Thursday, December 23, 2010

How I manage to get my tree decorated without professional design help

One of these trees was put up (and photographed) by a non-professional; the other was professionally staged.  Can you guess which one is which?

xmas tree 2010image

Okay, okay, I’m sure my amateur smart-phone photography gave me away. So that would be my up close and personal Christmas tree on the left, and a professional decorated (ooh, ahh) tree on the right. (On my tree, that’s really not the abominable snowman perched on top.  It’s Father Christmas, sitting on a crescent moon.)

Although I’d be absolutely on board with having someone select, fetch, and erect my Christmas tree, I can’t imagine not having it decorated by myself, with my very own, very personal, very meaningful decorations.

But, hey, if you’re rich enough, and New York-y enough…

In Manhattan, R. Couri Hay’s tree is being duded up by Campion Platt. 

There will be lavender tinsel, one garland of signed Warhol dollar bills and another made from celebrity photographs Mr. Hay snipped from magazines during the year — images of his “favorite scandals and beauties,” Mr. Platt said, including Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan, and Carla Bruni. A video installation showing moody black-and-white Manhattan holiday images,which is also Mr. Platt’s firm’s Christmas greeting, will be playing continuously on Mr. Hay’s flat-screen television. (Source: NY Times article on outsourcing your Christmas decorating.)

Well, nothing screams “Merry Christmas” quite like moody black-and-white Manhattan holiday images.  Unless it’s a festive, all white tree, which another designer pulled together for another rich Christmas “reveler”. 

Come on, people, the reason we have colorful Christmas trees is because it’s a gray, white, dark, cold, and moody time of year. Sheesh.  Don’t these decorators know from the color wheel? At least Campion Platt is using lavender tinsel, which I have never actually seen at CVS.  Then again, I haven’t looked.  And I’m guessing that some of those scandal images may be in color.

Holiday decorating can set you back. Decorator Scott Salvator is doing the do for a couple of clients, and his costs run from $5K to $50K, depending on how much “fluffing” is required.  (I’m guessing he would have turned his nose up at the tree I got from Mahoney’s Garden Center in Allston for $39.98. Plus the $10 I paid the cute Russian student who roped it to the top of my Zipcar.)


…For clients with three or four homes, what many would consider a holiday perk may be more of a necessity.

Must be a total downer to get to house number four and remember that your forgot to have the decorator festive it up for you.

One fun-fest family – who also must not have gotten the message about using color at Christmas – has hired a designer to produce a:

…camouflage-print Christmas for three generations of a Midwestern family (eight adults and four children)… The other day, Ms.[Robin] Bell [the designer] was knee-deep in props, sorting out the gifts she would be tucking into the camouflage-print tote bags she had bought to use in lieu of stockings, the totes being a family tradition she thought up for them a few years ago.

She ticked off the elements: “Camouflage braces and bow ties for the men; boudoir pillows. I’m looking for camo-print shams. I’m looking for fleece blankets. There will be thermal underwear in gray with monograms, travel umbrellas and flashlights.”

She plans to wrap presents in white vellum and brown kraft paper, and tie them up with twine. Extra paper and twine will be delivered to the house, so the clients can wrap their own gifts following her template, she said.

“We’re doing the tree Saturday” — with only white lights and no ornaments, Ms. Bell’s signature — and “we go heavily armed with glue guns. There’s lots of boxwood. When people have more than one house, they want to arrive and hit the ground running.”

Well, I must say that the camo theme makes the all white Christmas seem positively Mardi Gras-ish. (And not just because I first read that thing about glue guns as “heavily armed with guns.”)


And those swag bags! Do we really think that the crew who’s dreaming of a Camo Christmas really needs monogrammed thermal underwear, travel umbrellas, and flashlights? Goodie bags at Christmas (in addition to the camo tote bag stockings, and the vellum and kraft paper wrapped real gifts.)  Okay, the kids will like the flashlights.  They may actually find them the most fun present of all.

To me, the most depressing thing about Camo Christmas is the fact that there are no ornaments on the tree.

Say what?

Isn’t Christmas supposed to be about family, friends, and tradition?

Okay, there’s certainly a possibility that they’re a bunch of rich chicken-hawks, but maybe the Camo Christmas family are military types. A camo is how they roll.

So, couldn’t they have ornaments that were spent shells, or mock grenades, or tiny trenching tools.  (And the holiday dinner could be MRE’s.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I should give Ms. Bell a jingle. Bet she didn’t think of the MRE’s.)

No ornaments?

My own personal tree has lots of them – no two alike.

Where to begin?

There are a couple of plastic ornaments that hung on my parents’ first tree – bells, stocking, and Santa in his sleigh (with reindeer, avec broken leg). Plus a few others that were hung on the family tree for years. The ancient glass balls from my grandmother’s don’t go on the tree. I have special hangers for them, and they go on the mantle, although it makes me so nervous having them up, I’m thinking of retiring them, and preserving them for my nieces – who never knew their great-grandmother – to break.

I have a bunch of counted-cross-stitched ones my mother made, plus a ceramic angel she gave me to make sure there was something religious on my pagan solstice tree. (Yes, Ma, it’s on the front of the tree; and the day-of-the-dead skeleton angel is on the back. You win!)

I have ornaments I picked up on my travels – not from everywhere, but I do have some I got in Ireland (Belleek tea-pot, Belleek tree), Paris (Père Noël), Amsterdam (something delft-y), Prague (eggs), Krakow (eggs), and Budapest (more eggs). And a Mele Kalikimaka ornament from Hawaii, that I never would have gotten if not for my Bing Crosby Christmas album on which Der Bingle sings “Mele Kalikmaka”, which is no “Christmas in Killarney”.  Just saying.

I have ornaments that were given to me as gifts (the crane from Peter, etc.).  Others I bought just because I liked them (Fenway Park Green Monster, etc). I have some completely funky 1950’s-1960’s ornaments that I think my mother got at a thrift store somewhere along the line, including some really cool pink and turquoise with silver ones.

There’s a polar bear with my niece Molly’s name on it; a snowman for Caroline.  A couple of black lab ornaments I got even before my sister Trish got her black lab. I have a number of ornaments that my sister Kath had on her tree, until she stopped having a tree, including her handmade Emily the cat ornament. I have a dreidel in honor of my brother in law, Rick.

When I decorate my tree, the best part is thinking about the associations I have with the ornaments. God knows, I don’t go into a fugue state, musing on each and every one. Still, I do very much enjoy my ornaments.

A tree with just white lights? Phooey.

Camo Christmas?

Double phooey, and a big, loud raspberry.


A tip of the Santa hat to Kath for pointing out this Times article to me.

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