Our Holiday Tree

This is our version of a holiday tree. If you celebrate Christmas, I wanted to talk about another alternative to a live cut tree or an artificial tree. I love Christmas trees, but since my husband isn’t quite as enthusiastic about them as I am, I was usually left with the task of buying and decorating the tree myself. So I started having a tree delivered to the house as part of a fund raiser for the local high school boys’ tennis team, and that was great for a few years. Until three years ago when they delivered the tree on December 1st, and it was dry and nearly dead by Christmas day.

That’s when I borrowed my neighbor’s “tree sculpture” and have been using it ever since. It lets me have a holiday tree with almost no hassle. I still get to hang some of our favorite ornaments, but I don’t have to drag a tree across our hardwood floor and clean up pine needles afterward or worry about disposing of it after the holiday. It’s also extremely green and frugal. And very Compact-y, since I’m borrowing the tree each year and purchasing nothing new.

These are a few of our favorite ornaments, like this Nutcracker from my husband’s favorite aunt who has since died…
This is one of the beautiful ornaments my friend put on the tree before I borrowed it. He’s from France and has an amazing collection of antique ornaments…

This beautiful bird was a gift from a good friend. It’s a piece of art…

And MLK has a spot at the top of our tree…

This tree was purchased several years ago at a store called Smith & Hawken that has recently gone out of business. But the options are endless as far as materials you could use as a “tree alternative.” One idea would be a tree branch, perhaps spray painted white before you decorate it. That would work well with a bush that grows in California called manzanita. The wood is both sculptural and hard.

Of course the downside of our tree is the lack of that fresh pine scent. And I do miss that. I’m not saying I’ll never have a live tree again, but for now our borrowed tree has been working great for us.
Do you celebrate Christmas? Do you put up a tree? Do you have any creative holiday tree alternatives to share? Tell us about it in the Comments section.


  1. Lisa says

    Angela- Beautiful tree and a great idea! Because of pets and lack of space, I haven't put a tree up this year. As a stand in, I'm lighting my purple glitter Lava lamp (bought used at a yard sale for $5). As for the scent of Xmas, I burn candles and incense. For ones that are unscented, a tip I read suggested that you drop a few drops of scented oil next to the wick. Peppermint or cinnamon would be good ones to try.

  2. taibhsearachd says

    This is a fabulous idea! I have been struggling with the whole Christmas tree idea for some time. Our choices here in terms of a fur tree are either to purchase at an exorbitant price a tree that has been shipped to the Yukon all the way from Washinton State and is totally dried out by the time it gets here, or to cut a Charlie Brown tree from the wild (our harsh climate means our fur and pine trees are very skinny with sparse branches). This year I opted for a Charlie Brown tree (fresh and free even though it wouldn't make the cut in the various Home and Garden magazines). Your solution seems perfect to me.

  3. ksmedgirl says

    I have a friend that uses a ficus tree that she keeps year round in her home. She just puts lights & a few ornaments on it at Christmas. I love the way it looks, almost tropical.

    We just used a tabletop tree this year (that has always been in one of the kids' bedrooms in the past.) I put it in the big white bowl that goes with a pitcher (one of the Victorian thingies), a string of battery operated lights, and a popsicle stick star my daughter made. It sits on top of an antique dresser with a mirror. The whole thing is simple and pretty.

  4. Donna Freedman says

    I have a tabletop tree, too: It takes about 5 minutes to decorate, doesn't shed and sits neatly out of the way on top of a bookcase. I bought it for a dollar from a rummage sale the year I got here; another dollar paid for lights, and a sandwich bag of ornaments cost a quarter.
    When I plug it in and turn out the other lights in the room, it makes me happy.
    The advantage to your tree, Angela, is that you can showcase some larger-scale ornaments. I like the way you've decorated it.
    And yeah, no needles to vacuum up, either.

  5. www.judyroutson.wordpress.com says

    Like many others, I opted out of the traditional Christmas tree custom for the second year in a year, due to space and health problems (see my latest blog, http://www.judyroutson.wordpress.com). I recycled two tiny outdoor artificial trees (attached by a very short electrical cord), which I originally bought on sale at the dollar store. With the tiny white lights attached, they are beautiful! Of course, only the tiniest of decorations can be attached.
    None of my Christmas ornaments are ordinary, since we've collected them during our travels around the country, or they've been made by our grandchildren when they were small. Others were given to us by friends, so every ornament has a unique history.
    I've sat my favorites on windowsills and bookshelves, and hung some others on an artificial garland strand (from the dollar store)that surrounds the entrance to our living room. Many others hang wherever I could attach them.
    Even without a tree, I can still enjoy memories of Christmases past, and the many places we've visited.

  6. Betsy Talbot says

    What a great spin on the Christmas tradition!

    We don't celebrate Christmas, but I used to know someone back in NM who spray-painted a big tumbleweed every year as her Southwestern version of a tree. She stuck it in a small pot with plaster of paris so it wouldn't tip over, and it worked beautifully. Some years it was gold or silver, and some years green or red.

    I like Alea's idea of having the tree in your house year-round to showcase treasures appropriate to the season.

  7. Angela says

    Thanks for all your comments and sharing your great ideas.

    Betsy- I was thinking of tumbleweed as an option- so cool!

  8. Julie says

    I used to have a fresh tree every year until my late '20's, when I converted to Judaism when I got married. I don't miss any of the mess, but I do miss the smell—so I'm the crazy lady sniffing trees in public places or people's homes. :-) And I used to collect ornaments, and bought many in Europe. I gave them to my sister and don't think she uses them, but we're not close and don't see each other very often even though she lives an hour away. I did keep a few, like a delicate gold angel and a chimney sweep riding a pig(two things which are good luck in Austria!) My son had some friends over to play last week and they were astonished to not find a tree in our house on Dec. 22nd. He (age 8)explained our holiday, showed them the menorah and bragged about getting 8 presents (he doesn't know that many kids get WAY more presents than that under their tree, and I intend to keep him in the dark about that for as long as possible, since even getting 8 presents {even when some are small or books} seems like overkill to me!) Anyway, I love your tree Angela, because it showcases a few special ornaments, instead of them being buried beneath a ton of other stuff. It's a perfect example of your "less is more" and "buy nothing new" philosophies. How great that you can live that way every day, even during this time that leads so many to excess.


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