This year, you still have time to rethink how you prepare for and celebrate the holidays. A festive home and thoroughly celebrated holiday (with lots of time to connect with friends and family) don’t require a lot of work or money. With these 12 tips, you can add warmth and style to help live your holidays to the fullest.
Deck your home. A simple wreath on the front door surrounded by a garland of evergreen and some potted plants of various heights in a grouping at the front of your home will put you and your neighbors in the holiday spirit.
To insert some whimsy and personality, you may consider recycling objects by adding them to your wreath – you could pin citrus fruits to the wreath, or, to mix it up a bit, add cherished toys, as I did.
Pick one lighting style – and consider the environment. Whether you prefer simple white lights or more colorful large bulbs, pick one style and stay with it. (The same goes for your holiday decorations.) If it’s been a few years since you’ve replaced your lights, consider opting for LED Christmas lights. Not only are they brighter and more jewel-toned than in years past – but they are vastly more energy efficient than the conventional version.
Go green – with a live tree. According to the Sierra Club, real Christmas trees are a renewable resource, often farmed on marginal land that might be unfit for other plant life. While growing, they absorb carbon monoxide. They can also be mulched or composted after Christmas, giving back to the earth. Fake trees, meanwhile, are often made from plastic polyvinyl chloride, whose manufacture releases highly toxic material, as well as oil; sometimes lead is added to stabilize the plastic.
Send holiday cards. They make colorful decorations that remind us of friends and family. So calendar a day a few weeks in advance of the holidays to write and send your cards – an easy and meaningful way to reconnect.
Start a new tradition. Invite family and friends over to help decorate, and assign everyone a task, whether that’s helping to trim the tree, bringing a bowl of punch, or making a playlist of beloved holiday tunes.
Bake with your family. It’s a great way to spend time together, and it’s an activity that, when supervised, children really get into. Home-baked goods also make thoughtful gifts, and items like gingerbread men, which stay firm, can also make great ornaments for the tree.
Set the table festively. Spruce up ordinary place settings with a festive placemat or table cloth. Layer the centerpiece with candles and fresh flowers. Everyone looks gorgeous sitting around a holiday table lit with nothing but flickering candlelight.
Embrace a holiday scent. Fill your home with the warming scent of mulling spices on the stove. (You can control the strength of the scent by increasing or decreasing the heat.) Don’t overlook the powder room. Plenty of clean, fresh hand towels – and a room smelling fresh with scented candles – will be a welcome treat for your guests. Rethink gift-giving. When it comes to thanking your hostess for thinking to invite and entertain you, baked goods, a small plate of cookies, or a donation made in the name of your hostess’s favorite charity are personal and thoughtful gifts.
Re-gift (if the recipient will truly enjoy the present). Otherwise, it’s just going to collect dust in your closet, unappreciated.
Give back. All of us have had the unfortunate experience of having to spend the holidays alone at least once. Turn your downtime into a gift to someone truly in need by volunteering at a food bank, soup kitchen, or one of many other worthy charities, which experience a strain on their own resources each holiday season.
And don’t forget to take a breather and relax. If you’ve got a crush of holiday parties to attend, schedule a massage or some other small pampering session beforehand. Take a break from gift-shopping to meet a friend for a quick coffee. It’s these moments of calm that will help you appreciate the holidays.