In my early years growing up in inner city Chicago, I can only remember a handful of traditional Christmas celebrations. By “traditional” I mean: a fully decorated home, gifts, a dinner buffet, and lots of family gathered. By the time I was about 14 years old, Christmas celebrations in my home had dwindled down to just dinner and a few family members. The tree was the first to go. Then we stopped decorating. Gift giving started to be postponed until January after prices dropped. They were the last things to go. Through all the changes what never went away was our elaborate Christmas dinners. That was a tradition in and of itself that spanned two and a half days.
As a means of coping with the steady decline in my family’s financial security, and one disappointing Christmas after another, I did what children do when they are forced into difficult situations they cannot understand. I suppressed the pain, sadness, and embarrassment, and replaced it with a healthy cynicism and disdain for traditional (which I came to refer to as “commercial”) Christmas …..well….everything. Since dinner was the only thing that remained, Christmas started to feel a lot like Thanksgiving. Having this perspective is how I came to make peace with that void in my life. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and Christmas then became Thanksgiving The Sequel.
Fast forward a couple decades, I’m 36 years old and was pleasantly surprised with the gift of motherhood. I was terrified for many reasons as most new parents are, but the most pressing concern was the pain of my past being projected onto my son’s future. I was scared that the sad memories of holidays (all except Thanksgiving) and the defensive cloak of disdain I had developed over the years would end up robbing my son of pure and untainted holiday experiences. I did a lot of work in the months prior to his birth sorting through the mental muck and making decisions about what I wanted for him, and thinking about how and what I would do differently.
So I made a conscious choice to bring Christmas traditions back into my home as best I could. Three things were (and still are) a commodity after my son was born: time, money, and space!! I worked full time. I could not afford elaborate decorations. I did not have room for a bulky tree. Luckily, over time, the one thing I had come to appreciate about celebrating holidays is that it does not take a lot to make the experience great.
I set out on a mission to do Christmas MY WAY and still make it meaningful. After all, I’m not the only one with limited resources, right? Of course not! We creative minds call that ‘inspiration’! It was then that my addiction to Pinterest emerged. Oh my word! I cannot get enough. How did I ever survive before it?
I truly had very few criteria when I started out: I just knew I wanted a wall tree. A wall tree is a non-traditional decoration that is made from different craft mediums for the purpose of replacing a standing tree. As an artist I always have lots of paper, markers, glue/tape, and other craft supplies on hand, so making a wall tree was an easy money-saving choice. I planned to purchase as few new craft materials as possible, and include an educational component in the theme. YES! I’m one of those mothers. Capitalize on every opportunity to drop little knowledge nuggets!!
I didn’t worry about his first two Christmases because he was too young. As his third Christmas approached (now 2 years old) I started planning. It was my son’s first real Christmas (2014) and I was excited. I had not been excited about this holiday in over 20 years. After a REALLY exhaustive search, I landed on a tree made of geometric shapes. I got the inspiration from Pinterest but it was eight years ago and I can’t find the image. I can’t quite remember the exact details of the days leading up to Christmas. I just remember putting many hours into the design, staying up all night a couple days before, cutting out the shapes, assembling the tree, and painstakingly taping it to the wall. It turned out pretty great I think! Better than I imagined. It was all lost on my son though! He saw it and studied it but he was still too young to understand what it all meant. It remains a happy memory for me anyway. I achieved my goal of bringing Christmas joy to him, my way.
The concept of a wall tree works so well for our home. It doesn’t have to be expensive, or overwhelming to create. The space-saving benefit is, without question, my favorite part…..practically no clean up!! Every year since, I have created a unique version of a Christmas tree that is displayed on a wall in our home. I wish I could say they all turned out great, but a couple of those years the concept was far better than the execution. Que sera, sera!
The only issue I have now is how to top (or redeem myself from) the year before. While other people start shopping for gifts a couple of months ahead, I begin planning our tree for the year around August. It’s a real thing now!! Even if the gifts are light that year, the DIY wall and space-saving Christmas trees are a sustainable concept to continue year after year so there will hopefully, always be Christmas at our house.
These three turned out best so far!
Below is a list of my 7 favorite concepts for space-saving or wall trees.
https://pin.it/6Dc1pUe Garland and lights. Simple, fast, and cost effective
https://pin.it/6vAAtHI Wall tree goals! Could replace the wood with cardboard or paper.
https://pin.it/67yxftY Dreaming of a white themed Christmas? Try this.
https://pin.it/3d2rmI4 Short on time and in a bind? This one will do just fine!
https://pin.it/5Ncdo75 The more traditional approach
https://pin.it/2qeohil For the real visionaries! Modern yet timeless at the same time
This year we’re grateful to have more space in our home AND a bay window in the living room, so I decided to go with a tomato cage concept for the next couple years. The tree frame is always there yet I can still change the design every year. If you’re unfamiliar with tomato gage Christmas trees, take a look at an example below.
https://pin.it/2LOotJm Tomato Cage and deco mesh