Honoring Holiday's Unsung Heroes


It's the time of year when I quote from my favorite holiday special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Lucy says to her blanket-toting little brother, “You think you’re so smart with that blanket. What are you gonna do with it when you grow up?”  Linus replies, “Maybe I’ll turn it into a sport coat.”  Which, besides cracking me up, is actually pretty wise.  During the holidays we want the comfort and security that some of our old habits and traditions can provide.  

So, like the blanket that Linus wants to turn into a sport coat, I’d like to honor some of the unsung heroes of our holiday decor.  A time to pause over the humble work horses that can frequently go without acknowledgement.

For starters, I present you with my first candidate, The Hurricane Vase.  Hurricane vases were so named because you put candles in them during a (wait for it) hurricane.  But for my purposes any tall clear glass vase will do.  For some undefinable reason -- everything you pop into them looks better than it did on its own. Start by popping in some greens and a pinecone.  Poof!  Instantly those humdrum ingredients take on a whole different light.  And guess what? It works on everything! Like twigs, or Christmas ornaments, or candles, or cranberries, or an Elf on the Shelf, or twinkly lights, or candy canes.  Once they are in the vases -- they look curated somehow. Like a collection. You can group them on the end of a mantle, or display them in a line down your table runner.  Anything goes.  Some of my favorite hurricane vases came from the dollar store -- just classic, simple, glass columns.  I’m sure they sell beautiful ones at Pottery Barn too, but they don't have to be fancy.

Another work horse worth honoring is The Garland.  Yes, we twist it around the railings on our front porches but it's also a great element to bring inside. It doesn't take up too much room, it brings instant holiday cheer to every place it graces, and it smells good too.  (Don't you wish you could say that about all your holiday house guests?)  And, sure, put it on the mantle or down the stair railing.  But also try it in unexpected places like around a curtain rod, or inside a bowl, or frame the bathroom mirror with it. Even let the kids have some.  You’ll see.  For quality, there is the standard Home Depot variety, and then there are also drop-dead gorgeous ones that you can buy from specialty shops if your budget allows.  Me?  I usually "hook up" an inexpensive variety with additional greens, or ornaments, or pinecones, or driftwood… even matchbook cars.  Honestly it doesn't matter.  Just grab your glue gun and florists wire or twine and have at it.

And while we’re at it, let's give a very honorable mention to that other kind of garland.  The ones your kids can string, made out of popcorn and cranberries, or pom-poms and paper cut outs.  I personally like these on the sparse side, with their string showing between the items, but I honestly love them all. Even those paper chains made from construction paper.  I'm just a sucker for anything homemade.

I’d also like to call out a very effective holiday weapon in my arsenal: a can of White Spray Paint.  You know how I said everything looks better in a hurricane vase?  Well just about anything can also look better painted white too.  Yup, right down to that Elf on the Shelf or even your cat.  Don't be shy.  You can spray them carefully on all sides for 100 percent coverage (tricky with the cat), or just hit them with a little spray to look more like snow.  But the addition of the white brings some unity and calm to a dangerously chaotic time of year for decorating.  I like the matte finish, but shiny works too.

And here I present you with a humble area of the home often overlooked for holiday festivities.  It is your Ceiling.  I used to host a large family Christmas Eve dinner.  It was a big effort that our whole family participated in, and our tables capes were different every year.  One year I had the kids cut little paper snowflakes out of tracing paper.  We dipped the edges in glitter, and literally just hung them from the ceiling with string and scotch tape. (I did, however, discover the hard way that tall candles and hanging paper are not a good mix...  So, safety first everyone!)  But I've also woven twigs or a garland around light fixtures, or tied individual ornaments over the curtain rods, or hung something green that I can call mistletoe in the foyer.   The best tools to aid you in this venture?  Those removable, adhesive hooks and maybe some battery-operated fairy lights.

One of my last unsung heroes is, surprisingly, The Plastic Tub.  My hat is off to the tub as it keeps our Christmas items safe and dry and insect-free for 11 months of the year.  And for that last month of December?  They do double duty by holding all the decorative items that our holiday decorations have displaced.  Because this time of year, it's so easy to slip from "cozy and festive" into "chaos and clutter.”  So don’t be shy about editing.  You have a tub for that.   And don’t worry, the other stuff will all come back in January.

Did I say that was my last hero?  Because I have one more.  Mom.  And yes, yes, yes -- Dads too!  And also, grandparents and teachers and nice neighbors and kind strangers.  I have a place in my heart for all of them!  But Moms are frequently the directors of this well-orchestrated event known as The Holidays.  And like most things parenting related, it’s beautiful and messy and exhausting and rewarding and heart-felt all at once.

And so, fittingly, I’ll honor those maternal directors with one more quote from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It is said by my hero, Lucy Van Pelt.  She’s frustrated with the short attention spans of the pageant crew.  She wags her finger and yells at them, “Listen, all of you!  You've got to take direction!  You've got to have discipline!  You've got to have respect for your director!”

Lucy turns around and sees that Snoopy, behind her, has been mimicking her motions and is ruthlessly mocking her.  Lucy pauses and says to Snoopy in a low voice, “I oughta slug you!”

Ahhh, the heartfelt roller coaster of emotions that mark holidays!  I’ve certainly been there.  

But Lucy doesn’t actually slug Snoopy.  And there she is singing with the other children at the end.  

So, if she can do it, so can we.

Jennifer Coles is a local interior designer. Her instagram is: @coles_color_and_design. Her website is: colescoloranddesign.com

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