By Katherine Sharma
It’s that time of year when printed magazines and online social sharing are dominated by holiday decor. This year, I was feeling especially uninspired as I began to haul out old ornaments, yet I couldn’t find the motivation for the effort and expense required to create a new seasonal look. I considered stealing holiday ideas for my house from the nation’s most famous house, the White House.
The newly published Christmas with the First Ladies: The White House Decorating Tradition from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama is by Coleen Christian Burke, a professional holiday decorator who was among the volunteers helping to deck the halls with Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, and it highlights themes for a range of tastes. But I don’t have an army of volunteers to trim my tree or helping hands for all those “handmade ornaments and crafts” on a presidential scale. I’ve never been a big fan of craft projects, to be frank, which is why I also hesitate to buy the popular Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts.
I am attracted to the holiday memories of my regional childhood found in Christmas with Southern Living 2014, especially the recipes, but I am intimidated by the complexity of the elegant decor–those gorgeous floral and wreath arrangements, themed Christmas trees and beautiful gift wrappings. Then it occurred to me: Why should I craft new decorations when I already have a big box of “handmade” holiday items thanks to my children’s 20 years’ worth of school projects? Each child’s holiday decoration had several seasons on the mantel or Christmas tree before being stored away–and forgotten. With bright paint and a heavy dose of glue and glitter, cardboard, paper, Popsicle sticks, pine cones, feathers, clay, felt and ordinary objects had been transformed into the vehicles of warm memories.
When I resurrected the keepsake ornaments and ranged them on the mantel, I realized that these relics of childish holidays shown with an innocent joy that no commercially perfected bauble or well-meaning adult craft could capture. It was decor to suit the family meaning of the holiday in a way no copy of First Lady chic or magazine glamour could deliver. That’s not to say it’s not fascinating to see the changing trends in holiday style exemplified by White House decor, so if you’re interested, you can check out Burke’s book at http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-First-Ladies-Decorating-Jacqueline/dp/1608870464/