Decorating for the holidays should encompass all the senses. The smell of freshly cut pine boughs, the sound of bells jingling softly, the visual delight of green garlands against brightly colored bows and twinkling lights, the softness of a velvet ribbon, the sweet taste of spicy eggnog—Christmas is a time to pull together all the warm and happy memories and banish all the bad ones. It is a time to surround ourselves with the things that remind us of the joy that the holiday brought to us as a child and to start new memories for our children.
When we celebrate Christmas traditions, we usually think of the Christmas tree, but one of the first areas we notice is the doorway, the entrance to our home and the portal we pass through many times a day. A decorated entrance can set the mood for the rest of the house and will probably be seen more than the Christmas tree. The theme you select for decorating your main doorway or entrance should meet two requirements. One—it should be something that you like and that pleases you. Forget the innate desire we all have to conform to what the neighbors are doing. Second— pick something that’s simple to do and make sure it blends in with the rest of your holiday decorating throughout the house. Look at your color scheme. Do you like green and red as your main colors or maybe you like silver or white or gold? Whatever colors you pick for decorating your Christmas tree and the rest of your house, use some of these same colors on your doorway. This will make for a more coordinated and soothing transition to the rest of your house.
For a more traditional decorating theme, you can make or purchase a Christmas wreath to hang on your door.
Christmas wreaths come in many shapes and sizes. You can purchase them ready to hang on your door. Or you can make your own. Many are just green boughs wired to a fixed form with a red bow attached. The wreath itself may be made of almost anything. Wreaths made of natural materials are good for one season. If you purchase or make a wreath from artificial materials, it has the potential to last many seasons. If you decide to make your own wreath, many stores sell a basic circular wire form that can be used over and over again. While making your own wreath may seem daunting, it is not as hard as it looks. Make sure that the materials you choose will stand up to the weather. For the person who likes the look of a natural wreath, but is short of time, you can purchase a base with greenery attached from many stores and just add a bow or decorative materials yourself.
Should you decide to make your own wreath, you should first assemble the very best materials that you can find. Boxwood cuttings are an excellent natural material for making a wreath. Cuttings from white pine, spruce, magnolia, holly, balsam, cedar, and Douglas fir are among a few of the many natural materials that will also work well to form a base for your wreath. Dried flowers, berries, fruit, pine cones, and herbs can be used to add color or texture. Wreaths can also be made just from herbal materials alone. A natural looking herbal wreath can be left up long after the Christmas holidays are past. Look around your yard for natural materials that are both attractive and practical. Avoid herbs, flowers, or berries that are not well attached or have a tendency to shed.
Once you have your materials, you will need plain green florist wire to attach the greenery to your wreath base. Each piece should slightly overlap each other until you have a full, solid base. If you are making a herbal wreath, you may want to use a glue gun to attach small bunches of herbs. For an evergreen wreath, lay the sprigs against the wire frame with the tips facing backwards and the cut ends forward. Use florist wire to tie the cut ends together. Do this each time until the frame is covered with greens .The greens should overlap and be very thick. Once you have the base material attached, you may add a bow and be done. Or you can further embellish with berries, fruit, or even small ornaments. Ornamental grasses can also add texture if they are available to you.
Decorating with wreaths continues a tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks used laurel wreaths worn on the heads of winning athletes in the Olympics. Roman leaders also wore small wreaths on their heads. Decorative wreaths were hung in homes during the pagan new year to usher in good health for the coming year. Although their use began in pagan times, wreaths are now firmly entrenched in the Christmas tradition. The wreath as a circle is symbolic of the eternal circle of life. The evergreens remind us of strength and life in the winter months when most plants are dead or dormant.
Our own Christmas traditions often reflect our earliest childhood memories and what we observed then. For many people, wreaths have deep religious significance. For some, they remind them of the past, and for some they are the opportunity to make something beautiful and artful to share with those around them.
Our culture has carried forward the tradition of Christmas wreaths for so many years and in so many places that we assume our doors must have one. But you can also experiment with more non-traditional decorations.
Do you like the idea of a wreath without the green branches? You can get creative with items that have meaning for you. Like to bake? Make a wreath out of red plastic cookie cutters. Does the sound of jingling bells make you happy? String decorative bells on a strong wire base to make a musical wreath. Do you really like bows? Make your whole wreath out of small bows and matching ribbon.
Doing something different and non-traditional is all right too. A very simple door decoration is to wire several pine boughs together at the top of the branches letting them fan out at the bottom. Then tie a fancy bow to the top. Or hang something whimsical and fun. A few jingle bells attached to a large bow is simple and easy to make.
But not all doors need to have wreaths and not all decorations need to be complex. Colonial Williamsburg uses many simple decorations to decorate the doors of its colonial homes. One of my favorites is the simple garland of green boughs roped together and draped loosely over the doorway. A door decoration can also be used if you choose. Often Colonial Williamsburg hangs fruit or other natural material bound together with berries or other greenery.
Sometimes entrances almost demand special treatment. Doors with sidelights and overhead transoms look exquisite framed in ropes of greenery. Small Christmas tree lights can also be used to circle the door or intertwined with the garland itself. Magnolia branches make a beautiful garland for transoms and the leaves remain upright and fresh for a long time. Just wire them together at the end of the stem to hold them in place. Simple white pine also makes a nice rope garland.
If your door is made of glass, this presents a special problem in hanging wreaths or other decorations. Large plastic suction cups can be purchased at arts and crafts shops. Amazingly, these really do work and will hold even a large wreath if properly attached. For solid doors, you can purchase wreath hangers made from brass, nickel-plated metal, and other durable material to hang over the door.
For a pure winter wonderland effect, you can make a door arrangement using clear miniature lights, white flowers (can be artificial), and white ribbon edged in gold.
Snowmen, candy canes, angels, Santa Claus, and other symbols of the season can be used on your door. They can be purchased in finished form or made using forms that you can purchase at arts and crafts stores. Banners which celebrate the holidays can also be an easy way to decorate a doorway. The advantage of these, of course, is that you can reuse them year after year.
After all your choices have been made and your decorating is finished, take a picture of your entrance. Long after the decorations are taken down, you will have captured a piece of your history, a part of your Christmas tradition. You may even let your family in the picture, but only if they stand to the side so they don’t block the display. Then sneak a small twig of mistletoe over your door. This tiny sprig of green may not be noticed for its visual element, but it will lend a bit of mystique to your comings and goings. And who’s to say that all that decorating should be work without rewards?