decisions to make. Will your teddy bears be metallic, paper, crocheted, stuffed? A good place to start for inspiration is in your own home, even in the Christmas box. Maybe you had a tacky Christmas sweater party one year and, good god, you saved the sweaters. Well, this year those sweaters can get a second chance at life as stuffed teddy bears. You and your kid can draw a teddy bear shape on cardboard to create a pattern (or use this one), then start tracing, cutting, sewing, and stuffing. If you have more sweaters and you want to get even more crafty, perhaps sew up some little sleighs or houses for your sweater friends. Let’s say you are a real saver and have shoe boxes of old Christmas cards. Upcycling might just be your way to say goodbye; use that same template to cut the cards into teddy bear shapes. You could even punch a hole in each bear’s hand, and string them all together for garland around your tree.
Now, if all of this crafting has made your head spin, amassing pre-made or nearly made ornaments or ornamental items can be just as fun. Raid your kid’s closet; small toys can be easily converted to ornaments and then back to toys at the end of the holidays. A trip to the thrift store is a goldmine this time of year. Armed with a glue gun and some ribbon, you can transform anything smaller than a breadbox and lighter than a shot glass into an item fit to be hung.
Scavenging and thrifting your way to holiday décor lends itself well to themes like the 1980s. Let’s say your family does vote that way this year (with NO prompting from you because your kids, of course, have fond memories of the 1980s). You can finally put that band button collection to good use; try attaching them to wide ribbon (preferably neon-colored) to form a garland that Cyndi Lauper would be proud of. Those cassette tapes in your basement? Try listening to a tape a day as an advent-style countdown to Christmas on that boombox that you swore you threw away. Maybe you will find room in your heart once again for Milli Vanilli, or maybe after you listen to your beloved Duran Duran, your children will be motivated to make cassette tape tinsel. For ornaments, think Madonna: jelly bracelets all around and a lucky star on top. After the tree is decorated, you can really set the mood with a trip to the thrift store for cheesy only-on-VHS Christmas movies (finding a VCR there shouldn’t be a problem either).
What to do if Alice in Wonderland is a favorite? No need for a trip to the Disney Store. Select an array of teacups at antique marts and craft fairs, tie ribbons to the handles and have yourself a mad mad tree party. Get an Alice coloring book based on the original art, have your child cut out the images (colored, of course), punch a hole in the top, and laminate (at home or at a copy shop) for some cheap but cute ornaments. This theme also lends itself well to a countdown to Christmas by reading a chapter every night. Lewis Carroll’s classic has 12 chapters, perfect for your version of the 12 days of Christmas.
If changing the theme every year sounds like too much work, you can decide on an overall theme with variations that play out over the years. My personal favorite is the holiday theme, where you pick a favorite holiday to represent at Christmas each year. Culling items on the cheap is easy too because you can hit the after-Halloween sale, the post-Valentine’s Day clearance, and the get-this-Easter-crap-off-the-floor specials all year round.
Now for the best part: save for a few items that you just can’t live without, or that one piece that your child made that begs to go into the memory box, you can recycle everything and start fresh next year. That’s right, when it is time to take down the Christmas lights, it is time to find a new home for your treasures. Donate them back to the thrift store, start an after Christmas ornament exchange with friends or neighbors, or sell some of your more crafty items or finds on Etsy. Do whatever it takes to eliminate the infernal Christmas box from your basement/crawlspace/under the bed and look forward to a fresh new look next year.