I know this is a bizarre title to a post, but bare with me and let me explain. I developed this way of organising my Christmas decorations because I wanted to celebrate the season liturgically. So some of these tips will help anyone organise their Christmas decorations, but some will help you focus your next advent season on Christ for you and your family. How? By having your decor organised so that it’s easy to identify, and within easy reach.
Use plastic boxes with labels to organise your decorations
I remember before our marriage putting up my first Christmas tree and the inexpensive baubles I bought. Since then I’ve added each year to our collection, as everyone does. Just like everyone else we add to this with our ‘special’ decorations each year, but we also add generic items; more twinkle lights, more faux greenery etc.
As we moved from our little victorian terrace, to a relatively more substantial detached and then to our home here in France I’ve decorated more rooms. So I divide my decorations into these boxes by purpose, fragility and when they’ll be taken out and put up. The labels and the see through nature of the boxes help me easily identify what is inside. For the Catholics reading this, this last point is the most important. As I describe throughout the post gradually putting them out means we maintain the ‘waiting’ of advent, as well as honouring the individual feasts of that season.
So this is how these boxes are broken down.
One of my plastic boxes is this large one and in there I put the following:
- the advent wreath, of course
- the advent calendar
- the nativity
- Childrens books on Saint Nicholas and the nativity
- my feast of Saint Nicholas wreath and storm jar (the how to for that is here)
- my Immaculate Conception lantern and Mary
- my Christmas dvd collection
- Christmas tealights, so I can put them in the advent wreath
- batteries; so I can put them in the faux candle for the Saint Nicholas display
This means that these items are ready to be put out in the first week and a half of advent and I don’t have to go rummaging through boxes to find them. When I put them away in my attic I put them away last, with the lantern for the Immaculate Conception and a large Father Christmas that I put out for the children to discover on the morning of the feast of Saint Nicholas with their little gifts. This means they’re all easily grabbed hold of so I just have two big boxes to bring down stairs and be unpacked (and filled with our everyday decor so the house doesn’t get too cluttered) during these initial stages.
What’s the second box?
The wrapping/card box
I have a large, flatter box that I keep Christmas wrap, ribbons, cards etc in. This way I can start wrapping and writing cards straight away so that I’m not left with a huge amount hanging over my head as the season continues. I find when I’m not organised like this the reflection part of advent can get quickly lost.
My Christmas Whites
I tend to have colour zones in my home when it comes to Christmas; pastels and winter whites and greens and then more jewel tones and reds. My Immaculate Conception decoration goes with the pastels and it’s surrounded by winter white decorations. It goes with the theme, no? So I tend to put these up in the days following on from the feast of the nativity.
I then have my greens boxes. These include foilage garlands, white silk flowers, pine cones etc – all things natural. This year my advent calendar, nativity set and advent wreath were out on the first Sunday of advent – 29th November. The Saint Nicholas went out on the 5th for the feast on the 6th – which was the second Sunday of Advent. The Immaculate Conception is on the 8th, which is between the second and third Sunday of Advent. I tell you this just to give you an impression of when I’m putting these decorations up.
The greens come out on the third Sunday, or Gaudette Sunday. These are very simple and natural, just greens, whites and fairy lights peeking through. I’m in a mixed faith marriage and I need to balance the liturgical with my husbands timeline which is more in sync with the world when it comes to decorating. The greens give the house an air of subdued festivity. What also goes up on Gaudette Sunday are drawn from the following boxes.
The fairy lights for the garlands and faux, battery operated candles are kept in these boxes too. I’m a big fan of faux candles having little children in the house. They’re great as you can put them on and leave them. This year the girls have grown enough so that we started to have real candles on the dining room table, but this ability to set timers in “candles” and having them “burning” without fear is a real bonus.
The wreaths I have for the door are simple; a heraldic Angel, fairy lights and a pink or lavender ribbon as we are in Advent still, but they go up on Gaudette Sunday. So the liturgical colours are maintained.
I also bring down the following box…
External light box
This box contains pink fairy lights, to be put up on Gaudette Sunday with the wreaths. It means that in our home the excitement is building for the children and in what is essentially the last week of school they get to walk home and spot the fairy lights of their home from a distance.
As the week builds I add more white lights. We’re now moving towards the light of the world. I love external lights and adding a strand or two more each day, extending round the side of the house (our house is on a corner) so it gets brighter and brighter is not only symbolic, but it means I don’t feel pressured to get everything done at once.
You can buy pink fairy lights on line to use outside, but to be honest I got a bottle of purple berry nail varnish and just varnished the bulbs on a few sets. When the lights go on they turn from purple to pink. This is a lot less expensive than buying them done.
Also in this box is this type of case which I can use to protect the lights and the adaptor from the elements.
I finally take down the main tree. Our house is quite large and we have a big hallway and, as my parents gave me a smaller faux tree, we have one in the hallway too. But the main tree comes down first. I pack it away in one of these bags so that it’s protected from spiders in the attic.
The tree gets put up on the weekend after the girls have broken up from school. There are enough decorations now that they’ve already felt that we’re heading into this special season, but putting up the main tree together after their last day of school is wonderfully exciting.
When I used to do all the decorations at once it was a bit stressful on top of all my other mum chores, but the tree itself goes up in one night and is now an enjoyable prospect.
It gets stored with the heavy duty stand and wicker surround.
The tree heads down from the attic with these boxes…
A big box that contains the less fragile decorations. In this box are the lights purely for the tree. Along with that comes…
Glass/delicate tree baubles
These go on the tree first and then the fillers are put around it. I’ve normally stuffed some Christmas hand towels and cushions in there too for extra padding.
Another bigger box, but quite light to carry, is this one with all the stair garlands that are made of faux fir along with white flowers that have a winter, glittery finish and lots of battery, operated fairy lights. They go up the turning banister, tied intermittently with pink ribbon. At the same time garlands for the chandelier lights come out.
We have a set of Christmas crockery that are reds and whites, with glassware, cookie jars and other things. I tend to get these down in the week running up to Christmas, so post the school break up. The kids love them and we have a tradition about when we use these and when we do the ‘full’ table.
We’re British, so the custom is presents, roast Turkey etc on Christmas Day. Then there’s more of a relaxing day on Boxing Day. I always used to do the big table Christmas Day; flatware, Crystal, white linens. You get the idea. However since the children came along not only is everything more intense, but the idea of getting out my Crystal etc had been a bit 😬.
So we started to have a more relaxed day Christmas Day, just keeping the jolly, Christmas crockery out. Then we’d have the more formal table Boxing Day.
This year for the first time we did a Beef Wellington Christmas Day, as a lot can be prepared the day before and my husband, who does the cooking, had the chance to be there throughout the gift giving.
We decided the kids were grown up enough to have the crystal etc out this year on the Boxing Day as they were calmer, and that’s when we did the turkey too.
Spare room decorations / children’s rooms
I often do festive touches in the spare rooms, but this year we had mini trees in my daughters’ rooms too. COVID meant that my husband was stranded in England on the day he was due to return home to France, and so I got them mini trees with some unused decorations to give them something to focus on when we should have been being picking him up from the station.
He made it back for Christmas though, which was wonderful!
I guess it’s going to be a new tradition; they’re already talking about doing it for next year.
This box comes down in the last days before Christmas, as I’m getting the spare room ready for visitors.
Christmas table and Christmas Eve necessities
The Boxing Day table Christmas trimmings, the stockings plus hangers, silly Christmas hats etc all go in one box to come down Christmas Eve. In this box is the Angel for the Christmas tree as this is the last thing to go up on Christmas Eve. The angels come to tell the shepherds and shout his glory at this time, of course, hence its late addition.
This year I’m adding jewel tones/reds box. We’re going to have a second tree for the formal dining room, if the renovations are finished in time to use it next year, and I’m going to have a different theme in there. But basically any additional rooms can be put in different boxes so you can decorate in an organised fashion at a pace to suit you.
I’m already planning some liturgically focused Christmas decorations next year, so please follow the blog to get some how tos coming your inbox. In the meantime…