How to Decorate for Christmas (Using the Very FIRST Christmas as Inspiration)

Let’s be honest. Christmas has drifted a teensy, tiny bit away from the meaning behind it all. From the Reason for the Season. From the very FIRST Christmas. But I? I AM HERE TO RESCUE IT, friends, and you? You’re invited to join me.

Christmas these days seems to be full of beautiful things. Bright, shiny stars perched atop twinkling trees. Children in pristine, pressed clothes going to church. Lovely, hand-carved nativities nestled in ivy decorating dust-free mantels hung with stitched stockings. You know? You know that Christmas?

Well, we’re ready for Christmas here at my house, too. Real ready. Real, REAL ready. Except with more of a vintage feel. An authentic feel. A Back to Basics Because We Care about the FIRST Christmas feel. And JESUS, you know? We want to relive the First Christmas from the Jesus and Mary and Joseph perspective. As much as possible, anyway, in our 21st century home.

Which is why this year we’ve committed to going for more of a “the cattle are lowing” decorating scheme.

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And a motif that screams, “Yes! Yes, we were born in a barn.”

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We’re into authenticity, see, not sanitized versions of Scripture.

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Because WE CARE ABOUT HOLINESS, amirite?

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I mean, not to say we’re more Godly than you, or Christ-like, or have the Favor of the Lord upon us, but we do live and smell pretty much exactly like shepherds of old, all sleeping-with-the-animals, and no-showers-for-days, and at-one-with-the-grit-and-the-grime, and I am saying the angels appeared unto them, so they must’ve been doing something right, man.

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I don’t share any of this — or the pictures of our home, decorated to perfectly match our theme for the year — to make you feel badly about your Christmas preparedness or to hold myself up as better or brighter than you.

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I’ve simply been doing this Keeping House and Holiday Decorating and Parenting gig for a long time now, and feel I may have some tips and perspective to offer.

In conclusion, if you’d like to join us for an authentic FIRST Christmas feel this year with all your Christmas decorating and preparation, please do feel free. We’d love to have you on board.

Merry Christmas from my barn to yours,

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P.S. For a truly authentic tree topper, I suggest stealing your daughter’s favorite stuffed animal — a sheep, handmade by a friend who felted old sweaters — and impaling it at the top. It’s a real conversation starter, I tell you. And also another reason it’s so important to raise your children to be self-sufficient enough to pay for their own counseling. Win/win, I tell you. Win/win.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
22 comments
  1. Oh Beth. How I needed you today. As I ran out my door (late again and after getting a note from the school in a not so nice-y tone that I need to not be late getting the kids to school anymore, even if it IS just 1 minute late), I leapt over the endless pile of shoes, grabbed my purse under the pile of “let’s just dump this here when we come in the door” and lamented my skills. Now I know my skills are on point. In fact, a glance at the 4 foot piles of laundry (clean but never ever put away) on my washer and drier only add to the ambiance.

    Thank you for making me feel not alone. Your house, those lockers, and that laundry room are AMAZING though, and I am a teensy bit jealous.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. You ought to be nominated for the Nobel Prize of Peace (of mom minds) – but then no-one else gets a faire chance, so I doubt they will accept my proposal…
    Enjoy the “Merry” times ahead and have a nice “Rutsch” (is what the Austrians say for finishing the year and “sliding” into the new one).

  3. LOL. Yes, I raised you well. Thanks Tracy Bersley and all helpful young people earning their next gas money to make a walking path through this barn. They help us find the way through the piles to get to what is really important: each other and the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

  4. Have I mentioned before that I pink puffy heart you? Like A LOT.

    I’m a work-at-home mom of a new business. I’ve been doing this now for four months, and while business is picking up, I still get excited about things like making more in a month than I spent. Yay! (Am a balloon twister. And I love it. Web site attached above if you want to procrastinate and look at it rather than do something more interesting. OR if you find yourself in need of a balloon emu. Never know.)

    Anyway, all of this to say that I decided in a wild fit of “Hey, I’m home, not busy at the moment and mad creative, I will MAKE many of my Christmas gifts AND my Christmas cards this year!”

    I am sitting in a pile of paper, yarn, beads, ink, paint and wire typing this. Not even on top of the pile. IN the pile. Everyone in the house knows better than to try and talk to me at this point. And the house, sweet baby Jesus, my house. It was cluttered before. It is worse now.

    Thank you for your pictures and reminding me that not everyone’s house is a pristine showcase of glitter. I might just keep my sanity for another day.

  5. I suggest reading Erma Bombeck’s favorite Christmas- all of her family were told that presents that year had to be handmade. The kids groused, but it’s the one sh loved, It is the one where she heard the chimes. Let me explain- there was a church with these amazing chimes that were said to ring at Christmas time when the best present was offered to God on the altar. Rich men left treasure, women left jewelry, but the chimes remained silent. On Christmas Eve, a little boy who was clearly poor came into the church. His clothes were torn and it was clear that he didn’t “know how to dress for church.” It was freezing out, and the boy walked up to the altar, took off his jacket and placed it there. And the chimes rang out beautifully for the first time in years and years. C

  6. So, looking at your linen closet, I have to tell you how I changed our linen situation.
    Everyone has a botton sheet on their bed – no tops sheets, gave them away to my mom who likes to cover plants during early frosts with them (see my laziness is helpful to others). I keep one bottom sheet of each size in the laundry room in case someone pukes in the night. However, these 3 sheets are only backups (note 2 kids can’t puke in bed on same night however guest, parent and one kid can) because when I wash sheets which is very seldom (we change our jammies and occasionally take baths – it’s all good) I do it during the day and that same bottom sheet goes right back on – NO folding sheets!!
    Everyone has a towl hook and we use the same towel until we don’t want to. There are a few back ups conventiently stacked on the edge of the tub. When a pile of dirty towels appears in laundry room floor I wash them and put them back on the side of the tub.
    No linen closet needed, no sheet folding, very little towel folding and when I do – no trying to stuff them on a shelf inside a closet.
    What I’m saying is considering using that linen closet for something useful like hide-n-seek.

  7. I have the same 25 people coming over tomorrow for Christmas as I did for Thanksgiving. The leftover turkey from Thanksgiving is still in the basement fridge. And I don’t care. 😛

    Ooh….Keving Bacon is about to start dancing and swigging from things…..

    I’ll make the cranberry bread in the morning.

  8. I love this so much. It looks like my house, only I’m not quite at the level of “could be organized” as yo. Those lockers and that laundry room?? Amazing!

    1. I think the lockers are great too, but even better if they were full size and could hide a messy child?

  9. Brilliant. I should stop now then before I ruin ‘the look’. Ps how many laundry baskets do you have!? I’m having cold sweats just looking at them all!

    1. I have one hundred thousand laundry baskets. That’s because we don’t have dressers at our house. Or, rather, we DO have dressers which we never, ever, ever use for clothes. In fact, we have a strict No Folding rule at our house, thus the baskets. All laundry comes out of the dryer (or, let’s be honest, out of the ENORMOUS clean pile on the floor) and into each person’s baskets. It’s a SERIOUS time saver around here.

      You can read all about it here: http://bethwoolsey.com/2011/01/short-stuff/

      1. [Sigh]

  10. So I totally go all out and decorate like a glittered garland maniac and my house is BEAUTIFUL I tell you what! However I’ve been feeling a tiny bit bad about how bitchy it makes me to my family, like, “Don’t sit on that reindeer pillow!” or “Don’t look at my nativity! Looking leads to touching and just, NO!” But I feel like I might extrapolate from your advice that I am acting like a KING. And this is my holiday kingdom. Which is like a little tribute the wise kings? And they can be children in their own bedrooms? Is that okay? Because they freaking rule this place all the other times of year.

    1. This TOTALLY counts, King Shelley. It’s completely within the Spirit of the Law, and we are DEFINITELY Spirit of the Law people. We don’t all have to do things the same way — as long as our common goal is raising children who are self-sufficient enough to pay for their own counseling (and we give them fodder for their sessions), we are doing our job. Go, Team!

    2. Shelly – I’m not a huge decorator, but I do have a few things that I LOVE that the kids can’t touch…however, this Nativity Set was the best $20 I’ve ever spent…my daughter can play with that 1 “decoration” to her hearts content and never wants to touch the other stuff. And mommy holds off of the grinch-e-ness 🙂 http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B000U66YBI?keywords=nativity%20set&qid=1450718009&ref_=sr_1_4&sr=8-4

      1. Also meant to put – I bought it when she was 3, she’s now 4 and still loves it…and apparently, Baby Jesus can’t swim, but my husband told her that it’s ok, cause He can walk on water — now that one made her eyes HUGE. 🙂

  11. Aw man. I thought you were going to suggest I go get a bale of straw to sprinkle throughout the house. I mean, it would help hide the piles of life we have strewn about. Yes, we need to get back to the nitty gritty girl. Definitely. 🙂

    1. Improving on the system by adding haw strewn about is encouraged. Go for it! Approved!

  12. Yep. We’re there too. If you don’t count mess and muck and grime then we have ZERO decorations at all. I had been telling everyone we’re just skipping Christmas this year, for the sake of the children’s fragile routines and Still Settling In, but thank you for informing me that in fact we are VERY celebratory and authentic! We’re festive, too. In fact, we’ve been singing carols for weeks. Such as this one:

    Shriiiieky night, screeeeamy night
    All is LOUD, all is fraught
    See yon father? Kick him in the face
    Break his glasses and scratch his eye
    Sleep? The helllll I willll
    Sleeeeeep, the helllll I willll!

  13. Yay! That means we are real ready in our house too!

  14. Thank you! Especially for the picture of the closet. I feel a teensy-tiny bit better about all the boxes full of books sitting in front of my overfull bookcases, that I have never unpacked since moving into this apartment in July 2012.

    Merry Christmas!

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