Branch out from the traditional Christmas Tree

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Those of you who follow my column regularly know that when it comes to the holidays, I am all about decking my halls to the max. There is nary a corner in my home that escapes some special sparkle and twinkling tinsel. Subtlety and restraint are not words anyone would use to describe my holiday decorating.

Of course, my holiday decor revolves around my towering Christmas tree. Each year my partner and I erect a giant Frazier fir in the living room on the day after Thanksgiving and then begin the weekend-long process of festooning it with all its shiny accoutrements. It is an arduous process that is at times fun and at others, not so much. However, come Sunday evening when the empty boxes have been put back into the attic and the dining table is no longer the "ornament staging area" we can relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the view. For us, the tree signals that the holiday season has officially begun.

As much as I (mostly) love putting up my tree, I do sometimes wonder when I will simplify the process. Last year we decided to "downsize" it a bit from what we used to do and we chose a 9-foot tall one instead of our usual 11-foot monster. We meant to do the same this year but I think we failed as we needed a ladder and not just a step-stool to string the lights and hang the star on top. Could I still have fabulous and festive holiday decor without my gargantuan, traditional, live tree?

Let's face it, not everyone has the time, motivation, or the space to put up a tree. Unlike me, you may not want to spend a weekend lugging boxes down from the attic, rearranging furniture, and borrowing a friend's truck simply to create a month-long fire-hazard installation in your living room. Does this make you a Scrooge? Of course not. Many people who celebrate and decorate for Christmas choose to forgo the tree.

My dear friends and neighbors Barbara and Ralph turn their beautiful Victorian home into a virtual winter wonderland every season, yet there is not a single Christmas tree to be found at their house. Outside, they have the front doors elegantly festooned with the most amazing fresh greens and garlands you have ever seen. This year metallic plaid ribbons and bows are woven into the wreaths. Both the front porch and a large crepe myrtle tree out front are meticulously outlined in twinkling white lights. It is postcard perfect.

The embellishments continue inside as well. On their living room fireplace mantle a collection of European Santa statues are displayed, each one a cherished treasure from a lifetime of travel. These Santas gaze out across the room to a most unusual Nativity scene perched on the console table behind the sofa. From the dining room chandelier hang glass ornaments, suspended from colorful ribbons. And they always have the most amazing fresh floral arrangements on the table and sideboard. When we gather at their house for Christmas dinner there is no mistaking which holiday we are celebrating despite the complete absence of a tree. In fact, I do not think anyone really notices that there isn't one.

So, will I ever be able to fully give up my tree? Perhaps, but I can guarantee you it will certainly be a gradual tapering off and scaling down rather than quitting the tradition cold turkey. However, when I think of how quickly I assemble and decorate the 5 foot tall frankly faux silver tinsel tree I place in my foyer, I am tempted to give a tree-free holiday season some serious consideration.

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