Oh Christmas Tree


This Year's Tree 

Yesterday was a beautiful day in my little corner of Washington state. An early snow turned our yard into a winter wonderland, making it a snow-globe-perfect-day to decorate our Christmas trees.

Pancake Ornament on Kitchen Christmas Tree

Yes, I said trees, we have two! One four-foot, white tree that goes in our kitchen and holds all our food-themed ornaments and then another, traditional, evergreen, seven-footer in our living room that all the rest of my sizable ornament collection goes on.

My husband claims I take our tree decorating too seriously. Maybe I do, but I don’t hear him complaining when we snuggle up in front of our tree and its magic engulfs the room.

I have developed a process over the years that I think makes our tree special. I’ll share it with you in case you want to up your tree decorating game this year.

Layer Your Tree

Christmas 1978 (I'm in the white. My Dad loved having a huge tree!)

I was raised by a mother who most assuredly believed that a themed tree went against everything that was Christmas. While you may feel differently, I follow in her footsteps, for no other reason than she has gifted me ornaments every year since I was a child, so I have amassed a large collection of different ornaments, none of which match, each of which spark a memory. I continue this tradition by gifting my daughter ornaments and also buying an ornament on every family vacation.

Having a riot of different ornaments can make it challenging to have a tree that looks elegant, but over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to keep my tree looking less chaotic and more intentional. It’s all about the layers.

Of course, lights go first. These days, I have a pre-lit tree, so this isn’t the production it once was. I remember impatiently waiting for my father to untangle the large, multi-colored strands of lights every year. Then he would lay them out across the living room floor, plug them in, and change out the burnt-out bulbs. It seemed like he would never get done as my sisters, brother, and I ran between the strands, anxious to get our ornaments on the tree.

The next layer is colored ball ornaments in a tight color palette. You can buy big sets of these at your local discount store. Mine are in neutrals, with different brown tones that are shiny, matte, and glittered. These balls are hung deep inside the tree. Reach in and hang them close to the trunk (or pole if you have a fake tree like me). Some may disappear, but they fill in spaces and give the look of your tree depth and texture.

Once that layer is in, I add some fake branches, covered in sparkly faux snow. You can get these at the craft store in the floral department. I nestle these in the branches randomly. I’ve also used huge poinsettia flowers in this step too.

Tree Tyrant

Now the fun begins! Time to put on my ornament collection. This is where the bickering starts because I can be a tad obsessive about how the ornaments go on the tree. I try not to be a total control freak about it, but I often fail. The main rule is that we put similar ornaments together. So, our tree has a section with all our Santa ornaments, another section with birds, another with snowmen, and so on. Although the ornaments are all different, hanging our accidental collections together makes the different ornaments look more intentional. I often find visitors, marveling over all the different styles of my fox ornaments. They wouldn’t stop and take the time to appreciate the ornaments if the groupings weren’t there.

This is where my husband and I differ. He just wants to get the ornaments on the tree, but I feel like I slow down and appreciate each ornament when I use this method. My daughter used to be on my husband’s side but this year she is almost worse than I am about grouping the ornaments. My long-suffering husband is now outnumbered and forced into hanging all his cocktail-themed ornaments in one section of the tree.

My grandparent's tree in 1963 featuring TINSEL!

 Once all the squabbling has stopped and the ornaments are hung, it is time for the final touch-garland! I think a lot of people skip this step now. Has it gone the way of tinsel? Which I miss terribly, don’t you? I understand it’s messy and not good for the environment, but my childhood trees, covered in tinsel just had a magic to them, didn’t yours? And I mean, is it really Christmas if you aren’t dragging stray strands of tinsel throughout the house?

But I digress. Garland. You don’t have to get the ropes of metallic stuff, just strings of anything will do if you can drape it around the tree, making it look like swoops of frosting on a cake. I use strings of vintage gold beads, but popcorn, or pom poms, or wood beads work too. I’m telling you, don’t skip this final step, it makes all the difference.

So that’s my philosophy on tree decorating. I’d love to hear yours. Are you like me or my husband? (I know he’d appreciate some support.) 

However you dress your tree, I’m sure it’s beautiful. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I am certain you have thoughts on other little details that make your holiday your own. Just know that I wish each one of you a very happy holiday season!


  1. I enjoyed reading about your Christmas tree decorating process! Seeing that photo of your grandparents' tree with all the tinsel brought back a childhood memory of people being very upset because someone used the vacuum to clean up the tinsel, and it destroyed the vacuum!

    1. I remember having to run around to pick up tinsel before my mom vacuumed at Christmas time.

  2. Your tree is gorgeous! I love all of my ornaments; I have been collecting them and adding to them every year. We have QUITE an eclectic mishmash, which makes me so happy. There are tractors from when the boys loved them, we have a WWE Roman Reigns ornament, we have dogs and gnomes and a narwhal, Disney characters, and even some colourful balls like normal people! I just love it so much and I love looking at other people's trees. We are all different, and so of course I support those who like themed trees. I guess my theme is "pure chaos." Or maybe "my life in ornament form." I haven't used a garland in quite some time. Maybe next year!

  3. Our tree is the biggest mis-mash possible, and since my kids are still young, they do not understand the concept of spacing either. The bottom 2/3 of the tree is cluttered, any my youngest just hangs everything on one branch. One day I'd like to have a collection of 100% handmade ornaments, but for now I have given up on that and just accepted my current life season :)

    1. A tree of all handmade ornaments would be lovely!

  4. Awww - that photo is adorable!!! My husband and I love to get the ornaments, talk about memories, and find the perfect spot on the tree. We don't go overboard, and don't use the same ones each year, so it's always different. We have so many, we'd need a much bigger tree! <3 Merry Christmas from AZ!

  5. How Fun! I love tinsel and I remember what a mess it was, but when done properly it was awesome. I'd never considered hanging ornaments in groupings but I can see the appeal. I'd be more inclined to want a variety all around the tree. I hope Santa brings some nice things to put under such a pretty tree.

    1. It seems everyone like variety. Where are all the people in the magazines who have perfectly themed trees?

  6. Tinsel was the best! I'm definitely in the Mish mash category. Every year the kids go with hubby to our local old time shop and pick an ornament out for me. It started with me having the kids pick out their own but somehow turned to that. Sounds like you enjoy your decorating and that's all that matters. P.s. I had the same haircut!

    1. That is the sweetest tradition, your husband and kids buying you an ornament.

  7. Growing up our trees were always filled with lots of mis-matched ornaments. Many of them handmade. First by my mom before she had kids and later by both my brother and me. My brother and I had our favorites, and a few we would squabble over. A few years ago, I stole my very favorite candycane-striped train and although we don't put up a tree, I like to put it on my kitchen windowsill. My parents still hang a lot of our childhood ornaments on their tree and it's fun to remember them again each year.


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