Making our inhabited spaces festive is not only a celebratory undertaking but an act of individual expression. Our homes represent our personal style, passions, and craftiness. This is especially true for holiday decor and the decked out Christmas tree. More than artifice, it is a beacon for season; the spot where we gather together. And so comes the pressure to do the needlely branches up beautifully.
The ritual to adorn an evergreen tree, as well as bring branches into the home, has a long history and originates with pagan cultures when celebrating winter solstice festivals. It often represented an anticipation of spring during the darker, colder months. By the 17th century, pious Christians began bringing a tree into the home and decorating it for Christmas, particularly in German regions. In England, the Christmas tree appeared as a tradition with the Hanover monarchs who were of German extraction. The practice garnered more popularity in Europe and America during the reign of the much-revered Queen Victoria (of the Hanover line). Her consort, Prince Albert, was also German, thus making the decorated trees a consistent royal custom and therefore fashionable. As the tradition spread to Ireland, spruce trees became the most common conifer for the ritual, as they are plentiful around the Dublin Hills. Holly bushes were frequently used too, particularly in County Clare.
An aluminum tree offers the opportunity to experiment with modern designs and color schemes. (Michelleration / Flickr)
Nowadays, our design-savvy consumer culture provides myriad ornamental choices for tree trimming. The question then becomes: traditional or modern? Contemporary holiday decor adds a little glitz and glamour with tinsel, sets of metallic colorful balls, and an array of shiny splendor to meet any budget. It’s rapture for the senses. Artificial trees have become a top choice for many as they offer less fuss and can be used year after year. A favorite stylish strategy is to accentuate the synthetic with metallic trees that have tinsel-like branches, or ones that are all starkly white. Painted vintage glass bulbs from antique shops or flea markets makes for a nostalgic, albeit fragile, retro hip mode and the look still feels remarkably modern. All-white trees provide a clean background for boldly designed color schemes and look best with a repetition of ornaments.
Another recent trend for ornaments is the fabulous mini disco ball. With a little bit of whimsy and a dash of Studio 54, the mirrored tiles reflect the lights for a dazzling effect. They also mesh well with a traditionally decorated tree for a modern accent.
Sentimentality goes hand-in-hand with the holiday season. For so many of us, it is the appreciation for natural greenery with an eclectic menagerie of diverse ornaments collected and gifted, some handmade, from year to year that reflects our traditions and relationships in a deeply personal way. Each object becomes a keepsake imbued with memories of Christmas cheer spent with dear ones, or perhaps represents a particular fancy or even our sense of humor.
The town square Christmas tree in Cork City. (Andrew Bradley / Fáilte Ireland)
The holidays allow us an excuse for a little sappiness, so go with it. And a little bit of kitsch doesn’t hurt either. Figurines and curios like an angel at the top may be cliché but it puts us in the spirit; it feels like Christmas. I personally like the geometric form of a star for the top, a classic that also invokes optimism. Traditional decor is not without its resplendence however hodgepodge it may be. Tinsel, metallic icicles, shiny bulbs, and all that sparkle have a place within the conventional. And lights, lots of lights! LED strands are now available for energy efficiency and come in various color options.
For those who are clever and crafty and lacking a stockpile of store-bought ornaments, a DIY approach offers unlimited possibilities that can be easier on the wallet and can range from a playful handmade look with simple materials to a more sophisticated design with sleeker elements. It’s all up to your own personal style!
Stringing beads, painted household and found objects, ribbons, yarn, peacock feathers, scrap metal or wood, or simply and aptly, natural pinecones, and dried botanicals can all be appropriated for a uniquely thematic tree with panache. There is great satisfaction in the act of making it yourself.
Like snowflakes, each decorated tree shows an idiosyncratic point of view. And whether religious or secular we all become curators and revel in the ornamental. Browse Shamrockgift's Irish Christmas Decoration Guide and pick some for your Christmas Tree.
Do you have a personal style for decorating your Christmas tree? A cherished heirloom ornament? Let us know in the comments! Happy trimming. And don’t forget to check out ShamrockGift.com’s selection of Irish Christmas ornaments and baubles.
Initially Published on Dec 9, 2019