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Growing up, the Christmas tree went up the day after Thanksgiving (no Black Friday shopping for us!) and usually came down the weekend after the New Years–both were all day affairs.  Our tree was huge and fake (mom had allergies), and a complicated puzzle of color coded branches that all had to be unboxed, fluffed just-so and maneuvered into place.  There are pros and cons to the type of tree one chooses, but due to allergies (mine and Sharkbait’s) and apartment-living (some apartments ban real trees), we too use the artificial tree (I did find that “six year lifespan” of an artificial tree mentioned in the above link to be a bit suspect–I’m pretty sure my mom still uses the tree from my childhood, which she got when my parents divorced, and is probably older than I am).  Every set of branches had its own set of lights, and boxes of ornaments, each with their own story, came up from the basement until the tree was laden with ribbons and lights and bits of this and that, and underneath went the hand-painted nativity scene made by my grandfather.  And in the background, music–from contemporary to classical played while (usually) a fire crackled in the fireplace.

Unlike my childhood, we celebrate the Solstice rather than the Nativity and we don’t have those boxes of carefully wrapped, passed down ornaments (though we have a few), mostly due to our semi-nomadic, apartment dwelling lifestyle.  Having been in the military and making two cross country moves  has been quite helpful for minimizing attachment to *stuff*, which has lead us to look for creative and cheaper DIY alternatives…which happen to be fun and unique as well.

DIY Ornament Ideas:

  • Dried Fruit Ornaments–Citrus and apple slices (sprinkle with a bit of lemon juice to prevent browining) oven/air/dehydrator dried make great ornaments, and you can add in all spice or cinnamon sticks.
  • Nature Stuff Ornaments–Pine cones, holly sprigs, sea shells, fall leaves, dried flowers (late summer/early fall rose petals, strung and dried on thread makes wonderful garland), etc.
  • Garlands–This year we made paper chains (Chickadee made ours, from a grand total of 4 pieces of paper) and popcorn and cranberry garland (both kids helped make the mess, and ate the left overs).  Though, for future reference, I’ve spotted some awesome crochet garlands (there are several popcorn and cranberry garland patterns out there that I’m planning to try for next year), felted garlands and fleece garland, which seem like a great use of our fabric scraps..
  • Salt Dough Ornaments–Adding extra flour, ground spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc), we made bake-able play dough and cut it out with cookie cutters, air dried and baked them.
  • Shopping-bag Snowballs–Accordion fold  several shopping bags and wrap them around your hand in a loop.  Tie off as tightly as possible on one end of the circle and then cut on the other end, ruffle out the folds and trim into a fluffy ball-shape.  Recycle at the end of the holiday (a few of these put together with some duct tape make awesome dress-up pom poms for the kids).
  • Origami Ornaments–A friend of ours that happens to be handy at origami has been kind enough to volunteer his serviced, using paper the kids have colored on cut square he’s been making us dinosaurs to hang on the tree.  I stink at following anything but the most simple origami directions, but I know from printing them out for him to follow, they are readily Googled in just about any shape you can think of.
  • Rag Bag Ornaments–Using cloth scraps, I made two different types of ornaments, mini-quilted “bags” stuffed with cloth scraps and herbs and birds out of layered and frayed cloth (the bird in the pic hasn’t been frayed yet)…but pretty much anything you can think of you can make!
  • Yarn Ornaments–We have two types of yarn ornaments, pom poms and yarn doll fairies (a mini yarn doll with wings), though there are plenty of crochet and knit ornament patterns available online for free as well.