Photo by Salt Water New England

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Reader Question: Christmas decorations with a classic, prep aesthetic?


A reader question for the community:
As always, I’m so thankful for a community of friendly, like-minded people, who yearn to keep well-made, classic living alive. 
My question is regarding Christmas decorating. As we near such a nostalgic, lovely time of year, I’m wondering how people decorate with a classic, prep aesthetic.  
Thanks!

38 comments:

  1. Decorum at all costs...

    The New Jersey Yankee.

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  2. I think keeping everything as natural as possible is paramount. The boughs and trees should be real to begin with. I prefer the traditional red or plaid bows and always have a boxwood (or two!) somewhere in the house. A bowl of dried oranges and cloves makes my day. Wandering our property to find pine cones and birch bark and gather red berries and holly sprigs makes it feel special and personal. I don't know how traditional they are, but we always had angel candle chimes when I was a child and I still put them out. Nadolig Llawen!

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  3. Griswold’s. Have fun!

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  4. Understatement and restraint in whatever you might decide. A fairly plain large (natural) wreath for the front door or two (on either side) with white or dark red taper candles inside colonial hurricane shades amidst greenery for each window facing the street. We just won't talk about brightly illuminated, inflatable, and/or animated lawn decor.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

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    1. Have to admit I always chuckle when passing by those houses in the daytime w the deflated yard decorations. I refer to it as another Christmas meltdown.

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  5. Nothing says classic Christmas more to me than natural evergreen wreaths and boughs with red velvet or plaid bows. Timeless.

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    1. I agree. Against a white historic home--so beautiful.

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  6. It is a great joy to use many of the decorative items that my family has used throughout the years, including my grandparents which includes an angel for the top of the tree. Agree with other readers that nature provides the best decoration so a beautiful tree, ivy and pine boughs are a staple.

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  7. Tinsel. Many turn up their nose at tinsel. Don’t. It makes the tree come alive.

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  8. Genuine question - what is a genuine prep aesthetic? Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ so our decorative "aesthetic" is traditional Christian. Our simple gifts to each other are based on those of the Magi.

    It is vital that we defend our Christian culture and values, especially at Christmas. We must oppose the secularists and atheists who want to turn Christmas into just another excuse for more mindless consumerism and hedonistic excess.

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    1. Agree...our decor is simple and mostly homemade. Our decor (beyond the tree and a wreath) includes a nativity given to us for our first married Christmas many years ago, handknit stockings, a gingerbread house that I build with my kids. We try to focus on the family time together, go to church, and remember the reason for the season. Decorating is fun, but not our focus!

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    2. The one thing actual preps are not are religious obsessives, particularly in public. Preps don't scurry around opposing "secularists and atheists" and shrieking about "consumerism and hedonistic excess" in public. That just takes away from valuable Christmas cocktail time with friends and family, and from their own family traditions. All that self-righteous carrying on is best done by others.

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    3. I don't associate atheists with people who want to turn Christmas into a consumer driven holiday. The atheists I know are as disgusted with the "hedonistic excess" of the holiday as many Christians are.

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    4. Well said, Susan. And many atheists keep Christmas far-better than self-described "traditional Christians." They also keep the spirit behind it far better the rest of the year as well.

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  9. I agree with the comments here regarding the need for nature-inspired decorations.
    If they are not going to be "real" per se, then very high quality items can be used or something that may have some nostalgia, i.e, inherited pieces, so long as they are tasteful. You can't go wrong with nature.

    I do have an affinity for old-world santas, but I only have three of them, as they were costly. I paid several hundred dollars for each of them, and they are all hand-made by a person I know who has sold them for many years. They are displayed tastefully and simply. The rest of my décor is all-natural greenery, pine cones, a wreath for the door, a few beeswax candles, and that's about it.
    Oh, I do have a small, beautiful nativity scene that I inherited from my grandparents. It is quite old, a few chips here and there, but it has good memories attached to it, so I keep it.

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  10. I forgot to add to my previous post, Colonial Williamsburg has some beautiful, all natural décor that one can look to for inspiration. I have a book on how to make their wreaths and other all-natural garlands. I've not attempted it as yet, but perhaps one day when I'm retired and have more time.

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  11. One does not "try" to be "preppy"; you are or you are not. If you have to consciously try to be "preppy", then you are not. "Preppy" isn't so much a "style" or "image" as it is a sensibility. If you want see what to "trying" to be preppy looks like, look no further than the "classy girls wear pearls" blog. Preppy should be simple,tasteful, and practical. And your Christmas decorations should be the same. Small, white lights - no colored lights - on a natural (not fake) tree. Natural wreaths and sprays.

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    1. I thought of that blog immediately! They do make pretty and colorful photos but preppy? Talk about excess! They are incredibly over the top!

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  12. The classics will never fail us!

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  13. Our primary rule at Christmas is, nothing blinking.

    Agree with many comments that less is best, and family treasures are "bestest".

    My husband is an Episcopal priest, so the Advent and Christmas seasons are extremely hectic for him. So we try to keep home simple and practical in terms of decorations.

    My favorite decoration is actually seeing the two cats curled up under the tree among the presents. Gives me a chuckle that they think they are such gifts!

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    1. Cats (and dogs) at Christmastime make the season even more special!

      -- Heinz Ulrich

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  14. Always a "real" tree and wreaths and always real candles (strategically placed, never left alone). Simple, old family decorations (Scandinavian stores often have nice decorations if new 'additions' are needed). Always an Advent candle holder decorated with moss, tiny red berries and small pine cones... and all through the house the scent of Glögg warming on the stove... no X-mas rap songs, only soft, traditional background music... NO blow-up plastic decorations in the front yard... ever...

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  15. Well I guess I'm out -- due to my husband and myself getting older, we opted for a pre-lit fake tree but it really is quite gorgeous -- we got it from Frontgate (after the holiday so it was on sale). Liked it so much I bought a wreath too (plain pine with a red plaid bow). On the old mahogany dining table we have the local florist fill up an antique Chinese punchbowl with green pine, white orchids, pinecones and red plaid ribbon -- wish we could post pics because it was so nice I hope to have the florist make it again this Christmas!

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    1. You're not "out" at all. Your Christmas sounds beautiful. All of this beetle-browed scolding and fretting over the "rules" of what constitutes a "prep Christmas" strikes me as the bailiwick of people who read too many decorating magazines and always worry that they're dressed wrong whenever they manage to crash a group they're dying to be part of. And frankly, those pre-lit trees are a boon for people who aren't able to head out to tree farms to get the real thing every December. What makes Christmas "Christmas" is the joy, and power you manage to maintain the traditions that matter to you is the only thing that counts.

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    2. Not at all! My own old mother in Pineheast, NC now opts for a similar choice each December, and it looks pretty darn good. Artificial trees and greenery look reasonably convincing now. As noted above, it is the calm spirit and tradition of the season that is most important, especially in our otherwise digitized and fleeting world of the 21st century.

      -- Heinz-Ulrich

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    3. I've had an artificial tree for years since I'm allergic to the real ones. I also have color lights (horrors!) since I find the plain white lights a bit boring. I recommend being very careful with real candles. My Grandfather nearly burned down the house putting a real candle in the window to support the hostages in Iran many years ago. Fortunately, only the windowsill was charred!

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    4. @Connie Murray, you and I can sit together (virtually) under our fake trees and toast each other for saving the lives of two more evergreen trees!

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  16. We also opt for pre-lit artificial trees, simple garland on the mantles, tartan table cloths, and wreaths decorated with tartan ribbon and ice skates. cheers! scotmiss

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  17. I do add bubble lights just because I love sitting and watching them

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  18. All white lights on the Christmas tree.

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  19. We cut evergreen boughs on the property and place them on the window boxes, then I attempt (without blowing too many breakers) to embed tiny white lights among the boughs and keep them lit in all kinds of weather (and we're speaking of the northern tier of states, here, where winter is for real).

    We got away from trees indoors while we had cats — any cat owner will understand — and just haven't picked up the custom since. If we did, it would be a natural tree, ornaments from our past back to childhood, lights (probably in colors), and tinsel, you bet.

    Instead, we get a natural wreath for the front door, with red ribbon and pine cones. (No electrical devices for the wreath, thank you very much, and anyway the cold outside would kill any battery, up to and including a Die-Hard from a car.)

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  20. I love my live blue spruce, and I add red bows or white lights. I can't afford a "live" tree each year and can't abide the ecological cost of a plastic tree. To each their own without judgement. Thankfully my little spruce is still small enough to make its annual move indoors without too much trouble.

    All else I keep as simple as possible. A plaid bow on my door. White holiday lights, candles, and a fire at night. Pine cones gathered earlier in the year on mountain walks. Natural, calm, and cozy.

    Thank you to all for sharing the traditions and aesthetic that make the coming season meaningful.

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  21. A Christmas story if I may. Just back from Vietnam. Baby’s first Christmas. We are 2, 000 miles from family. That little girl has to have a Christmas tree. A trip to Ralph’s Market for a tree. They are closing and the only thing they have left is a little tree that would make Charlie Brown’s tree look like those some have described in their comments. My wife did a wonderful job of decorating(?) that little tree for baby’s first Christmas. Now there have been 50 years of Christmases past since then and I’ve always been so pleased with our trees as we‘ve welcomed family and friends into our home through the years, but my favorite is that little California supermarket tree.

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  22. It's whatever brings you joy. My preference is minimalist. A tree, ornaments collected over the years, and whatever lights my husband picks up when I send him to CVS for a new strand because they seem to always tangle and become a mess. If the blow-up Santa brings joy to a family member, and it is done from a place of love, so be it. A true prep doesn't care about decor. It's character that matters. What's not prep is wondering what is prep. Decorate to bring your family joy and to hell with what anybody else thinks. My in-laws live on the so-called preppiest street in the so-called preppiest of towns, and they put a tree on the roof of the big old ocean-front house because it brings them joy. My developmentally challenged brother-in-law loves anything with lights and movement. Halloween is more up his alley, thank goodness. What's prep is not picking and pruning because what really matters is family, joy, love, and scrupulously managing the sit down dinner for thirty seating arrangement in an attempt to maintain peace.

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  23. Christmas is the happiest time of the year in Christianity so we always have colored lights (I do get rid of the reds & yellows; love the pinks, whites, blues & greens). So that's our way of celebrating, and as the tree sits in a bay window, it's our exterior Xmas decoration for the neighborhood as well (love to see the lights as I turned into our little street at night). I left prep behind after leaving college in the late 60's. Also, I prefer to decorate in silver and gold, finding red & green too dark for me. I guess it's whatever brings one's family good cheer at this time of year. Green/red or silver/gold. It's all good.

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  24. I celebrate the season quietly, The prettiest wreath is the one in the movie Little Women, with Wynona Ryder. That movie is my idea of a real Christmas. The best decorations are your family around the table.

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