Christmas tree

Day 23, or Little Christmas Eve, is here!

Happy Little Christmas Eve, as they call it in Norway.

Ornament calendar

The hidden image tonight was cute – Merrit peering at a smiling bauble in a tree! We then made a red and orange bauble to hang on our tree.

finding a Christmas bauble decoration in the calendar

Lego City

The Lego City calendar produced a yellow helicopter which my son enjoyed putting together.

yellow Lego helicopter

Lego Friends

Tonight’s most exciting discovery, however, was the Christmas Tree in the Friends calendar.

Lego Christmas tree ornament

Christmas book

Our Christmas book is That’s good, that’s bad which the kids always enjoy, even if it is not my favourite Christmas story.

Christmas advent day fifteen

Second last Saturday before Christmas and there is Christmas everywhere, including day fifteen of advent calendars!

Ornament calendar

In today’s calendar we still pressed out two pieces but strangely they do not interconnect – we have two decorations! It sort of makes sense as not many people go around with one ice skate, but still felt a little strange.

ice skate decorations on the tree

Lego City

The anticipated Christmas tree popped out from under flap fifteen.

Lego Christmas tree

Lego Friends

We are debating what the Friends ornament from day fifteen actually is… To me, it looks like a platter or board for holding cupcakes to hand around at a Christmas party, but my children think it is a present. Once hanging, it does really look like a present, but why are there raised bits (that look like Lego cupcakes!) randomly sticking out from it?

Lego cupcake platter checkboard

Christmas book

Happy Christmas Spot is the cheery little book we will read tonight. Have you read this one with your kids this Christmas?

Day three in our countdown

It may be Monday, but the excitement of opening another flap in an advent calendar is strong!

Ornament calendar

We pressed out a Christmas tree ornament tonight, to see Santa and the elves decorating their Christmas tree!


Christmas tree ornament hanging in a Christmas tree

Lego City

A little red racing car popped out of the advent calendar today, explaining the racing track on the scene layout!

Lego racing car

Lego Friends

Today we found a set of golden bells in the advent calendar – and made a discovery. Everything in this year’s Friends advent calendar is an ornament to hang on a tree or around a room – it looks like there will be no characters, no Santa and no theme.

In past years, the advent calendar has produced characters and props that fill in a scene and that the children enjoy playing with. True, this year’s box didn’t have a scene which was a bit of a clue that we missed, but we truly did not expect 24 ornaments. Even the first couple of days, with the larger than expected scale of the heart and guitar didn’t make us expect something different, but today it clicked. The box says ‘Build your happy holidays’and ’24 gifts’ so we assumed it would be like previous year calendars. Looking online, the official description does state ‘build a new decoration for your house or Christmas tree’ so that is up front but we didn’t get ours online. It also confirms there will be no Lego people included but there are ‘decorations to represent each of the 5 friends from Heartlake City’.

Ornaments are nice and we will find a way to make this special for my daughter, but I am very disappointed with the Friends advent calendar changing like this. It doesn’t help that we couldn’t quite complete the bells – the holly leaves can’t attach to the top of the bells without a connector piece (which luckily we have enough Lego in the house we could rectify it but we shouldn’t have needed to.)

Lego Christmas bells

I do like the bottom of the bells though as the dangling donger does add a realism to the bells. And it does hang nicely:

Lego Christmas bells hanging on a Christmas tree

Christmas book

The magic little Christmas tree is the next book we will read in our book countdown to Christmas – it is a cute little book and goes nicely with our Christmas tree ornament obviously!

Another scouting Christmas tree idea!

Following on from the Christmas tree festival ideas and the tent-based Christmas tree, I found another effective tree decorating idea.

CHristmas tree with decorations and scout signs

Clare (Scout Leader), Adam (Explorer Leader) and Laura (Beavers Leader) set this up at 5th Littlehampton Sea Scout Group’s hall this year.

Apparently some leaders were very keen to get a tree up, even though it was still November – they suffer the terrible affliction of pre-festivitis!

They normally have a “look what we do” board at the entrance to their Scout Hall, but there was no space for it and a tree, so they combined the two.

I like how simple it is – a few signs that share who the group is, a few decorations and some tinsel and the tree is done!

I think this concept is simple enough to be used by other scout and youth groups, plus many other places. Would you use it to add Christmas cheer to a public place or group?

 

* Photo used with permission of Laura, with thanks!

More festival of Christmas tree ideas

As well as all the decoration ideas for a community group Christmas tree, I collected some ideas for the tree itself and for making the most of the decorating experience. So here are those ideas in another post for you 🙂

Again, many of these ideas were inspired by the 1st Facebook Scout Group, so thanks again to those leaders.

ideas for the tree and surrounds

  1. make a tree shape by lashing poles together – it can be a simple tepee shape or more advanced with branches off a main stem
  2. use an old canvas tent to form the tree, using something like an umbrella stand to hold it up
  3. stack 2 litre plastic milk bottle in layers to form a tree shape. You can stick a badge or picture over each lid as decoration and insert a light inside the pile

    Two Christmas trees made of milk bottles!

    Plastic Bottle Trees made by Harleston Guides in England

  4. whittle old wooden tent pegs to form a tree (in miniature) or the branches (on a bigger tree)
  5. stack up some old wooden pallets to form a tree shape – simple, rustic and effective!
  6. collect some sticks then lash them together in an appropriate shape. Spray white paint across the top and sprinkle over some glitter
  7. get the youth to collect some sticks (about 5mm thick) and cut them to size. Drill a hole in the middle of each stick and place them over a threaded rod (or straight wooden rod) attached to a wooden base. Spray paint or drizzle with glitter, maybe add some battery powered fairy lights or thin tinsel.

    Christmas trees made out of sticks

    Christmas trees made from sticks by scouts in the UK

  8. cut a tree shape out of thick cardboard (shiny gives a nice effect!) and attach it to a wall or divider. From there, it can be decorated however you like, but some ideas are to cover it with a photo of each person in the group and have a feature in the middle (Christmas song/poem, group photo, group logo, photo of your hall, etc), cut photos of everyone into bauble size and shape to stick on the tree, get everyone to put a paint handprint on it, or let the kids decorate it with textas and glitter.

    Christmas tree made of a collage of photos

    A collage based Christmas tree from Guides in Darwin

  9. use some old branches to form a natural looking tree – I once used a gum tree branch that way on our house. You can make this as small or as large as suits your space, too.baby grabbing tinsel off a gum tree
  10. collect some old LPs and add a photo or picture over the label of each one. Heat the record until the sides curve up and in to form a bowl of sort. Use a hot glue gun to join the ‘bowls’ to form a pyramid tree. decorate it with a bit of tinsel or just drizzle glue and glitter over it all.
    A similar option would be to keep the records flat and glue them onto a wire frame to form the tree.
  11. create a tree by gluing lids (plastic milk bottle lids, metal or plastic jar lids or metal drink bottle lids) onto a frame or just to each other to create the shape.

ideas for sharing the experience

So instead of just one person, or two or three, coming up with an idea and implementing it, here are some better ways to make the group Christmas tree a community experience.

  • get lots of people to give some input – you don’t have to be the creative one, and sometimes a group will brainstorm a much better idea than any one person thought of.
  • take it in turns. For example, one scout group gets a different section to design the tree each year – it always has a scouting theme but different age groups have different designs so it stays interesting, everyone gets a go and the other sections get a surprise.
  • allow time – maybe have one meeting for discussing and deciding on a theme and concept, and then another for making the tree, decorations, etc. For young children, an adult or two may need to put everything together, but older groups may need a third session for the construction and decoration!
  • have two trees! Divide everyone into to groups and let each group decorate their own tree – maybe on inside and one outside, or one big tree to sit under and one small to be a table piece. Lots of options and more Christmas trees just mean more joy!

So, what ideas will you be using for Christmas tree decorating this year? Maybe you can start a new tradition in the groups you belong to, and leave the box of old decorations stored away instead.

 

* Photos courtesy of Love Santa, Andrew (a UK Scout leader) and Fiona (Harleston Guide leader) – thank you!

Festival of Christmas tree decoration ideas!

Recently I have seen a group of scouting leaders share ideas for decorating their community Christmas trees this year.

And as some of them have elaborate ideas, it’s no wonder they are talking about it in October!

Christmas tree festival photos

Christmas tree festival guidelines

While it can vary from community to community, most places have guidelines as to what can and cannot be used in the tree festival. For instance, some place provide the trees so all are equal in size and structure while others allow different interpretations of ‘Christmas tree’ although possibly with size restrictions.

So if you are trying out a Christmas tree festival idea, make sure it fits into the guidelines and theme of your festival.

Scout Christmas tree ideas

All of the following wonderful ideas have been suggested and used by scouting and guiding groups in the UK. Some may be specific to such youth groups, but many of these ideas could be used for a childcare centre, kinder, school or sporting club just as easily, or with a few tweaks.
And many of these ideas can be combined for a more colourful result!

Decorations to hang on the tree

  • thread some cotton through some badges and hang them on the tree. Just use group and district badges, badges to suit a theme (eg red and green badges) or try Christmas theme badges (Scouts Australia produces a Christmas badge each year). Brighten things up further by winding some fairy lights (battery operated are easy for a display like this) around the branches and badges.
  • get the kids to make Christmas stars, using group colours as the backgrounds
  • Scout badges and photo stars hanging on a Christmas tree

  • hang ribbons on the tree to reflect your group colours – add your group scarf to complete the scene, maybe as a tree skirt hanging from the lowest branches. Add more of a scouting feel by knotting some of the ribbons 🙂
  • print out your group or scout/guide logos, get kids to colour them in and decorate them, laminate the drawings and hang them as ornaments.
  • use cardboard rings (like cut up paper towel rolls) to make the fleur de lys and let kids decorate them. They could be colour coded by section (eg Joeys use brown, cubs use yellow, scouts green and so on) or all be based on group colours.
  • make decorations out of paracord! Try a candycane or a Christmas tree
  • make some mini scout scarves and hang them alongside other decorations
  • get some cheap Christmas balls and paint the Fleur de lys or other scouting/guiding images on them.
  • Christmas baubles decorated with the Australian scout symbol (stylised fleur-de-lys)

  • make it a celebration of the last year by hanging pictures (photos or hand drawn pictures) of group events as decorations. The pictures could be stuck on circles of coloured paper and laminated, attached to small stockings, glued onto Christmas balls or made into paper chains.
  • get kids to make gingerbread or salt dough ornaments and decorate them to hang on the tree. Maybe have gingerbread people decorated to look like cubs/scouts/guides. The decorations can then be given as gifts to a group of people (nursing home residents, the volunteers running the festival, etc) – and if the gingerbread was presented in bags on the tree, they would be tasty gifts, too!
  • if you have the resources, cut out decorations from wood – simple shapes with a jigsaw or more elaborate designs with a laser cutter. Kids can paint of add glitter for a colourful decoration. Of course, a similar thing can be done with thick cardboard if you don’t have the resources or want the kids to make them by hand. collage of child-made Christmas decorations
    Be creative – the cut outs could be Christmas themed or scouting themed (a tent, campfire, rolled sleeping bag, backpack, etc)
  • use toothpicks and string or icy pole sticks and glue to make stars to decorate and hang
  • Christmas star made from icy-pole sticks

  • make a garland from woggles! Especially if you use some colourful ones, this is an easy way to make the tree cheery and scouty!
  • paint or add pictures to one side of a disc (CD or DVD) for colour and sparkle. The Love Santa bauble templates could be used for this!
  • turn a gumnut or acorn into Santa!
  • get kids to make pompoms (with glittery wool is awesome!) and hang them as a garland or stick them over a Christmas ball (or any other ball really!)
  • make an icy pole stick campfire
  • tie ribbons onto cinnamon sticks (for a nice smell) or sticks the kids find for simple, pretty decorations
  • ask the children to design new badges and hang their designs as decorations
  • turn it into a communitree by decoupaging pictures of the group scouting in the community
  • get the kids to make jar lid decorations
  • hang a photo of each group member, in uniform, on the tree. Stuck on cardboard of suitable colours, in a circle, star or other shape, these are personal and create interest. Or stick the photos on some decorations instead – think of lots of Santas hanging from your tree, each one with a different smiling face!
  • make Christmas bells out of coffee pods (saves them going to landfill, too!) You can stick photos of the kids on them, too.
  • Coffee pods recycled as Christmas bells

  • Spray some small pine cones or gumnut bunches with coloured paint to match your group colours. Hang on the tree with pompoms in matching colours and a fleur-de-lys on top of the tree

Note the ideas above were inspired by scout leaders in the UK (thank you to 1st Facebook Scout Group) but were written by me and adjusted at my discretion, so I take full responsibility for them :).

A golliwog Christmas tree

A week or so ago, I was surprised to see a Christmas tree decorated with golliwogs.

A Christmas tree decorated with golliwogs in 2017

A Christmas tree decorated with golliwogs in 2017

It was different to see soft toys as the key decoration of a Christmas tree, but it still was colourful and cheery. And all the children I was with enjoyed looking at it.

However, it was the use of golliwogs that really surprised me.

For one thing, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many golliwogs in one place – they are certainly not a common toy these days.

But mostly it was a surprise because so many people see that as racist and denigrating certain people. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend someone with my Christmas tree decorating (they don’t have to like what I do, but I wouldn’t want to actually upset anyone) and I wondered if it was particularly wise for a Christmas shop to have this display.

What do you think – are you offended by the use of golliwogs on a Christmas tree?

Thinking about golliwogs

I grew up with golliwogs being a soft toy like any other – yes it was black but I didn’t see it at any different to a rag doll or teddy bear. And I never heard anyone use them or speak of them in anyway that was racist. So in that sense they are innocuous toys to me, and I actually like that there were some toys with coloured skin rather than all being white.

However, I can see that they have been used inappropriately and appear as an unkind caricature of black people. Things like Nazis banning them as ‘German children should only see Aryan appearances as desirable’, and Enid Blyton’s books showing golliwogs as car thieves and villains. And people being called ‘golliwog’ in offensive and derogatory ways is not acceptable.

I would never give one to a child or praise them now.

Interestingly, the name golliwog came from a book by Florence Upton where the character was called golliwog (and was drawn like the toys appeared). Golliwog was based on a blackface minstrel, which is often classed a racist tradition itself. He was called ‘a horrid sight’ at first but given a nice character, and later described with a ‘kind face’.

One toy manufacturer has given a history of golliwogs (or golly dolls as they call them) originating in Egypt as ghuliwogs that acknowledged Egyptian labourers for the British army at the end of the 19th century. The name is a combination of WOGS (working on government service) and Ghoul (Arabic for desert ghost).

Florence used an old black doll as a model but said “without intention of naming him, without the idea of a name passing through my mind, I called him ‘Golliwogg’.”

Having become less and less popular in the 1970s and 80s, golliwogs somewhat disappeared but have reappeared in the last few years. I personally don’t see why they should be back – yes, there is some nostalgic attachment for some people, but they are associated with racism. I agree with having more toys showing diversity, but that can be done without using dolls with clown mouths, servant costumes and racist connotations.

In the words of Suzanne Moore, “This is exactly how these wretched things ended up back in the shops. Two things have been going on: the ongoing lie that political correctness (basically, manners) has gone so mad that an open display of racism brands itself somehow as an exercise of freedom. Such people always hark back to a time of “innocence”. That innocence is now called white privilege.

The other is the lie that we live in a “post-racist” society. This is a view that is often expressed in Australia, where golliwogs are extremely popular. Yet if you go to any of the Australian websites selling them, you will see the vendors go with the word “gollies”, leaving out the obviously offensive bit.”

Three days to go in advent calendars!

2016 Lego advent calendar collage

Wow, we’re onto day 21 so there are only three more flaps to open – and school has now finished for the year around Australia so the excitement is definitely building now 🙂

Lego City now has a Christmas tree, complete with a star on top and some lights.

Lego Christmas tree with star on top and present beneath

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…

Our Friends advent calendar now has a Christmas pudding to add to the feast – and it looks pretty good!

Lego Christmas pudding in front of a Christmas tree

Time for Christmas pudding with some Lego Friends!

Lego advent day 10

There was a lot of excitement last night when my son opened flap ten of the Lego City advent calendar to find a Christmas tree! He enjoyed putting it together, placing it beside Santa’s seat and then ‘creating a scene’ (his words!) with all the parts of his calendar to date.

A Lego Christmas tree and Santa's seat (City advent calendar)

A lamp, a seat and a tree all waiting for Santa!

Combing a Lego girl's hair (Friends advent calendar)

Combing Lego hair!

On the other hand, my daughter was very disappointed to find she had nothing to make last night. That’s not to say she didn’t get much as she did – there was a bag of blue hair related items for her to play with instead. She has enjoyed brushing, combing and drying the Lego hair, and has added the crown and some hair accessories to one Lego girl so far.

By this morning, she was happy with what she got but still disappointed to not have built anything.

Lego skiier with hair accessories from the advent calendar

Lego Friends’ hair accessories on display

So again the calendars are fun but the City one is proving more engaging and closer to the idea of building Lego.

If you missed what the calendars gave us yesterday, you can catch up on day nine. Read the introduction to our Lego advent reviews for the whole picture.

Ribbons on a Christmas tree

Christmas tree covered in sports ribbons

Liz also supplied us with a photo of the ribbon-decked tree – I think it looks great!

We have small Christmas trees in the kids’ rooms, which they love:)

This year, a bit of ahead of me getting out the usual decorations, my daughter decided to decorate the trees.

She grabbed out some school sports ribbons and other sashes to use instead of tinsel. It actually looked quite effective and is a nice acknowledgement of her sporting achievements over the year (she was just after the colour and instant gratification, but I liked the display of her achievements!)

 

Who decorates your Christmas tree?

It may seem like an obvious or irrelevant question, but who decorates your Christmas tree?Three chidlren decroating a Christmas tree

I discussed this with some Mums at kinder yesterday as we watched the kids decorate their kinder tree – a real Christmas tree sits in their group area with baskets of tinsel and ornaments so they can decorate and redecorate it as they wish. It’s a simple and fun activity for them.

Allowing children to decorate a Christmas tree

One Mum doesn’t let her kids near the tree and decorates it all herself so it is done properly and looks perfect. And Dhrynio commented last week that her mother-in-law had always decorated their tree so Dhrynio’s husband didn’t know how to do it!

Other Mums let their kids decorate the lower parts of the tree however they want. The upper part is either done by the parents or is directed by the kids but with parental assistance.Yong boy and Dad hang an ornament on a Christmas tree

A blog post I  read recently mixed both these traditions (I can’t remember where I read it – I’ll add the link when I find it!). She let the kids go wild and decorate the tree in the evening. Once they had gone to bed, she pulled everything off the tree and started again, doing it her ‘control freak’ way! She gave the kids the fun of decorating and herself the reward of having a perfect tree she could enjoy. I’m just not sure how the kids would feel when seeing their creativity was replaced by Mum’s perfection.

Protecting special decorations

Most of us keep certain ornaments – fragile and particularly sentimental ones – out of the kids’ reach and put them on the tree ourselves.

One Mum said she kept nothing from her daughter to provide the lesson of caring for things and being careful. I love that principle and her courage (she even lets her touch glass balls imported from Europe!), but I just don’t want to risk some of my more precious decorations to a curious and lively two-year old!

Many of my more precious ornaments are actually precious because they were made by my daughters when younger – they are fragile at the joins, etc rather than because they are glass, and precious because they are not replaceable.

Child participation and perfection

Can you have it both ways – let everyone put decorations on the tree for fun and have a tree that is stylish and perhaps artistic?

It may be a bit hard to manage both on one tree (although I have this image in my head now of a tree done perfectly on one side and chaotically on the other, and just rotating it as suits the time or audience!)

To me, a solution is to have two trees or two rooms/areas and treat each differently.

For example, have a stylish tree in a formal lounge room and let the kids be creative with the family room tree.

Or maybe it can be a time share thing – let the kids decorate the tree on 1 December but redecorate it on the 19th or so so it is ‘perfect’ for Christmas Day photos and any gatherings you have in the house in the last few days.

So who decorates your Christmas tree?

Did you set your own decorating tradition or have you copied what you did as a child?

7 tips for a beautiful Christmas tree

Beautiful Christmas tree and lights in St Petersburg

An elegant Christmas tree in St Petersburg

Decorating a Christmas tree is a once-a-year activity that gives pleasure to many, and is worth spending a bit of time on.

I think there are two techniques or models for Christmas tree decorating – the throw on as much as possible model (often experienced when children are involved!) and the classy or stylish model. That is, some people just want colour and glitter while others want it looking a certain way.

Personally, I think both approaches look good and have a special place. However, today’s tips are for the more deliberate Christmas tree approach – although adding them to a more chaotic tree is good, too!

Creating a stylish Christmas tree

  1. put larger ornaments and thicker tinsel lower on the tree, leaving the top half for smaller and finer ornaments
  2. hang things towards the centre of the tree as well as on the outer edges – it gives more depth and interest (and gives you more hanging space overall!)
  3. hanging lights first makes it easier to hide the cords and get them evenly distributed. It’s just easier to do, too. Again, remember to put lights towards the centre of the tree as well as on the outside – twinkling lights behind the tinsel and decorations adds some magic
  4. work with one colour at a time when hanging ornaments to get them evenly distributed – for example, hang all the green balls then the red bells to spread red and green across the entire tree.
  5. no matter how stylish you want it to be, remember Christmas is about family, magic and memories so don’t hide away your treasured mementoes just because they are not your theme colour or style. Put one or two as a centrepiece or off to the side where you will see them when sitting in your favourite chair. As well as the sentimental value, they will make your tree unique and interesting – and could serve as a nice conversation starter, too
  6. stand back occasionally and look at the tree as you go – if you get each stage looking good, the whole will be balanced and effective
  7. avoid fragile ornaments on the bottom branches as they are likely to get knocked around when presents are put under the tree.

If you are serious about a colour theme for your tree, you can even choose wrapping paper so the pile of presents under the tree will match 🙂

So, how do you achieve a ‘perfect’ look for your Christmas tree?

Do you have other tips for decorating Christmas trees?

* Image courtesy of 123rf
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