‘Twas the night before Christmas

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. If you celebrate Christmas but haven’t gotten a tree yet, I encourage you to get creative with what can be used instead of the traditional pine tree. I’ve seen some lovely decorated ficus plants, and if you live in the desert, cactus is a festive vehicle for lights and ornaments. You might have just the thing already, in your home or yard. The possibilities are endless. This is my neighbor’s gorgeous, non-traditional Christmas tree. He created it out of salvaged branches from an orange tree in his yard, spray-painted white, so it’s green and non-consumer as well. The beautiful ornaments have been collected over decades, many of them antiques from France, some almost 100 years old. He usually puts up a tall Noble fir tree and decorates it like the tree in the Ingmar Bergman film Fanny and Alexander. When you’re invited over for a tree viewing, he dims the lights and lights the candles. I love the ritual, especially since it’s usually accompanied by a tasting of homemade liqueurs.

This year he wanted to do something different and I think it’s stunning. He used a bird and fruit theme with the ornaments, which I will try to photograph up close before he takes it down. The photo at the top is the clearest and shows the most detail, but since I cut off the top of the tree, I wanted you to see the shape of the whole tableau, so I included the photo below. It’s not as clear, but you can see the top of the tree and all of the lit candles.

Of course this is the same neighbor who loans us his “tree sculpture” every year that I showed you a few days back. How lucky we are to have such a creative and generous neighbor who has become our good friend. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the possibilities you can come up with for a non-traditional Christmas tree, depending on where you live and what you can salvage.
Do you celebrate Christmas? Have you ever put up a non-traditional tree? Tell us about it in the Comments section. And click here to read about the non-traditional tree we’ve decorated the past several years.


  1. says

    My better half and I sometimes but heads on the non-consumer front. I wanted to borrow a tree from our friends who have two and don’t use them both. He thinks I am insane and we don’t have to get “EVERTYTHING used”. Bah. Mother-in-law purchased new Christmas tree and ornaments. I have decided to choose my battles carefully.

    • Angela says

      Casie- Very wise, choosing your battles carefully. It is amazing that anyone would actually need a new tree and ornaments, but I watched my mother buy new things she didn’t need my whole life. She’s spent the last 20 years storing, managing, moving, selling, giving away, and losing things. I have learned a lot from her about what I DON’T want, so in a strange way I’m grateful.

      • says

        I sometimes think that my husband is just afraid that if I take this thing too far, I am going to stop wearing deodorant and want us to move to the woods and eat crickets :).

    • Angela says

      It really was a beauty- I’m glad I reposted since not all my delightful readers were around last year :)
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Mrs. B says

    This is the year I am going to purchase a couple of small trees…root ball and all. I plan on planting them in really big pots to leave on my porch. Next year I will bring them or one of them in the house come the holidays, decorate it/them and then back out to the porch. I will have pretty and live trees that I can use over and over and over again. I am tired of seeing dead trees sitting out by the curb after the holiday season.

    • Angela says

      Mrs. B- I love that idea! I can’t tell you how much I agree with the “dead tree by the curb” sentiment. I once did a photography project showing discarded trees, with the date in March. Everyone told me it was just depressing. It is! I hate the dead tree phenomenon! Thanks for commenting!

  3. robbiekay says

    When I was 16 we wintered in the Miami area and had a rubber tree that we decorated. My mother and I cut out shapes from wrapping paper and taped them on the tree. We still talk about it 24 years later. Just further proof that experiences are more meaningful than “stuff”–couldn’t tell ya what I received under the “Christmas tree” that year!

    • Angela says

      Robbiekay- Oh, thanks for sharing that story. That’s brilliant- just goes to prove anything will work, and if you’re set on a tree, there are plenty of types that will work. I agree it’s about experiences over stuff, and I think it’s also about accepting where you are, instead of trying to be in a Christmas card of snow and trees, when that’s not where you live.

  4. says

    OMG! I love it! I’ve borrowed trees for years, or made do with our tiny 3.5 footer. I really wanted to do a real, potted tree this year, but ended up buying a 9ft artificial “pencil fir” because I have 10ft ceilings and I saw a good deal. However, I absolutely LOVE your neighbor’s tree, probably better than mine– mostly because he used what he had so creatively! When I think outside of the box and overcome obstacles it is so much more fulfilling than just running out an buying something to meet the need on impulse.

    • Angela says

      Ms. Oomph- Yes, it really is gorgeous, isn’t it? So glad you like it! I’m sure you’ll use your artificial tree for years- I hope it works out great. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Katie says

    Your neighbor’s tree is so beautiful! He has a wonderful eye, and I love that he made it from branches from his own yard. I used to live near a friend who had a curly willow tree. I’d gather the fallen branches and hang them in bunches over my bed – those were some of my favorite decorations.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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