An Intimate Look at Holiday Decorating

Author | Laurie Whelden

Many of us celebrate a December holiday, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, or Winter Solstice - all of which revolve around light. It’s the hope of longer, warmer days ahead, but it’s also the awareness of the light that is always present, no matter the time of year or weather. It’s the light of life - of our world, which craves peace and joy.

But decorating in December isn’t just about the holidays. Every year, as the light dwindles and we spend more time in darkness, our homes can become warm and glowing shelters that sustain us through all of winter. This is also a wonderful time to not only decorate, but practice our creativity and self-care. Cooking, crafting, and learning new skills can help us feel revived and engaged, despite the dark days.

To close out 2020, we need a December that brings light and hope to our homes. This winter is going to be tough, we know that for sure. So let’s take extra care this season to make our homes a place we’ll want to be.

In our home we celebrate Advent, the season of anticipation and preparation for Christmas. This year, we made a makeshift table wreath with a few holly branches from our yard and a pie plate. The wreath surrounds the candles of advent: one for each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and one for Christmas day itself. Every night after dinner and before my son goes to bed, we light the appropriate candles and read aloud from Shadow and Light. I love the combination of greenery and candles - so cozy and refreshing. And of course, our small Christmas tree provides plenty of wonder, too.

As my son gets older, I hope to involve him in gathering elements from the outdoors to commemorate the season. We’ll also incorporate more December traditions around baking, crafting, and reading in order to brighten the dark days.

One piece of advice: don’t get caught up in comparing your decorating and crafting skills to those folks you see on Instagram. I’ve been down that road and it’s easy to do. Instead, just use social media as a source of inspiration, and then focus on your interests and what brings joy to you. Maybe you’re not a crafter, but you love to bake seasonal treats. Maybe you can’t cook but you’re inspired to take up knitting this winter. Or maybe you’ll just light an extra candle or two to make your house extra cozy. No need to expect everything to be perfect, especially this year where we are less likely to have any guests coming around. For that very reason, maybe this is the year to experiment, like making your own wreath, or tackling that complex recipe you’ve always wanted to try. Concentrate on what brings the most meaning to you during this time, and your skills will grow each year (if you want them to!).

A few readers (and one fellow blogger!) have also shared traditions from their homes around this time of year:

One of my biggest inspirations for decorating in the winter is the Winter Solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year. I once read that in far northern regions where there is very little winter sun they embrace "a different kind of light" during these dark months through decor and traditions. I try to bring that mindset into my decorating for winter. Lots of candles, warm twinkle lights, greenery (ideally from my own garden or Sparrow's Flowers!), and of course lighting our woodstove! I haven't always been super consistent about decorating this way, but this year with the challenges of the pandemic and the joys of it being my daughter's first holiday season, I'm aiming to be more intentional in bringing light and warmth into our home. We're going to make a little altar centerpiece of greenery and candles on our kitchen table to serve as a reminder of the light and life to come. - Liz C.

My partner and I love celebrating the winter solstice, together. We like to spend a weekend making food together and lining each of the windows of our apartment with a candle. We also make paper cut out scenes of snowflakes for the window of our front door, so we have a little bit of extra light and decoration to shine past the immediate holidays. It really helps the rest of the winter feel a little brighter. - Brittany J.

Come winter and the longer nights, I love to use candles. The soft glow of candlelight makes me appreciate the longer nights more and brings a celebratory and warm spirit to the season that can otherwise be a bit of a challenge to get through. We usually have a candle in every space so we can "have a light on" no matter what room we are in. I also have one taper candle that travels with me from room to room. You'd be surprised what you can do with just the light of a few candles!

Also, I try to bring some of the outside in. Whether that is making some garlands with dried oranges to hang in the window or bring some cedar bows in. This year, with a kiddo in tow, I hope we can have a lot of fun discovering plants to festoon our home with. - Lara M.

My mom always loved Christmas. We had an old Victorian house and one year she decorated it so enthusiastically it ended up on the cover of the Long Island newspaper for their feature on holiday house decorations! After she died, my love of the holiday left with her. What had always been such a colorful and happy time of year was now empty and painful, no matter how hard my family tried to keep doing traditions like decorating.

Now that we have kids, and now that John and I have discovered we embrace winter solstice more than other winter holidays, December has new meaning. I am renewing my love of decorating and bringing warmth to our home through evergreens and twinkle lights and lots of glitter. It feels really good to be warmed by the season again. And I think my mom would approve. - Nicole H.

No matter whether you celebrate a holiday in December or not, there are so many ways to make this dark time of year a bit brighter within your home. Enjoy this opportunity to bring a little life and light to the indoors.

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