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Christmas is a time for tradition, whatever we choose those traditions to be. But, for most revelers, few things rival the Christmas tree in terms of must-haves for the holidays, and no Christmas tree is complete without a gaggle of decorations.

We’ve all gone the route of shiny baubles and twinkly lights, stars, and tinsel, but holiday times are changing. While we don’t want to forego our traditions altogether, most of us know that Christmas is ever more commercial and disposable. We throw away a host of cheap decorations every year and buy them anew the next.

Instead of doing that, why not make the tradition something more wholesome, something memorable and cozy and fun? Waiting in a check-out line isn’t the fun part of the holiday. It’s the sharing, the creating of spirit, the things that cost nothing.

That’s why it’s worth considering a throwback type of tree, one in which the sentiment is heartfelt rather than two for three dollars. Why not try making Christmas tree decorations at home? We did it in kindergarten, so imagine what’s possible now!


Source: Waferbaord/Flickr

Natural Ornaments

There are many great things about natural ornaments. Most of them are free, just waiting to be picked up in the backyard. Being natural, they don’t produce waste as they can simply be composted after the holiday. Mostly, though, natural items somehow feel more authentic than how people used to decorate during this time of year.

  • Pine cones make great tree decorations. Pick them up from the yard, use a few threads of scrap yarn or string to hang them, and they quickly spruce up the Christmas tree. It’s almost as if they were meant to be there. Some eco-crafters like to add a little homemade white paint for a snowy effect.
  • Sprigs of holly, if it grows near home, are abundant. The foliage provides familiarly festive sights, and the berries produce flashes of color against the evergreen. Tie them in bunches to dangle or just jab a spring or two into the tree every so often.
  • Cinnamon, like the smell of pine, is a mainstay of the Christmas holiday, so it makes sense to use it as a visual decoration as well. Get those cinnamon sticks that have been waiting patiently in the spice cabinet, tie them into bunches of three (try using red yarn), and hang a few on the tree.
  • Sticks, it should be no surprise, are extremely versatile. They once made great toys for imaginative kids, and now they can make great ornaments as well. Cut and pasted, they can be used to form stick Christmas tree ornaments. Five equal-length sticks can be sashed together to make stars.


Garland is a part of any well-decorated Christmas tree. We’ve seen it in plastic popcorn form. We’ve seen festoons of ribbon linked together. It is often what ties the tree. And, there is no need to buy garland because there are plenty of versions we can make from materials lying around the house.

  • Newspaper chains are just so real and such a pleasure to make. If kids are around, this is a doable decoration for them to put together, and they’ll have a blast doing it. Plus, it makes the tree even more enjoyable for them. For those with lots of wrapping paper scraps, they are a perfect and thematic fill-in for newspapers.
  • Popcorn garland these days seems to, by default, come in plastic form, but that’s crazy. Again, all we need to do here is pop a few bags of popcorn, lace them together on a string, and wind them ‘round the tree. It makes the whole thing more of an experience.
  • Ribbon, for those eyeing the classier type of tree, makes for an understated garland. Rather than rushing out to buy the stuff new, it’s worth having a look around the house, in thrift stores, or even on eBay. Get it used for less money and less waste.
  • Cardboard cutouts can be strung together to make lots of fun garlands. Old cereal or beer or cracker boxes can be stenciled into lettering to spell Christmas phrases, of course painting the lettering with appropriate colors. They can make fake strings of lights. They can be cut into cookie-cutter shapes—angels, bells, trees, wreaths—and hooked together in merry chains.

Source: LabyrinthX/Flickr

Upcycled Ornaments

When there’s some trash to deal with, and we don’t want to overfill the dumps, the answer is to begin finding uses for those materials. We can take things that would normally fill our garbage bags and recycle bins, and we can use them to make new stuff. In other words, our materials don’t have to always reach us brand new. Repurpose, upcycle, call it what you want.

  • Cardboard cutouts, for those who don’t want that type of garland, cardboard makes great upcycled ornaments. Again, boxes can be cut into shapes, decorated by kids (or child-like adults), and hung up as individual ornaments on the tree.
  • Peppermints, for those who go out to eat regularly, seem to stack up in coin dishes or kitchen drawers. Have no fear, they needn’t all be eaten. Peppermints melt into lovely-looking and smelling decorations. Arrange them in a metal cookie cutter on a cookie sheet, put them in the oven for a few minutes to melt, and love the ornament.

Using these types of decorations will provide both a beautiful tree and beautiful memories, with a personal touch and less of a footprint on the planet. Making ornaments is a perfect way to bring family and/or friends together, and that’s what can make for some real Christmas cheer.

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