Home has always been the centre of our celebrations, and there's still no place like it for the holidays. How we decorate our homes for Christmas, Hanukkah or other celebrations is a choice based on very personal traditions of family and faith, but we should remember to deck the halls in a way that respects the environment. The answer lies in finding new ways of reviving the fashions and customs of earlier generations.
- To save energy, reduce the number of lights you put up both inside and outdoors. Use timers on energy-efficient lowwattage strings of lights, or put single 'candle' lights in the front windows.
- Avoid throwaway decorations like balloons and crêpe paper streamers, and decorations like 'spray snow' that come in aerosol cans. Instead, decorate windows with the water-based paints made for temporary use on glass, with swags of natural greenery or paper chains, or with children's artwork.
- Ornaments made by hand hold more warm memories than the prettiest mass-produced decorations. Ornaments made from salt dough or 'baker's clay' are long-lasting, and making them together is a great family activity. Save energy by putting the figures in the oven while it's still warm from holiday baking.
- Young children will have fun making a paper Menorah from used or recycled paper, including paper flames which can be added each time a candle is lit in the family's real Menorah.
- Place living plants and flowering bulbs on a table or hearth: poinsettia, amaryllis, and paperwhite narcissus are seasonal favourites. Plant ornamental trees indoors, or start plants from fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes or lentils to celebrate Tu Bishevat (the New Year for Trees) in our winter climate.
- Decorate a few bare branches pruned from a shrub with bright bark, or bring in pieces of forsythia to 'force' into midwinter bloom. Arrange them in water so they'll keep fresh through the holidays.
- A basket of polished apples, red and green, makes a cheerful centrepiece and keeps a healthy snack at hand.
- Corn husks wrapped around a coat-hanger loop make an unusual wreath, or bind together the tips of fresh evergreen boughs. Add pine cones or berries instead of ribbon. Everything but the wire can be composted and you can save the wire for next year's wreath. If you don't have the time or materials to make a wreath, there are always an abundance of New Brunswick-made evergreen wreaths and garlands available at local farmers' markets during the holiday season.