Friday, June 22, 2018
   
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Imperfect Holiday Décor

As I flip through my monthly stack of home décor magazines, I see page after page of perfectly color-coordinated Christmas trees towering over stacks of packages all wrapped in complementary papers.  Each article features a different holiday theme, as if Christmas and Hanukkah aren’t quite enough unto themselves.  There is the neutral-toned “woodland” Christmas with it’s many shades of cream, winter white, and silver tipped pine cones; the “vintage” Christmas complete with expensive needlepoint stockings knit by someone you’ve never met; and the hipster minimalist look with it’s abstract interpretation of a Menorah or a Nativity scene carved from eco-friendly wood in which one can hardly detect a difference between Joseph, Mary, and the wise men. Though these all play out so beautifully on the pages of magazines, they feel decidedly impersonal to me.  In all their perfection, they lack the sentimental, mismatched, hand crafted and hand-me-downed beauty that is the true trademark of the season.

Of course, I love a beautifully set table and have written about fancy centerpieces often enough.  I adore boughs of greenery and preserved pinecones and citrus fruits piled high in silver bowls.  I swoon for bone china and Waterford crystal and all of the other finery so lauded as the “essentials” for a formal holiday table setting.  But my personal favorite decorations of the season tend to be a lot less glamorous and much less photo-friendly.

The decorations I have come to love the most are those that represent annual, seasonal traditions – some of which have been passed along from my husband’s and my families and some of which our own family is creating with each passing year.  The popsicle–framed school picture ornaments my daughter proudly gifts us each year now get prominent placement on the tree and have ousted the cut-crystal ones we received the first year we were married.  Though my heart stopped for a moment the year I discovered my then three-year-old daughter banging my Great-Grandmother’s Baby Jesus against the side of the crèche (she claimed he was opening his presents), it’s now the resulting chips around his hairline that make this particular nativity more than an heirloom.  Those chips make it mine.

And of all the tackiest of tacky decorations, the one my daughter loves the most, and that I thought would surely be a one-year-and-done kind of deal, has become one of her most cherished traditions.  The “Frozen” tree.  It’s made of silvery tinsel that I’m certain would go up in flames if it goes anywhere near a hair dryer.  It tilts to the left and has hardly any upright branches on one side.  The ornaments are all bright and shiny pink and purple plastic, with the exception of the Disney branded Elsa, Anna, and Olaf characters.  And it’s topped with a big cluster of purple netting and gaudy colored balls.  It’s awful.  It’s a fire hazard.  In a million years, I never would have dreamed I would display it in my home.  And to my daughter’s eyes, it’s the most beautiful Christmas decoration of all.

And so, it sits proudly on display, year after year, and she eagerly awaits the day we pull it out and set it up.   And as the years pass, I’ve come to see it differently too – and the giddiness it brings to her face is more glorious than any highly designed, color-coordinated tree could hope to be.

Kitty Burruss is an interior designer and writer whose family spends a good 90% of its time in the kitchen.

Follow her at www.WestchesterDecorator.blogspot.com.

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