Holiday Atmosphere!

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I know all the words to the Barenaked Ladies’ holiday album. My mom repeatedly listens to their CD before it is even Thanksgiving. Growing up, my siblings and I would groan each time we heard the familiar lyrics, “star of wonder, star of night” blaring from the kitchen.

The sound of Christmas music also meant that she retrieved the red and green tubs from storage and was beginning to decorate, an activity we often did together. Thanks to the atmosphere my mom created during those early years, there was nowhere else I would rather be for the holidays than in the home where I grew up. She has a knack for creating a welcoming living space filled with candles, the warmth of the fireplace, and, yes, the sound of that music. Now that I have a home and family of my own, I use the decorating tips that she taught me to create a similar atmosphere.
Decorating with lights is a practical way to create a welcoming and enchanting home. I love my whimsical pepper lights that drape around our kitchen window and the romantic glow of the seasonal candle that I light each evening. These simple additions make our home feel like a cozy oasis. I keep festive lights and candles in our home all year round, but the holidays are a special opportunity to add extra lighting décor for family, friends and neighbors to also enjoy. Hopefully my mom’s inspiration can help you establish your own warm atmosphere for the holidays.

Outdoor Lighting
Don’t let the cold winter months keep you from exercising your green thumb. A charming way to add curb appeal to your home is to frame your front door with two small living pine trees. My mom, an experienced gardener, recommends using Black Hills spruces or dwarf Alberta spruces because they are slow growers, do well in containers and can easily be transplanted to the yard during the spring or fall. If maintained, these trees will thrive in your yard for years, clean the air and the squirrels and birds will appreciate the additional shelter. These trees can be usually be found at a local hardware or garden store for under $20. I wrap each tree in small white lights called “fairy lights” that are battery operated and can conveniently be set on a timer. This decoration will save money on the electric bill and prevent the hassle of climbing on a ladder.

Indoor Plants
Spruces and pine trees are not the only plants that can be decorated. Instead of decorating a traditional Christmas tree, I put white lights on our large palm tree that we bring inside for the winter months. My mom likes to decorate a cactus for a more southwestern style. The cactus sits on the piano in the front room and is a unique feature that can be seen from the outside. The battery-operated lights work well because the plants do not need to be placed near an outlet.

Another simple way to add cozy curb appeal is by placing candles in the front windows. I love seeing the comforting flicker as I pull into the driveway of my mom’s house. For safety and convenience, I recommend using flameless candles. We use Luminaria candles; they produce an assortment of real flame-effect candles that can easily and safely be used to add a magical touch to any indoor or outdoor space. Historically, candles were placed in windows as a way to welcome guests or family members who were traveling home. This quaint detail can still be used as a reminder to friends and family of the loving arms that await inside.

A great way to enhance the ambiance of candles is by placing an antique mirror under them. The reflection creates a romantic centerpiece for holiday meals. Fraser Fir Pine Needle is one of our favorite scents for the winter months. I’m sure your local boutique or holiday store has a fragrance to please. Every time I smell pine trees, I’m transported to my home on Christmas Eve with my big family snugly gathered around the dinner table.

The most important aspect of holiday décor is the role it plays in creating memories and traditions that will endure for generations. I cherish the memories of standing in the cold, untangling the coil of lights for my dad as he strung them on the large pine tree in the front yard. I also remember my mom going through the house each night at bedtime to unplug the lights on the many small Christmas trees she placed throughout the house. This will be my daughter’s first Christmas, and I am so excited to start traditions of our own and to teach her all the inspiring things that my mom taught me. ■