Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, be gone by 2013 and take your ornaments with you
November 23, 2012 3:05 PM   Subscribe

I want a Christmas tree, but I am moving overseas in the new year and DO NOT NEED MORE STUFF. What can I make that is a) festive, b) disposable and c) close to free? (I'd prefer not to contribute a huge pile o'plastic to Boxing Day landfill either)
posted by superfish to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Popcorn garlands? Needs only needle, thread, and popcorn.

Paper chains? Should be good to go with a roll of tape and a block of construction paper.
posted by Sara C. at 3:07 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

It would be helpful to know where you live. If available, boughs from evergreens can be used to decorate your home, and could be free from someone with a large tree (especially cedar - fragrant!). Mind you, I'm not talking abou the entire bough, just the more flexible end. You can decorate with holly berries/branches (if available in your area - they are weedy, and should be free to forage), or with thrift-shop decorations.
When you're done, re-donate back to the thrift shop, and put the boughs into yard waste or compost.
posted by dbmcd at 3:10 PM on November 23, 2012

I suppose getting a small real tree is out?
At my grandparents we used to get large pinecones, put them in small pots and paint them green and decorate them so they looked like christmas trees. This may be much less sophisticated than what you're going for.

Paper snowflakes? You can get instructions for really fancy ones online, although I don't have any links saved.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:11 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Friends and I once did a mini tree in college with mostly bottle caps and champagne corks as ornaments (using ribbon to hang them). It was nice, in a college-y way.
posted by Wretch729 at 3:11 PM on November 23, 2012

Internet search for paper Christmas ornaments yields tons of ideas. Also try searching dried fruit ornaments - goes well with popcorn ornaments.
posted by cecic at 3:15 PM on November 23, 2012

Actually, there are lots of decorations you can make out of paper, like this, googling "paper christmas decorations" should get you loads more if you like that kind of thing

On preview: beaten to it I see. Also, oranges with cloves stuck in them. Smell wonderful as opposed to being particularly decorative, but a big part of Christmas at my house.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:15 PM on November 23, 2012

If you're feeling crafty, print out photos of friends and family, gluestick them to cardboard, decorate with construction paper (or regular paper with crayon/colored pencil) Santa hats, cotton ball beards, elf tunics, etc. If done right this is pure unadulterated awesome. If not done right you get a certain grade-school charm. You also have the option of using magazine photos for this.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 3:16 PM on November 23, 2012

Cascades paper recycled cardboard Christmas tree. They have some other awesome stuff made from recycled cardboard too. We bought our children the colour it yourself playhouse and delivery was quick.
posted by Cuke at 3:17 PM on November 23, 2012

Donate it all to charity after the holiday. Have what you like this year and make a family's holiday next year.

posted by mightshould at 3:18 PM on November 23, 2012

ok this is my 2nd comment involving trader joe's in the last 24 hours...starting to feel like a marketer.

they have a bunch of different alternative trees you could use that are small and cheap- think a foot high. real small trees, for one. also, my favorite is a herb plant trimmed into a shape of a christmas tree, I think it was rosemary.

when you're done with it you can give it to a friend to use in their cooking or as another houseplant.
posted by saraindc at 3:19 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I should have noted that they are on for 1/2 price right now, starting at $12 for the smallest.
posted by Cuke at 3:21 PM on November 23, 2012

What about a real tree, that's still living? Is there a park nearby with conifer trees? Or any trees? That's your Christmas tree! Make ornaments for birds, which they eat during the winter month. The ornaments are made with pinecones, suet, fruits, millet, seeds, popcorn, berries, peanut butter. Here are a few sources to give you ideas: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Tree is free, decoration cost is negligible, birds eat the disposable part, very festive, no plastic needed, no additional stuff for you. And when it's time to move, you leave knowing that the birds are still enjoying your present. Possibly the greenest option for a Christmas tree.
posted by Houstonian at 3:45 PM on November 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Want the look of a real Christmas tree without all the needles on your floor? The HP Holiday tree stands four feet tall (1.3 metres), looks great, and doesn't take up half the living room. Best of all, you create it on your colour printer, and when the festive season is over, it fits in your recycling bin -- or save it for next year! With this on your wall, you'll be in the holiday mood in no time.
posted by plokent at 4:01 PM on November 23, 2012

If you have a park or rural area nearby, go for a walk and find some large bare branches. Arrange them in a corner of the house and decorate as for a tree. If you don't find the wood beautiful enough as-is, spray-paint it silver or white first.
posted by lollusc at 4:12 PM on November 23, 2012

There's a company in Vancouver that started up a few years ago that 'rents' Christmas trees and keeps them alive the rest of the year, to be re-used. They deliver and then pick it up after the holidays. You could check if there's something similar in your area.
posted by mannequito at 4:27 PM on November 23, 2012

I like to make ornaments from all the Christmas cards we get in the mail. Trace a circle around the pretty parts, cut it out, and use a hole punch and some yarn to string onto the tree.
posted by fancyoats at 4:40 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've used a large potted ficus tree as a Christmas tree before, lights and all (link is to a fake one at Target, but you get the idea). You could use it this year, enjoy it as a plant up until you move house, then gift it to a friend.

As far as decorations, popcorn strung with cranberries, construction paper strips glued in a circle to form a chain, a tinfoil star on top. You can make cut-out ornaments from applesauce and cinnamon mixed to form a dough, cut out with cookie cutters, a hole for a ribbon to go through (straw or chopstick works great for this). Let air dry, put a piece of ribbon through the hole and hang on the tree.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 5:13 PM on November 23, 2012

It may be inappropriate to ask this here, but how do the decorations made of perishables hold up? I'm wondering about strung cranberries and oranges with cloves. They sound lovely, but do they attract bugs? Do they rot? how long do you leave them up?
posted by jeoc at 5:22 PM on November 23, 2012

I asked a similar question a few years back, and there's a bunch more under the christmas+tree tag.
posted by jacalata at 5:23 PM on November 23, 2012

Until we bought a realistic looking small (4') tree a year ago, we never had a tree. We hung ornaments around the house and decked out the mantle pretty impressively. If you buy some boughs for the mantle, you can wrap it in lights and position ornaments on and around it. It looks lovely!
posted by michellenoel at 5:29 PM on November 23, 2012

For years, when my apartment was too small for a tree, I would go by Christmas tree vendors and most would happily give me (FOR FREE!) the branches they had trimmed off the bottoms of other people's trees. I made garlands, wreaths, put a big bunch in an extra-large vase, and decorated that. All the great pine smell, none of the tree hassle (or expense).
posted by mon-ma-tron at 6:14 PM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about a green umbrella?
posted by tomboko at 7:00 PM on November 23, 2012

Have you seen this very recent apartmenttherapy posting? I'm just about to recreate that first look with some cheap masking tape that I know not to pull my paint. I really like chalkboard look and using ephermera to imitate the shape of a tree. Almost free, takes up no space and generates almost no trash, perfect.
posted by stormygrey at 7:05 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

jeoc, the key is that in many northern locations during the winter, the air is very dry, especially indoors with the heat going, and outdoors it is cold. So it's not the buggy season, and the cranberries and oranges dry out before they can attract bugs or rot.

If you're in such a dry environment, orange slices can get strung up on thread or dental floss along with cranberries and dry popcorn. They dry out to a translucent, almost glass-like texture.
posted by Orinda at 9:00 PM on November 23, 2012

We were at Ikea in Seattle last week and in the fabric department they had 6 foot long prints of a green Christmas tree on cotton cloth for I think about $15. Hang it on a wall, and invite some people over to drink and create felt ornaments. Then bring out a blindfold and play Pin the Ornament on the Christmas Tree.

Alternative--a friend just posted a picture to Facebook of a folding step ladder strung with Christmas lights and paper decorations. It made me smile.
posted by LarryC at 10:35 PM on November 23, 2012

Friends of mine once made a Christmas tree out of yarn by drawing a picture of a tree on a piece of butcher paper tacked to the wall. Then they placed clear pushpins along the outline and wound green yarn around the outline and crisscrossed through the tree shape until it was filled in. Flat ornaments can be hung right on the yarn.
posted by corey flood at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2012

I not sure if this question is about the tree or the decorations. One thing I have done that is cheap and not horrible to dispose of is making a tree by finding a nice dead tree branch and painting or spray painting it white or silver. Prop it up in a vase or bucket (depending on the size) and decorate. Easier to hang decorations on than a typical pine tree too.

I totally stole this idea from my sixth grade teacher. Thanks Mrs Allen, you really were the best.
posted by arha at 3:02 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you get a large branch or evergreen bough, and hang it from the ceiling and put ligts and decorations on it? Paper snowflakes are easy and pretty. Pine cones can be hung with ribbon. Both can have glitter added if you want more bling. You can use candy canes, peppermints or gingerbread cookies as ornaments. Tinsel can also add bling. Or invite a group of friends over and ask them to bring a (homemade) ornament. A box of glass balls and a few glitter pens is also easy.
posted by theora55 at 5:37 PM on November 24, 2012

If you're asking about decorations, you might be surprised by all the pretty things you can find around your house. My first apartment, my roommate and I decorated the tree (which we picked up at a yard sale in the fall) with keychains, little chocolates and candies hung on ribbons, a weird gold-chain belt thing her auntie had given her, assorted travel souvenir-tchotchkes, origami, etc. It was surprisingly satisfying, and I still hang a Hello Kitty keychain on my tree every year as a memento.
If you're asking about the tree, then yes, suggestions to just pick up greenery are great. You can also buy some green paper and tack shapes to the wall to make a flat tree-like wall hanging.
posted by aimedwander at 11:56 AM on November 26, 2012

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