A Homemade Christmas

Cultivating the Christmas spirit with nature, vintage finds, and your own two hands

You can listen to the full podcast episode, "A Homemade Christmas," on this topic here.

I've been having a lot of wonderful conversations these past few months on my podcast, "Bella Figura—The Tradition of Living Beautifully." This season, Season 2, the theme is, "Home," and so naturally part of the conversation keeps revolving around how to make a home cozy and inviting, both physically and energetically.

Ros Byam Shaw, a writer and author, as well as an antiques dealer, and I had a great talk about why antiques are not only beautiful, but a great way to keep ourselves from buying mass produced items that end up in the trash heap. Vintage items are already in existence. When we purchase them, we're reusing what's already taking up space, instead of consuming more and more to the detriment of the earth's health, as well as our own. This Christmas season, I purchased new items to decorate very sparsely—a few ribbons and a tablecloth from Target, a few ornaments from Anthropologie. Aside from those small touches, I just didn't have the stomach to run to the local big box store and snatch up an armful of ready made holiday decorations.

Instead, I went into the woods surrounding our home in the Catskill Mountains of New York and gathered some birch logs from the wood shed, greenery off the trees, pine cones off the ground. I bought some post-Thanksgiving cranberries on sale, as well as a bag of oranges. Some twine. Some needles. And some exciting finds at vintage stores, and my holiday decorating was complete, and also, oh, so very rewarding. Natural items bring a warm, rich feel to holiday decorating; it's a depth of comfort you cannot buy off the shelves.

Part of the joy of focusing on the season in this way is it forces you to slow down. I found there wasn't a rush to throw everything out of the box onto the walls. I went along mindfully, adding items here and there as I completed them. I sat in the evenings after the day's work was over, watching Christmas movies with my family, and strung together cranberries to hang as garland. I put my own hands to the effort, slow and steady, and there is a real soul-filling joy in that type of pace and work. If you gather all your items at once and put pressure on yourself to create a winter wonderland all in an evening, like Buddy from "Elf" style, then you're missing the real reward of celebrating the season this way. This isn't about speed. It's certainly not about show-room perfection. It's about a real and rugged beauty, swapping out material consumption for old world handiwork. I added vintage items as I came across them and brought them home. I found some inexpensive digital downloads on Etsy and printed out vintage winter scenes that spoke to me; that felt better than grabbing something prefabricated from the store aisle. The whole feel of the season has been one of intent cultivation and expression, of beauty and appreciation for the natural world around me, as well as the things of old that were built to last.

What follows are some of the things I pulled together so far this Christmas season. I hope they inspire you to add some into your own Christmas decor.

  • Orange slice garland

  • Cranberry garland (dried and fresh)

  • Greenery

  • Vintage Finds

  • Homemade jam to gift and bring as hostess gifts

  • Birch logs

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