Christmas is one of my favorite times of year—it’s a season unto itself. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, I’m chomping at the bit to get decorating, but due to my “no Christmas until the Turkey is picked clean” policy, I don’t begin decking the halls until the week following autumn’s grand finale.
Decorating always begins outside. Colonial Williamsburg has always greatly influenced my holiday aesthetic. When we moved into out current home, I was thrilled because it has a large front porch; I immediately envisioned festooning it with evergreen garlands, just like you find adorning the porch of Christiana Campbell’s Tavern. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh pine-bow garlands in North Florida (though I’m sure if I put my time in I could), so I opted to buy faux garlands (9-foot-long pieces) from Amazon. Small (16-inch) evergreen wreathes, topped with bows made of ivory and gold ribbon, were placed on the porch pillars as a finishing touch. To evoke the entranceway of the Williamsburg Lodge, I flanked the front door with two small faux Christmas trees (purchased at Michael’s) decorated with white tree lights and set in white Chinese Chippendale box planters. The wreath on the front door is made up of faux evergreens, magnolia leaves, pine cones, and faux fruit (purchased on Colonial Williamsburg’s website). In an ideal world, I the smaller wreathes would match the one on the door, but that wasn’t in the budget. While I would prefer to decorate the exterior of our home with all natural products, using faux garlands and wreaths is more budget-friendly and they can be used for years to come.
In each window stands a single electric candle, which is a tradition that became synonymous with Christmases in Williamsburg. Flying the Grand Union flag is another nod to Virginia’s colonial capital.
I wanted to extend the decorations to our mailbox, so two 16-inch faux-evergreen wreathes were attached to the post using wire. Each wreath is topped with ivory and gold bows matching those on the smaller wreathes on the front porch. I decorated our back door with a larger (22-inch) faux-evergreen wreath, adorned with a larger gold and ivory bow. As with the front door, the back door is flanked with mini faux-Christmas trees decked with white tree lights.
In general, putting out holiday decorations is a multi-day process. Once the exterior of the house is decked, I put the fall decorations away and thoroughly clean the interior. Then the real fun begins.
My mum loves to collect angels for her holiday decorations. When I was little, she decided I needed a collection of my own—of Santa’s. Every Christmas, she gives me a different Santa Claus, which has resulted in a rather impressive collection. These figures are spread throughout our house—standing tall on the mantel, nestled amongst books on the shelves, as pillows on chairs and sofas, as hand towels, and found in corners or on counters. Many other decorations were purchased on visits to the southern New Jersey towns of Stone Harbor and Cape May. I particularly loved buying pieces at the Paisley Christmas Shoppe in Stone Harbor.
Every year, my mum cuts holly, pine bows, and other evergreens found across my parents’ property to decorate their home. Taking a cue from her, I love using greenery to decorate around our home, too. Unfortunately, my current selection isn’t as varied, so I use faux evergreens I found in the craft store to supplement. The greens are gathered and tucked around other decoration placed throughout the house.
Mercury glass candles holders and ivory pillar candles provide warm, flickering light around the living room.
To deck the hall, the banister of our staircase is draped with faux-evergreen garlands, lit with white tree lights. Sheer gold bows are attached to the garlands to add a little glamour. In the corner of the landing, I placed a basket filled with pine cones (collected from my parents’ yard) and gold ornaments.
In addition to decorations, I love displaying Christmas themed books and cookbooks I’ve collected over the years. My library includes A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas, A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote, Christmas Poems, by various poets, The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, by Edward Gorey, Williamsburg Christmas: The Story of Christmas Decorations in the Colonial Capital, Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg, Nigella Christmas, by Nigella Lawson, Southern Living Christmas All Through the South, by Southern Living, Inc., among many others.
As I’ve mentioned, Colonial Williamsburg is a big influence for me. As a centerpiece for our kitchen table, I use a metal frame from Williamsburg which holds a ring of pomanders (citrus fruit, in this case oranges, studded with cloves) and apples around a pineapple. Faux-boxwood and evergreens are tucked under the base. Pomanders are utilized as decorative pieces throughout the dining area, including on our liquor cabinet, where one is displayed in a pewter dish next to our menorah (my husband is Jewish and begrudgingly tolerates my Christmas mania).
As I have pointed out, I like to incorporate Christmas into every room of the house—that includes our screened in porch and our son’s room. The bench/sofa on the porch is adorned with festive pillows in red and green. In my son’s room, a reindeer-themed nativity calendar from Pottery Barn Kids hangs on the door, while a mini Christmas tree and foam toy menorah stand on his dresser, and old Santa Clauses from my childhood decorate his bookshelf.
The only room in the house which doesn’t have much in the way of decorations is our bedroom (at least for now). With that said, I did hang a really lovely sign that I found at Yum Southern Market.
Holiday preparations in our house culminate with decorating the Christmas tree. This is a family affair which includes food, music, and a lot of excitement (at least for my son and I). So many of our ornaments were purchased on vacations and in places we love. They evoke wonderful memories and give us the chance to tell our little boy a variety of stories about our adventures.
To feed my husband, son, and I while decorating, I served Pizza Pinwheels, a crudités platter, and Pear Mimosas (for the adults). Once we finished, we enjoyed a hearty dinner of Steamed Artichokes with Creamy Mustard Dipping Sauce and Creamy Marinara Tortellini & Sausage. My little boy, who always loves helping in the kitchen, was responsible for preparing the mustard dipping sauce.
May your holiday season be filled with joy!