The Christmas tree
It is doubtful if St Nick in all his travels ever beholds a dwelling in which, no effort has been made to make festive the Yuletide with the green of the leaf or the scarlet of the berry. Sometimes, when it is but a bit of faded ribbon or a tiny sprig of holly, the tenderhearted old fellow must be greatly touched.
In the household where there are big eyes to peer into the mysterious darkness and small ears to listen for the old saint’s coming, the Christmas tree, of course, is the universal decoration.
The home carpenter may have some difficulty in making a device to support the tree properly. One way is to use a stout packing box, and turning it on its side, nail cleats to hold the tree in place. On the opposite side of the box, directly over the cleat enclosures, a hole is then cut which is large enough to admit the butt of the tree. The box may be covered with cotton, sprinkled with mica, or may simply be wrapped in green or red tissue paper.
To make a “foot” for the tree, take two-by-four joists and make a square cross with the two pieces about four feet long. From the center of each, cut out a block the width of the board and an inch deep, so that the two pieces when put together will be perfectly flat on the floor. Lay the tree across saw-horses on a couple of chairs and fasten it in the exact center with long nails. Then stand the tree up and nail braces from the ends of the cross to the trunk of the tree at a distance of about two feet from the floor.
Appropriate trees, in the order of their popularity, are the fir, spruce, hemlock and pine. The end of the tree should be painted over to keep the sap from running.
Besides the tinseled decorations for the tree that may be bought in the shops, one may add to its attractiveness by many little home-made trifles. Walnuts may be gilded and hung from the tree by bright ribbons. Cranberries strung on thread may be festooned from the branches, and figures cut from crepe paper may be pasted to tiny clothespins and placed on the tree.
One woman who was obliged to make her decorations from the materials at hand-gilded eggshells and, by means of a bit of ceiling wax and narrow ribbon, suspended them from the tree. She also dyed long strings of popcorn both green and red and hung them in festoons. From the butterfly crepe paper, she cut the butterflies of various sizes and poised them on the branches with wire.
The Christmas dinner table
The miniature Christmas tree for the center of the table is probably the most popular decoration because it lends itself so well to attractive lighting and the distribution of small gifts or favors. If one does not care for the artificial trees sold in the shops, any nurseryman, usually to be found out of town a ways, should be able to furnish at very small cost a little Norway spruce about, a foot and a half high. This may be tacked to a thin board and trimmed as elaborately as one wishes, and the base covered with a mound of holly.
A small log symbolizing the old Yule logs which has been hollowed out and filled with holly or mistletoe is also attractive and inexpensive. A gilded holly tree, when lighted with many tiny candles, is most effective.
The wreath idea in table decorating may be carried out in detail. About a tall candle in the center of the table place a large holly or other Christmas wreath. Encircle this with smaller candles, not too close together, and about the candles have a larger wreath. Each plate may be encircled by a wreath and each dish that is served may be garnished in a way to carry out the same idea — parsley about the bluepoints, and smilax twined about the sherbet glass, for instance.
A decoration more elaborate in appearance but simple in construction is the use of two hoops, one perhaps a foot and a half in diameter, the other two feet. These should be wound closely with Christmas greens or smilax and hung by wires from the ceiling, the smaller one about a foot above the larger. In the center, suspend a huge red Christmas bell, and from the hoops hang smaller bells which may be those already made from tissue paper, or may easily be cut from red cardboard.
A scarlet poinsettia would be appropriate for the center of the table, or candles with shades made from white or green watercolor paper upon which have been pasted red bells. Place cards may be double bells cut from red paper with the name on the outer sheet and the menu written on the inner one.
House and table decorations for the winter holidays
A decorative scheme suggested by the Christmas Eve celebration of the Russians, called “The Festival of the Evening Star,” requires several sheets of gilded or silvered paper. Cut a large star to lie flat in the center of the table and about its edges make a border of holly or mistletoe. Tiny candles may follow the lines of the star, or a wooden manger be constructed in which are piled small gifts, tied with ribbons, that are carried to each place. The candle shades may be studded with little stars, and the place cards cut into star shapes.
For the small dining room with perhaps a dome swung from a single chain from the ceiling, ropes of cedar festooned from the molding to the center of the ceiling give a gala effect. The chain of the light should be wound with the cedar, and the glass covered with thin paper upon which fir trees cut from dark green paper have been pasted. Candles with shades fashioned in the same way add to the effect.
For a centerpiece, a great mound of snowballs, made from cotton sprinkled with diamond dust and containing some small gift, would be fitting. A toy airplane, painted red or green, with the venerable Santa at the wheel, and the planes covered with drifted cotton snow which has formed irregular icicles depending from the edges, may seem a violation of the reindeer tradition, but it has the advantage of being quite new.
A few suggestions for the children’s table
Cover the table to within about a foot of the edge with white cotton sprinkled with mica dust, and outline the cotton with holly. Form a chimney in the center of cracks which are red candy boxes. Arrange the cotton about the top of the chimney like snow with bits of it hanging down, and place a figure of Santa Claus to look as though he were just emerging from the chimney. The children, at the conclusion of the dinner, may be given the candy boxes and the small gifts that Santa’s pack contains.
Gifts may also be secreted in a huge snowball made of pasteboard and covered with cotton, or each little article may be rolled in its own cotton snowball and the balls with white ribbons attached that lead to each placemat be piled up about the figure of St Nick in the center.
In place of “Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,” harness the beloved Teddy bears with scarlet ribbons to the sleigh that Santa drives over a mountainous snowheap in the center of the table. Or erect the North Pole — a mica-sprinkled stick of rock candy at the top of the glittering snowheap — and place Teddy in a proud attitude of victory upon it.