Operation: Christmas Cheer, Step One

by Lisa Lombardi in ,

Christmas — like birthdays, snow days and New Year's Eve — loses approximately 87% of its magic when you get old enough to start worrying more about bills than whether or not you'll get the Nerf bow and arrow set that you asked for. When you're an adult, it's a choice to get into the holiday spirit, not a given. And now, two weeks into December, after endless days of rain, missed buses, lost wallets, and long workdays, I. am. ready.

Step one for gaining some Christmas cheer: Decorate.

I know, I know. You have a million excuses not to. Christmas is less than two weeks away. Your apartment is tiny. You don't want to spend the money. Blah blah blah. The solution I came up with trumps all those complaints.

Rather than dealing with a full-sized (ha, not gonna happen) or even miniature tree, I snagged a bunch of greenery from a flower shop on my way home from work. I prefer the long needles for a simpler, more classy look, but you go with your gut. For $8, this bunch was hefty enough to perfectly fill an old, industrial-sized olive jar that I had on hand (confession: I've had this since my days of catering in college, hoarded from a food prep day. My only regret is that I didn't snag more). But let's be real, you can't just toss a bunch of branches in a jar and call it a day.

I nested a pint glass inside the jar and surrounded it with old wine corks. On the off-chance that you're not a part-time bartender and don't just have piles and piles (seriously) of these hanging around, feel free to get creative with what you have. Live in the suburbs or the sticks? Collect some pinecones, acorns, or even rocks. Depending on the size of your vessel, you could fill it with clementines — they can get pretty tiny. Even just some plain kraft paper gently crumpled could look lovely. Go crazy. There are no rules, except for maybe one: try not to spend any money.

I filled the pint glass with water to help with making my greenery last and did my best to arrange the bunch into an evenly distributed bouquet. Since my choice of greenery doesn't have very strong branches (it's mostly needles), I opted against putting lights on the tree and went with a garland of gold stars that I had instead (see, Adrienne? I hang on to your gifts, too). The lights that we had from last year's tiny tree were perfect for winding around the base of the arrangement. (If there's one thing I would be okay spending money on, it's lights. They're the secret weapon for easy Christmas decorating and an instant fix of warm and fuzzy feelings.)


Nathan bought some battery operated candles to put in the windows last year, and while I was rummaging around for those, I came across the makeshift marquee I had whipped up then, too. Up it went, along with some candy canes we've had since last December. (Seriously, does anyone actually eat those?)

Note: In my opinion, the easiest way to fill space on a blank or otherwise just awkward wall is with a clothesline arrangement. Whether it's with twine and actual clothespins or fishing line and binder clips, I've used this method in every place I've lived since college. It's great for displaying all your favorite photographs or other two-dimensional keepsakes, it's easy to switch up, and it takes about five minutes to set up. Plus, it's especially useful for holidays and special occasions.

Makeshift tree? Check. Christmas lights? Check. Banner & candy canes? Check. All that was left were the snowflakes.

You learn a lot of important things in the second grade that stay with you for the rest of your life: Don't pick your nose. Stop, drop, and roll. And, most importantly, how to make some pretty sweet snowflakes with just printer paper and safety scissors.

Whether your snowflakes look like authentic cumulus offspring or bizarre, tribal-like symbols, you can take pride in knowing that, either way, they look really cool from the street.

I'll admit that the snowflakes took a little time, but then again, I'm always looking for an excuse to rewatch old episodes of obscure TV series. The rest of it, though? The tree? Took about as long as it did for me to make and enjoy a glass of hot spiced cider and bourbon. (Step 1b to cultivating Christmas cheer: booze.)

You can do it.