We finally had our Christmas decor up a week before Christmas! And just in the nick of time too! We had a hard time getting a real Christmas tree and until I had a Christmas tree up, I didn’t have the energy to decorate. It must be the dark sunless days and I am also quite nervous about celebrating Christmas alone for the very first time ever. The warm gold theme of my home is helping to cheer me up.
Practical Christmas Decorating Tips
Like my friend Martine of Daint Mom Blog, I have been slowly collecting my decor over the past 5 years. So I have the same colour theme every year haha. Look here and here. In Jakarta I found decor to be quite expensive so we didn’t even have a tree our first few years there. When we finally got an artificial tree it was tiny because it was all we could afford. This year TD wanted to splurge on a real Christmas tree because I’ve never had one before. This was quite an eventful “first” for me. Personally I don’t like spending too much on decor because they are used for a short amount of time, so here are some tips that I practice:
- Slowly build your collection. When you see a good deal, go for it so that you don’t overspend when the time comes that you need it. Every year when the season rolls along I would go to different stores just to check their decor selection with no intention of buying until I see a really good deal. Sometimes the best time to buy is after Christmas when everything is on sale. For example, I saw beautiful hand blown gold glass balls in the Home Depot section of Karstadt, but at 3-5 Euros a pop, it was too expensive for me. After Christmas day I bought a set for 50% off. So I added a few beautiful pieces to my collection at only half the cost.
- Stick to the same colour motif for a couple of years, so you don’t spend for new decor every year. When you have an all gold or all silver theme and you get sick of it later on, it will be easy enough to add pops of colour like Duckling to Swan
- Instead of buying big Christmas themed items like plates, vases or cookie jars that can cost a lot, are bulky and take up a lot of storage space, invest in simple crystal/glass vases that you can dress up for Christmas, but also use all year round. You’ll see pictures of these below.
- Instead of buying an costly Christmas skirt which you can only use for Christmas, make your own. How I made mine below.
- Candle wreaths are simple yet elegant way to change the look of the can you already have. Take the white candle on the wooden tray on the bookshelf below. Normally there is a white artificial flower encircling this candle, but during Christmas I use this glittery wreaths around my existing candles to make them more festive. *I only place the candle on the shelf as storage-display, when I need to light the candle I put it on top of a table. Do not light the candle within a bookshelf as it is a fire hazard.
My First Real Christmas Tree
At first we wanted to buy a tree in the nearby Christmas lots. Normally Tannenbaum (fir trees) lots sprout up in empty lots all around the city and if you don’t have a car then it’s better to buy from nearby so that you can carry it home between 2 people. When we saw the prices in our area, they were understandably expensive, around 90 – 120 € for 1.8 to 2+ meter trees. I just wasn’t willing to spend that much for something that I would throw out after a few weeks. TD however did not want to sacrifice on the size because he felt like for my first real tree we should get a decently sized one or not get anything at all. We were so lucky because our car-owning friends offered to help us. Really I am so grateful! TD was able to get a 2.4 Meter Norman Fir Tree (which he heard is the best kind) for 48 € in the Tannenbaum lot beside IKEA. Wow. I couldn’t believe how big the difference was in terms of cost!
DIY Christmas Tree Skirt
Buy 2 -3 meters of a shimmery piece of fabric that matches your theme (in my case a bronze coloured fabric), hem the edges so it looks neat (easily done with a sewing machine or by hand) then swathe it around the base of the tree. I think this looks so elegant and the fabric could be used for other things around the home throughout the year. Sometimes I use mine as a garage sale table cover, when I need one.
We have few gifts this year, but we are so happy to have any at all from the lovely people in the Philippine Embassy. I know that Christmas is not about gifts, but I guess growing up in the Philippine and having friends and family who love showering each other with gifts, it makes me sad, not because I don’t have any gifts but because I am not surrounded by those friends and family. In Jakarta, our diplo friends would come over on Christmas Eve and keep us company on our special evening. Though many of them may not be Christian, we appreciated the company of lovely friends with lots of food, fun and laughter. This is the very first year, where there will be no guests. Most of the people we know are off with their families, out of town. I guess part of being in a foreign land is experiencing Christmas in a different way and we will have to find it in ourselves to celebrate the spirit of Christmas minus the craziness that we are used to. This year it will be stripped down.
Dress up basic household pieces
You don’t need to buy special Christmas themed items. I usually grab Christmas Tree Decor from my try and tinsel to dress up glass vases, trays and bowls. These items can hold seasonal decor all year round! I feel that I get so much more bang for my buck when I do this instead of buying costly items which I can only use once a year. This year I invested in this Schott Zwiesel Crystal bowl…
…And this hurricane lamp. For the hurricane lamp, I always have some white sand lying around which is so versatile for the base of any decorating project all year round. White sand is great to blade as a base underneath candles so that 1) the cable stands straight and 2) the wax doesn’t drop directly on to your tray or vase. Easy peasy. This cream ceramic bowl was from Jenggala. I use it as a serving bowl the rest of the year. There is my white sand again, catching the wax drippings of my Vinoti Christmas Tree candle.
This is small square glass vase usually holds faux grass but this time it holds some random Chrismtas balls that can no longer go on the tree because their hooks are missing or damaged. The star is also to small for this tree so they are all piled up on the vase – no christmas decor left behind! I placed it on top of the DIY decorative frame tray and beside the Christmas candle carousel. Below is another small square vase that is decorated with sand and tree ornaments.
Another tall glass vase dressed up for Christmas is the one on the right on top of my heizung or heater. I simply added gold balls from IKEA and it’s a pretty and classic Christmas decor already.
Fresh Foliage and Poinsettias
Aside from poinsettias, pine branches (6 €) or mini Christmas trees from IKEA (3 €) decorated with tree ornaments are great to place around the home. Group them in vignettes instead of scattering them around to create a more pulled together look.
When in doubt, group items that you feel go together. Sometimes I don’t really know what I am doing, I just try to place items together and when it doesn’t work I try something else, until it works. Have some fun and the end result can surprise you! The reason why I try to stick to a colour family is because it is easy to mix and match, creating a new look every time things are combine differently. I don’t really mind if gold seems match-matchy, because for me it is the perfect compliment to the whites and wood tones of my home. In the end taste is relative so it’s really whatever you find beautiful in your own home that should count.
I’ve alway wanted a snow globe. I particularly liked the one in the last photo here, but it was so darned expensive at 89 €. This year when we saw gold KaDeWe snow globes for only 5 €, we snapped it up. I think it looks great with my gold lansones peeling Christmas trees – don’t you? (Yes those are lansones peelings dipped in gold and stuck on a cone!)
Some interesting things I learned about how some people celebrate Christmas here:
- I found out that some people only decorate on Christmas eve. This is the complete opposite of Filipinos who start decorating as early as -ber months (September??). I would only decorate starting November. Hearing Christmas carols in malls and seeing fake snow and trees drive expats crazy in Manila.
- I heard from my German friend that here Christmas is celebrated in a solemn manner (“you are happy inside”) and not in the noisy boisterous way that he sees in the Philippines.
- Some people still use real candles for their trees with special holders… a fire extinguisher must be close by of course.
Can you share any other way that Christmas is different where you live now, from where you grew up? I would love to hear it!
So in the end we keep all the gold glitter dipped and christmas tree ornaments, but the base decor like the vases stay on, and are decorated in another way, to fit the season. I hope you like my Christmas decor and you find my simple tips useful! What other practical money saving tips for Christmas decor can you add?
Where to buy:
- BERLIN: They are currently on sale in KaDeWe and Karstadt. After the discount, diplo’s get an additional 10% off their purchases. So sometimes crystal vases from Schott which are excellent and brilliant, can be cheaper than glass vases or bowls, while being more sturdy.
- JAKARTA: I would buy Schott Zwiesel every time they would be on sale in Metro Department Store.