A natural holiday home

[attach]3254[/attach]One of the best things about the holidays is that you can adapt it to your own taste.

We’ve all seen gorgeous Victorian Christmas decorations, sweet and simple country Christmases and glam contemporary holiday styling.

But if you’re feeling a little worn and frazzled by all the high-speed, high-tech and high-pressure swirl of Christmas 2010, try bringing a little — or a lot — of nature into the season.

After all, it started in a stable with animals, straw and the stars on hand.

As a bonus, kids can make or help with many of the decorations, with a little aid from older family members.

Take it outside

Outdoor lights are just fine. Who doesn’t like bringing the stars — even multicoloured ones — down to Earth? Then go a bit further and decorate a tree for your porch or garden. If you have one already planted, good for you. Otherwise, set up a cut evergreen or an old artificial tree.

Deck it with weatherproof ribbon and shatterproof ornaments — ready-made styrofoam balls wrapped in ribbon are perfect and inexpensive. Tie on bunches of pinecones, stars cut from foil pans and anything else cheap and cheery.

Containers or urns that stay outdoors all winter can hold white birch and red dogwood twigs, plus evergreen branches and bright bows. If you’re not up for that, just spread a mix of different pinecones close together at the top of the container. (Stuff it with newspaper and a cardboard box or plastic pots first, if there’s no soil.)

Trim a tree

There’s nothing quite like a live indoor tree, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Live trees are heavy, they need to be watered often and they can set off un-Christmassy allergies. (Rudolph’s the only one who really looks good with a red nose.)

So set up one of the great new artificial trees and cover it with decorations inspired by nature. Think tiny wreaths, stars and even reindeer made of twigs. Look around for dried flowers or dried seedpods that you can hang alone or in bunches. Pinecones from the woods can be frosted with glitter and wired or tied to branches.

Shape a miniature nest from grasses or vines and glue in white stones or beads for eggs. Birds certainly belong in trees, so scatter some on yours. Go with simple feathered faux songbirds or splurge on bright Christmas clip-ons or embroidered fabric shapes. Even shiny glass ornaments in natural shapes like squirrels, acorns, ears of corn, the sun and the moon have a place on a nature-themed tree.

And white Christmas or not, don’t forget snowflakes that children can make themselves by folding and cutting white paper.

Deck the halls, the mantle…

A little Christmas in every room is a lovely idea. Start with old-fashioned beeswax candles, which smell yummy and burn with a soft light. Bayberry candles are another old tradition, made from the waxy berries of the native bayberry bush.

Pinecones of different sizes and types in a basket add character to a room. Tuck in some bright berries and greens, too, if you like (and if you don’t have nibbling critters in the family.)

Pretty twiggy things work just fine indoors, as well as out. Choose thin branches with interesting lines and shapes. Leave them natural or spray them white, silver or gold. Add a touch of glitter, maybe, and arrange in pitchers or other pottery pieces.

Children can make simple holiday banners from felt. Sketch and colour a paper design first, then cut out felt nature shapes to match.
(Older kids can do this themselves.) Glue the shapes to a big background piece of felt with fabric or all-purpose glue. Hang your banner on a dowel when it’s done. Sign and date the back with a permanent marker for future years.