The Great Christmas Tree Debate (Help!)

Not the real vs. fake debate. We settled that a few years ago when we got rid of the old, basement-smelly thing we had before and started buying real trees from the SPCA (cheaper than adopting a cat, though more messy).

No, the debate before us today concerns decorating this tree.

You see, we had decorations. We had a big ol’ mish-mash of them, in fact. Paper ornaments, coloured lights, white lights, ornaments we’d picked up over the years. Wooden ornaments, rustic wool things, brightly modern plastic balls, classic gold balls from the first year after we got married, ornaments we received from friends or inherited from our parents…



I think we were only half-done decorating in that picture… and don’t mind the mummy cat. That’s Mumford. It’s a long story. He’s cool, though.

And then the basement flooded last spring. Remember that? Well, my office wasn’t the only thing destroyed. The guys who did the clean-up (bless them) did a great job, but when the basement is full of plastic bins, it’s easy to miss a few that got water in them even though they looked like they were still sealed. And in this case, that was ALL of our Christmas decorations.

I didn’t know until a few months ago, when I went searching to find the reason why we were all getting itchy eyes from trips to the basement. I found the culprit in our bin of ornaments: thick, dark mould.


Pictured: not the worst of it. I stopped taking pictures when I thought my camera was going to puke.

So I hauled that bin upstairs, cried a little, saved about five ornaments that I could wash and soak in bleach, and threw the rest (ornaments, four strings of lights, and a few other things) in the trash.

I thought that was the end of it, until last week, when I decided to re-construct my office walls. I found four more bins with mould in them. Three of them were the rest of the decorations we usually put up around the house.

Don't worry, Amy Snow is safe. The moose thing, not so much.

Don’t worry, Amy Snow is safe. The moose thing, not so much.


All of this is to say that yes, I’m heartbroken. Physical things can be replaced, but there were a lot of memories wrapped up in those ornaments. But there’s no point whining and moaning about it, and there is one good thing coming out of this: It might take a few years to afford to do it all, but we get to start over.

Guys, I could have a tree with a THEME. I mean a theme like “Classic Christmas” or “Gold,” not “OIL AND OUR ECONOMY” or “MURDER ON THE F-TRAIN.”* I could aim for something that’s a bit more pulled-together than “whatever ha struck our fancy over the years” and “whatever we could grab on sale.”

Could be fun, right?

So this is my dilemma. What to do? When I stopped in at Canadian Tire yesterday (automotive and just so much more), I got a few ideas for options.

We could go fun and cute and child-centric, with trains and nutcrackers and bright colours and simple shapes.

I wouldn’t mind something grown-up and sophisticated, with gold and understated elegance. It’s not really me most of the year, but this would just make it that much more special. Like this, but less competently put together.

Red is always festive, and is nice with gold. And sparkles. I like sparkles…

Then there are really modern-looking trees, with blues and purples and spiraly shapes and shiny ornaments. Like this. Gotta love whimsy!

Or there’s the rustic look, which is also appealing: wood and burlap and woodland creatures**

Whatever we do, there has to be room for the Beatles, superhero, My Little Pony, and random “because I liked it” ornaments that we’re bound to pick up over the next few years.

So… I don’t know. Want to tell me about your tree, or your decorating philosophy, or other holidays you like to decorate for? If you had a fresh start for any kind of holiday decorating, what would you do?

*Also not “EMO VILLAGE” or “MY LITTLE OMBUDSMAN” or “WHY ISN’T UNCLE LEROY MOVING?” I’m good at coming up with themes, but this isn’t what I meant at all.

**Not real ones


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with six cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. View all posts by Kate Sparkes

15 responses to “The Great Christmas Tree Debate (Help!)

  • Kat

    I think this year you should go with handmade. Whatever the kids and you can put together. Paper chains, snowflakes, etc. plus buy one new one each. And next year buy one new one each. Keep goin until the tree is full. Take pictures each year to relive the “fun” of a blank tree slate.

  • madlaura

    My ornaments are a mish mash of memories, collected over years. If I had to start over, I think I would pick out enough to decorate and then add to them as the right ones came along. I’m not a “theme tree” kind of person. I like the idea of filling it up with homemade stuff this year. Start over slowly.

    • Kate Sparkes

      I think we’re going to go for something that looks at least a bit pulled together, if only because I’ve never even had a single room in a house that looked “done” beyond hand-me-down chic. But we’re definitely going to leave room for future additions that reflect new memories and interests. Sort of a broad “theme” for the balls and the garlands and ribbons, with more personal bits scattered throughout. 🙂

  • kristenotte

    Call me boring, but I’m not a fan of the purple and pink trees. Makes me think of good ole Charlie Brown.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Yeah, I think I’d get sick of the purple/pink/blue modern thing really quickly. All silver would also drive me batty. Definitely need something more classic that I can sit and relax with while I read a new book (please, Santa!).

  • Gloria Weber

    My husband and I are on our third tree theme. Our current theme is just colorful. We do the whole tree from a box and it is pre-lit with colored lights. Aside from the personal ornaments, we have gold, silver, red, green, and blue. They are mirror shiny, frosted, glittered, or a combo of those. I think this works as a great back drop to all the family ones, which manage to stick out because of their multiple colors and different from the base one shapes.

    Honestly, if I were starting from scratch, I’d do a geek theme tree. My family if anything is very geeky and this would fit us. Since it is hard to start from scratch and “buy it all at once” I’d buy temporary ones from the dollar store and/or craft some (be they temporary or yearly). I know there’s Doctor Who snowflake instructions for weeping angels and two other things that could be used as the base ornaments (if I had it in me to cut all those out).

    Another theme I might do is “sweets” because the holidays are about my baking and making treats. The whole family looks forward to that. And I think this is one that with a little bit of crafting can be accomplished first year out. Though, I’m not sure how this would mix with yearly bought ornaments.

    But these are trees I’d do for my family, and a very long way of saying I think the tree should fit your family. I think it should reflect something important about or to you be it year round or during the season. Like if Santa is a big thing for everyone, do a Santa tree! If outdoors is big, do outdoors.

    Sorry for rambling.

  • carenksr

    I lost a lot of feathered bird ornaments a few years ago, it was tragic. Funny thing…I work at a Christmas store! At work, all of the trees have themes. I like them, they’re beautiful. But I love the eclectic tacky Christmas. If you can see green, there’s not enough ornaments on it. I like the old fashioned shiny bright glass ornaments for sparkle, candy canes, and fuzzy silver garland. Not to mention the elf legs sticking out and every Christmas ornament my kids have ever made. Come to think of it, I may not be the person to ask.

    • Kate Sparkes

      I think you’re a fantastic person to ask! I’m always amazed by professionally decorated trees. Even with the exact same ornaments available, I could never create anything that beautiful.

      Man, fuzzy silver garland makes me think of my Nana. I used to love playing with that stuff!

  • Ricarda

    I’d definitely use Mumford as a tree topper^^

    Silliness aside, I never really understood themes. We’ve had everything from silver and pink or red and gold to everything, and I mean literally everything we could put on the tree without making it fall over. I imagine we’d all be sick of a theme by now (neither me nor my brother ever had trees in our own flats, so there’s only The Tree at my parents’ place). There’s something new every year, anyway, because my mum likes hand-made ornaments so much, so our tree never looks the same. We usually pick red or pink as a base because we have lots of those colours, and then go from there. I think our oldest ornament (yep, singular; there’s only one left of the entire set) is one my great-grandma bought when they moved into their new house – about seventy years ago, give or take, and it always ends up somewhere in the tree. There’s a set of glass icicles (used to be two full sets, but my mum bought those when we were still too little to handle anything with care…) that always go on the tree, and a few old brass figurines, too.
    And as long as I can remember, we’ve had candle-shaped lights. The first string broke after about thirty years last winter, so my mum switched to LED lights. Not as cheap initially, but now we all feel much less guilty about the lights being on pretty much all day for weeks. If you need new lights anway, I’d definitely recommend those.

    Personally, I prefer the glass “theme” with the clear ornaments.They sparkle and catch the lights and just generally look sooo pretty *.* (end girly mode) Anyways, glass comes with the added bonus of going with literally everything else that might come along, so they really last. Well, provided kids and cats know they’re not toys. Which might be a problem.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Sadly, Mumford may also have been lost. I’m not done going through everything yet (as I can’t do that until my husband gets the bins outside). If not, though, we’ll find a place for him. 🙂

      Ours will probably turn out quite colourful, so gold won’t be my best option. I just want to sort of stick to one “look” for the base decorations… modern OR classic OR rustic. You know? The mish-mash always bothered me. But the main theme will definitely be “stuff that we like” within a few years of adding decorations.

  • Betty Audet

    If it had been a year ago I could have offered a bin of ornaments, but those are gone.

    • Kate Sparkes

      Aww, thanks. It might have cost a bit to ship them, but I’m sure they were lovely. I’m still going through our bins–I’m hoping to find and save the tree spider I made with uncle Maurice. 🙂

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