What makes a Christmas Tree beautiful?

One of my favorite rooms at the Biltmore House, decorated for Christmas.

One of my favorite rooms at the Biltmore House, decorated for Christmas. Notice the limited color palette that complements the room’s decor.

I have always loved the pageantry that goes into Christmas décor. As a little girl, getting the Christmas ornaments out of the attic, fluffing the garlands, and watching my mother make beautiful bows were just as exciting as seeing what Santa brought me on Christmas morning (okay, ALMOST as exciting… I really love presents.)

There was just something about the experience of decorating with my mother that made the tree so special. 

[There was also usually an anecdote that accompanied buying that year’s tree; like the one year the tree flew off the car’s roof on the way home, so we just went to another lot and bought a second one. Or, the year we didn’t have enough string to secure it, so my mom just rolled down the car window and held on to the tree while driving 15 mph all the way home.]

The diagonal use of wide ribbon ties the tree together from top to bottom. ~from Juniper magazine

The diagonal use of wide ribbon ties the tree together from top to bottom, a limited palette of colors makes the tree aesthetically pleasing. ~from Juniper magazine

My mother and her sister, Kay, always added or changed one thing about their décor each Christmas.  One year they found lovely plaid fabric pinecones at Dillard’s. Soon, 15+ were purchased by each sister, and those pinecones became the dominant feature on their trees. Another year, the angel on top was traded for a beautiful bow whose tendrils wrapped the tree like a package. I loved that decorating always had a plan because beauty is in design.

Growing up, my mama always pointed out WHY something was attractive. While most Christmas trees are festive and cheery, there are some that are just beautifully striking. We would always visit a “holiday showcase house,” scour magazines, and stop in multiple local shops that we found particularly inspiring… and she would teach me.

“Mollie, this tree is beautiful because it is FULL. Do you see how many lights and ornaments are on it? Never skimp on the lights.”

“Look at this tree. Do you notice that the color palette is limited to only 3 or 4, all in the same tones and hues?”

“You want there to be some consistency in your tree. You will need a lot of ornaments that are the same. A repeating element creates cohesion.”

Two trees at the Biltmore House~full of ornaments

Two trees at the Biltmore House~full of repeating elements/ornaments.

This month when Matt and I visited The Biltmore House, I found myself pointing out certain Christmas Trees and telling him why that one was so attractive, and why this particular mantle’s garland was more beautiful than others.  I’m sure he was just thrilled to be regaled with these most important facts, but once I realized what I was doing, I smiled.  I was my mama. And I was proud.

~from just-christmas.blogspot.com

A limited color palette, repeating elements, and a mix of textures makes this tree beautiful~from just-christmas.blogspot.com  Also, notice how FULL the garland is on the mantle.  One strand of garland is usually not enough.

I only noticed later in life, that each year as I was growing up, she was allowing me to make more and more of the Christmas decor decisions, and to decorate more and more of the tree. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to decorate anymore, or that I was in ANY WAY better than her at it, it was because it was part of the plan. She designed it that way. She was teaching me; getting me ready for the year that I would have my own tree in my own home. It was a gift. 

I learned that sometimes you just have to tie the tree to a bookshelf so it stands straight. I learned not to cry when you think you’re finally finished with the tree and then three strands of lights quit working; you just go out, get some more lights, and just work them in on top of the dead strand  because “with all these ornaments, no one will ever notice that we have 27 feet of lights that don’t work.”

I learned the key to taking on big tasks is to have a plan and a vision, and not to get overwhelmed.

from Aesthetically Pleasing Tumblr

I love how this tree’s ribbon is worked IN to the tree’s branches, which allows other repeating elements to be more prominent. ~from AestheticallyPleasing Tumblr

So, what makes a Christmas Tree beautiful?

For me, it’s the flood of precious memories that come each year I open up my boxes of decorations, fluff my new garlands, and “string the lights on the trunk first, from the bottom up.”

I know to some decorating a tree may seem trivial. But to me, it’s much more than a tree with lights and plaid ribbon.

It’s a sacred tradition that makes a home special during this season.

It’s an evergreen symbol of the everlasting life that can be found through Christ.

And… it’s a mama’s love.




Mary Mcdonald's tree in Veranda

Interior Designer Mary McDonald’s Christmas Tree. While I don’t care for the peacock on the top, I think the rest of it is beautiful.

Decorated by Miles Redd  theartoftheroom.com

One of my favorite designers, Miles Redd, lends his touch of beautiful eccentricity to this tree.


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