How To Decorate A Christmas Tree

How do you decorate your Christmas tree? For most of us, it’s not a matter of deciding what aisle of ornaments to purchase. In a perfect world, it would be fun to get to buy hundreds of dollars worth of the latest Christmas decor ever year, but that’s completely unrealistic. We just want to know more of how to make our measly $10 go the furthest when deciding what to buy. And what we can do without.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years when it comes to lights and ornaments:

Lights:: You Don’t Have Enough and Neither Do I

Lights are highly important to your Christmas tree. If you only have the money for either lights or ornaments, buy the lights and hang Sharpe markers, bras, cans of soup, mail–anything else on your tree. No lights=no magic. I’ve never seen a tree with too many lights–have you? Basically, make sure your tree has lots of lights and be sure to tuck some in deep close to the trunk as well as on the outside branches. If you really want to drive us light lovers crazy with lust for your tree, add in a few strands of C9s and sit back and enjoy the compliments.

I kept it short for the lights because I could write a book about ornaments. Get comfy and grab some coffee because here we go…

Ornaments:: To Theme or Not To Theme?

Trees want a theme. I’ll be the first to admit that the theme can be that you don’t have a theme. That’s fine but make sure it’s obvious that’s your theme, the non-theme that is. If you say you don’t have a theme but then your tree looks like you started 3 themes, the theme is simply confused. You’ll wonder why your tree looks weak and not put together. The only way to pull off the non-theme theme is to fill your tree with all sorts of mixes of ornaments and be purposefully non-themey.

If you are like me when you hear the word theme you have instant visions of a Sesame Street Nursery complete with wall murals of Oscar the Grouch and plastic beach buckets filled with real sand adorning a beach house. That’s not a theme, that’s an easy, weird way out. We are talking direction, goal, purpose–that is the kind of theme we are going for, not some category that we have to slave over to fit into, but rather some guidelines to help direct us on what should and should not go on our tree to make it work. A theme frees us up to hunt for what we can use, it doesn’t box us in.

Did you ever imagine someone could talk like this about an ordinary Christmas tree? I could preach all night about it.

Here are some themes that I’ve used:


The theme for this tree is bright colors. I used inexpensive, bright, shatter proof ornaments and lots of colored ribbon. My boys added in any and all hand made penguins, drawings and toys that they wanted. The more color the better.

{I never said that your theme needed an official name}

This is my new old tree. My $5 yard sale beauty. A few years ago I had the bright idea to buy brown ornaments. Guess what? Brown ornaments don’t show up on green trees. But they look great on white trees. Back to the theme. For this tree I had to shop the house. I looked for anything with browns, silvers and whites.

Besides the brown castoff ornaments from years gone by, I also had a few tiny birdhouses that I had collected over the years. Some had a string to hang them, some I simply sat on a sturdy branch. There is no rule that says everything on the tree must have been purchased from the ornament aisle. The best tree decorations are the ones that mean something to you–usually they don’t have a neat little hook hole to hang it from.

I remembered that I had a bunch of tiny nests with eggs glued in them so I grabbed those and scattered them around the tree just tucking them onto the branches.

Really, it’s just a mess of my favorite stuff that looks good together. A bird that a friend sewed for me, a tiny framed photo of one of my boys, anything silver I could find, random white angel ornaments.

My favorite item is this pair of felt baby shoes. They belonged to my grandfather. I adore this tree. It cost me all of $5 to decorate {I had forgotten that I had brown balls packed away from a few years ago and bought $5 worth at the grocery store} and it is full of meaning and memories. Since we have two other trees my boys don’t mind if I keep this one pretty.

Our family tree has a theme too. Red. Red is the theme. Any thing in our home that had red in it was fair game to try on the tree.

Here’s a very limited list of things you can try on your tree

  • frames
  • wooden letters
  • wooden spools
  • flowers
  • bells
  • hearts
  • toys
  • ribbon
  • silverware
  • shells
  • burlap ripped up
  • crystals
  • tiny mirrors
  • feathers
  • tassels
  • tiny baskets
  • small wrapped boxes
  • paper chains and paper snowflakes

If your tree is looking a little lack luster shop the house and see what you can add in.

Remember this red floral stuff from here and here? Now I tucked it into the tree–it made a HUGE impact. I just use the same few items over and over again–are you sick of seeing it all?

Shop your house, define a theme and ruthlessly search for anything that could possibly work. Promise yourself you will give every idea a chance. Anything that has a remote possibility of actually working must be at least put on your tree for a few minutes. Remember, your home’s return policy is very generous, so give anything a try and see if you like it.

You really can use anything to decorate a tree, right Gina?

Does your tree have a theme?
What’s the most nontraditional thing on your tree?


Winner of the Red Letter Words Giveaway::

Miss Priss‘ Momma

Winners of the Jesus is the Gift Apron Sets::
get me your addresses girls!

Cathy T:: {I emailed you}


Heidi @ The Craft Monkey


  1. Reading this post has definitely been an aha moment for me. I have tons of silk flowers that I use for crafting and wooden letters and beads and never once considered putting them on my tree. Until now.

  2. Great tips. Great photos! Thanks for sharing and happy Holidays.

  3. Jackie Beard says

    Love your site. Came to you by way of My Suzy Homemaker and her mom. Am going to begin blogging after a lesson next month. Reference christmas trees, I’m deathly allergic to real cut pines, so I get buy with an 8 foot pencil tree. To help with getting enough lights on it I have used zip tied to the trunk a special extension cord that is 6 feet long and has 4 plugs in line along it’s lengtrh. It makes it easier to load the tree up with lights.

    Also I am a quilter so for 30 years I have been collecting sewing related ornaments. Rick-rack purchased at estates sales for garland.

    Love your white tree.

  4. Love your House and Decor! You have a wonderful home! I have two small children and didn’t get crazy with decor this year. I decided to make all my own ornaments with scrapbooking! I watched a few youtube videos and Bing Bang Boom – making my own ornaments!

  5. For us, the most important is the tree itself and that it can withstand cat abuse. A beautiful tree will look beautiful almost no matter what you put in it. We usually go for a special Danish sort, that has broader and softer pins, making it appear fuller and fluffier. Add lights, two chains of them, that has a warm glow…then we take strands of golden pearls and spiral them through the tree, to be followed with golden tinsel. This alone now, looks gorgeous. Just a glimmery, soft tree. To finish it all off we just add baubles, mostly in a satin red but to break it off some white, or white and red striped ones too, some with glitter some without. Very simple, the theme being red, white, gold and silver and we never fail to get lots of compliments on our tree.

  6. Love your site!! I will be coming back!! LOVE LOVE YOUR IDEAS!!! I will be praying for your friend and her family!!! God bless you both!!!


  1. […] How to Decorate a Christmas Tree […]

  2. […] 4. How to Decorate a Christmas Tree by The Nester: Have you decorated your Christmas tree yet? If not, the Nester has some great tips and different theme ideas for you! A must-read for holidayphiles like yours truly. […]

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