Christmas cheer in a time of COVID
October 18, 2020 11:02 PM   Subscribe

As I'm thinking ahead to how to prepare for this upcoming fall/winter, I decided I'd like to up my Christmas decor/celebration game this year. Do y'all have any tips or ideas on how I can better decorate my apartment and/or celebrate this holiday season?

I normally don't do much decorating in my small apartment, especially for holidays. I wanted to bring some of the Christmas cheer inside this year, given how I likely will not be traveling or hosting any holiday festivities. In the past, I've always felt like stuff was too expensive or just going to gather dust and look tacky, but I think I just don't know how to do holiday decorating!

I live in the Bay Area, where it doesn't feel much like the holiday season even in normal years. Any ideas for how I can effectively do more?

Some things I'm planning on doing:
  • Getting a mini fake tree to put in the corner of my apartment
  • Putting up a string of lights outside my doorway
  • Sending Christmas cards (perhaps tongue-in-cheek and socially distanced-themed)
  • Volunteering at the local grocery/food pantry for seniors
  • Organizing some virtual calls and gift exchanges for some friend groups
  • Aggressive listening to Spotify's Christmas and Christmas Pop playlists
Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
posted by sums to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
If you enjoy scents, then go for all the candles. Pine, apple-cinnamon, etc.

Baking always puts me in a holiday mood. Maybe you can make bags of cookies for neighbors?

Pull artwork off your walls and wrap it up like a present and re-hang, like this.

Mulled wine or mulled cider or hot chocolate with all the marshmallows
posted by hydra77 at 12:11 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are you crafty at all? Or willing to be slightly crafty? Because dried orange garlands with cinammon sticks is both a soothing thing to make (I find) and will make your apartment smell festive. Other fun things; trying to make paper snowflakes (see pinterest for approximately a million templates), air-dry clay tags/ornaments to go on your tree/any parcels you send/bags of cookies you may make for neighbours (as suggested above),.

Above all, maaaany twinkly lights. Or LED candles.
posted by halcyonday at 1:31 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Start decorating early and plan on it taking several weeks in November so you spread that part out and then can enjoy it all December without the stress.
posted by mightshould at 3:40 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Stream some holiday themed movies!

Get a chocolate advent calendar for December.

Cut out paper snowflakes and tape them on your windows.

Make a holiday themed cocktail or get some holiday seasoned tea, coffee, or cocoa.

Walk around in the early evening to see everyone’s light displays.

Lastly, if you mean to do something seasonal and then don’t for some reason, be lenient with yourself! The holidays also include relaxing.
posted by donut_princess at 4:21 AM on October 19, 2020

Instead of a small fake tree, I've just bought this Ikea christmas tree printed fabric that I'm going to hang on the wall and decorate. All of the impact, none of the floor space! And add some pine scent for that extra touch.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:42 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you're concerned about things that would be just taking up space the rest of the year or would look tacky, you could go the "rustic/DIY" approach - collect pine cones, make things out of paper you were just going to throw away, and the like. Fortunately there are a metric shit-ton of online DIY tutorials that can show you how to do this kind of thing, and you may have the makings of a lot of things inside your house right now (I saved all the brown paper Amazon used to cushion my purchases in March and used rubber stamps to turn that into all the wrapping paper I'll use this year).

Or if you do buy some things, see if you can just evoke "Christmas" with the color or design without it being obviously Christmas - like get something that's red-and-green colored instead of something with Santa on it.

But a word about "tacky" - the whole super-over-the-top aesthetic can be fun too; if you end up liking it, however. (I don't, but not because it is tacky, but more because I am more of a minimalist). Maybe have a look at Pinterest for inspiration - if you have a small apartment, start by searching just for "small apartment Christmas" and you'll see a huge amount of photos of Christmas decor in different styles. Save the pictures that appeal to you, and Pinterest will find you more of the same, and that can help you narrow down your aesthetic.

Oh, and music! I have a few Christmas albums, but the thing that gets the biggest workout is a playlist I made ten years ago that has some very eclectic selections which don't always make it onto most lists, but which are personal for me. Have music playing all the time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:02 AM on October 19, 2020

Love this Question! Thanks for posting (as I am upping my game this Holiday season as well).

I think I am going to go the 'scented' route as much as I can this year (and try and get some candles maybe?) that bring the Holiday season scent to my place!

Excited to see what others are suggesting.
posted by konaStFr at 5:37 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Instead of a fake tree, I recommend the tiny real trees that Trader Joe's sells, and even better, the pine wreaths they sell (they smell amazing, so you'd want it inside--maybe as decoration around a big candle on a coffee table). Trader Joe's also has tasty cocoa. When I lived in a tiny studio in NYC, I got a full sized Christmas tree one year even though I didn't have room, and it was great. My boyfriend and I had to carry it several blocks back to the apartment, not having a car, and that was also fun. If possible/applicable, ask your parents to ship you a few of your childhood ornaments to decorate the tree. I think the best xmas music is Vince Guaraldi's sountrack for Charlie Brown. So good. Walk by the Macy's Christmas windows with kittens if they're doing that this year and there's a non-crowded time. If you're near Berkeley Bowl, they sell great mulling spice mix in the bulk bins. Put a little in a kettle on the stove and keep that simmering.

On Christmas eve, I like to listen to the bells at Grace Cathedral. I don't know if they're having a normal service this year, though. On Christmas Day one year, we went out to Ocean Beach early in the morning and drew messages in the sand to photograph for distant relatives. It's a nice way to start the day.
posted by pinochiette at 5:43 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

the landscape in fairy lights has changed a lot in just a few years. Now they're cheap and you can get them solar powered. They'll even charge through a window. These are a nice warm gold-white but of course you can get the colored ones as well. No need to limit yourself to just one string; put them all around.

We decorate for Hanukah, with chains my kid made of blue plush and shiny metallic pipe cleaners. Would look awesome with red green and white plush. Cute, cheap, festive and (to my eye) much less tacky looking than store bought plastic stuff. I drape them over doorways and windows.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:21 AM on October 19, 2020

Also if you are crafty, I've recently found out about Putz Houses and have gone down a crazy crafty rabbit hole where I will now have a MCM Christmas Village in my house. The designs come in all styles though.

It's basically like gingerbread houses but with paperboard (like cereal boxes). Really all you need is the paperboard, glue, and something to cut with but then you can decorate as much or as little as you want to. I'm thinking of basically adding a house or some decorations in future years as I go along (or as much as I care).

Plus, glitter! I feel like Christmas needs glitter.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:29 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have a bench/low shelf thing under my window where I set up the "forest" every year -- basically a bunch of cute little glittery trees from Target and craft fairs, some weird animals (a pink glittery deer, a bear with a Christmas sweater, a lot of these are also from Target or Target equivalents), some fake snow, some ornaments that are too big to fit on our 3' tree. It's sort of a janky version of the Boomer Christmas village, but it's cute and festive.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Brussels sprouts still on the stalk are in season. Do a Brussels sprouts tree instead of a fake tree. They look good when you line them with those cheap little LED light strings.

Roast it when you're done with it.
posted by aniola at 8:13 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

For scented candles I recommend Thymes Frasier Fir product line. They are pricey but I swear it smells EXACTLY like there is a real Christmas tree in your house.

For twinkle lights I recommend incandescent over LED if you have any sentimental attachment to their warm glow. It's always been my actual favorite part of Christmas. If you don't care about that, then I think the LEDs are more energy efficient and less prone to failure.
posted by lampoil at 9:00 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Oh, if you're looking for easy DIY ornament ideas, there's a book I stumbled on called Scandi Christmas that has a ton of simple DIY/decor ideas for thing you can make with scrap paper, twigs, pine cones, fabric scraps, stuff like that. And you don't need to be super-crafty or have the best materials either - like, literally one of the things she has as a craft is to take some kind of pointed stick thing - you could probably use a pencil or a chopstick - and stick it in a block of styrofoam, and then get some scrap paper you were going to throw away and tear it into random-sized squares in a range of sizes. Then you impale the squares on the spike, from biggest to smallest, to make a sort of "tree", and then throw a little glitter on it. You would have to buy practically nothing.

She also has a whole bunch of "quick and easy" ideas scattered throughout - I'm seriously entertaining an idea she has of taking a nice-shaped branch and sticking it in a vase, and then hanging a bunch of glass chandelier crystals from it and sticking it in a window.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Starting around November, maybe a bit earlier, Whole Foods sells these bags of dried pinecones that are scented with cinnamon and other seasonal scents.

They are terrific to place around the house. They last for months, if not years, so you can simply save them season after season.

Your house will smell spicy, cinnamon-y and festive. Maybe even add a few to your car if you have one to carry the scent out and about.
posted by LittleFuzzy at 3:54 PM on October 20, 2020

« Older What's the closest thing to my dream laptop?   |   How can I make JavaScript more enjoyable? What... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments