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No Theme For Christmas

December 23, 2022

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It's easy to get caught up in the holiday decor comparison game. There are a lot of gorgeous homes out there.

But truth be told, the most beautiful Christmas decorations are yours.

Santa In A Bathtub with ornaments as bubbles

When I was little decorating for Christmas was always so much fun.

On a random Saturday morning in December, my mother would gather up the troops and elect one of us to enter the small crawl space under the stairs to unearth all the boxes.

Since I was number three out of four, and a full eleven years younger than my next eldest sibling, I was usually tapped go inside that teeny space and push.

While that part wasn't really enjoyable, what came next was amazing.

Wooden Santa Claus Display

Trees and Santas exploded onto the scene and within a few hours, the house was turned into a holiday wonderland.

There were two fake trees, a large one downstairs in the den of our high ranch, and a smaller one, perched near living room bay window upstairs.

Treasured ornaments and bulbs of every color hung on those trees, my paper dolls posed on the end tables and red stockings with our names in glitter hung from the mantel.

Santa's Christmas Village Paper Book

Nothing really matched.

The decor was a hodgepodge of colors and styles. Crystal angels were nestled next to tiny handprints and felt elves grabbing their knees.

And while my mom definitely was up all the latest decorating trends, when it came to Christmas she was a sentimental traditionalist.

Occasionally, she would swap out the gold metallic garland for silver tinsel.

Or colored lights for white.

But generally, things looked the same, year after year.

After holiday year.

Christmas Nativity Wooden house

The nativity set was artfully arranged on the top of the tv cabinet and the Santa climbing out of the chimney sat on the shelf over the couch.

There were no rules. It wasn't like my mom was standing over us, saying put that over there and put this up here.

But everything had a place and we all knew where it was.

Our Christmas decor was predictable.


And beautiful.

Shopping trips, circling toys in catalogs, opening presents and parties were all wonderful, but the real Christmas magic started on decorating day.

Vintage Christmas Ornament With Wreath Inside

The day we opened those old liquor boxes, unwrapped the newspaper covered ornaments and watched the memories spill out all over the room.

There was laughter, a few sentimental tears and tales from Christmas holidays gone by. We reminisced. 

We sang along with Mitch Miller as we greeted our old seasonal friends and hung them on the tree.

It was a lovely tradition and one I enjoyed with my own family for many years. Until.

Until I started blogging.

That was the year I'd heard about Christmas themes. Hmmm.

Country Style Christmas Decorations

I mean, I knew of people who had themed trees or themed rooms, but the idea of completely changing my holiday decor every year never dawned on me.

Sure, I definitely added and subtracted a few things when a new December rolled around, but generally, my decor was the same.

Year after holiday year.

Like my moms. 

I had ornaments that made me smile, ones my kids crafted with their tiny hands, a few that were gifts from family, friends or former students.

There were festive wooden signs and macaroni angels, a collection of Santas and trash to treasure sleds that I'd picked up with my husband or kids

And these items became cherished mementos of the season.

Handmade Sock Angel Christmas Ornament

I never thought about having a theme or style for my Christmas decor. It just sort of evolved on its own and that was that.

Our tree had no dominant color. 

There were no big fancy balls or bows. No ribbon or flocking.

It was just jam packed with...well, love.

Unfortunately, in photographs, that love wasn't always super pretty. Our Christmas wasn't styled or shopped. 

And that wouldn't do.

So. The following year, I told my family, we were going to have a rustic Christmas and that meant we were only using the simple, neutral ornaments that fit that theme on our main tree.

Rustic Christmas Living Room

And all the mismatched, sentimental ornaments and accessories ones would be going downstairs. The end.

There would be no stuffed Santas and singing trees. And certainly no primary colored, motorized Elmos, like the one my mom bought for my daughter for her first Christmas.

No. The living room tree was going to be magazine worthy and that was that.

Truth be told, it ended up being a very nice look. Nice enough that we continued along the same path for a bit.

Basically more cottage style Christmas themes.

Living Room Christmas Cottage Decor at night

I went with big red shiny balls one year and  I decided that no ornaments looked best.
Just was very en vogue...and it photographed so well.

Once, I even removed most my beloved red and replaced it with white.

Christmas Tree with lights and Without Ornaments

Of course, that was the last straw for my family. They were losing patience with me and my themes.

So eventually they took control and the old ornaments went back up, without a peep from me. They put what they wanted, where they wanted.

They pulled out the singing trees, the wooden signs, the plushy Santas, even Elmo...and just like Christmas all those years ago, I watched as the memories and the joy of decorating filled the room.

And you know what? It actually looked amazing.

Our themeless Christmas home.

Thrift Store Christmas Decor

Except it did have a theme.

A very beautiful, personal, unique theme.

And it was Christmas. My family's Christmas. Our traditions, our vacations, our milestones and our memories.

The kind of Christmas decorating that could never be captured in print or bought in bulk at a store.

A fact that I failed to notice while I was comparing my home to those on Instagram.

Oh, it might not photograph very well or be magazine worthy, but when we open the boxes and we hang each one of those sentimental treasures on a branch, we're visiting with old friends.

Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations in a Living Room

Singing along with Mitch Miller.

Laughing, crying, reminiscing.

Celebrating the very best that the season has to offer.

And to me there's not better theme for a holiday.


Merry Christmas, friends!

Kim Signature

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  1. Thank you, beautifully stated. I so agree. Merry Christmas XO

  2. I have never had a theme. Our tree is also a hodgepodge of sentimental ornaments. I smile every time I look at that tree. Merry Christmas!! - Briana from Texas

    1. It sounds beautiful, Briana!! Merry Christmas!!

  3. The “trying to be different/better”’is a reason I stopped blogging. Comparison is the thief of joy and I just couldn’t do it. I also don’t have the money for constant purchases and changes. Your Christmases as a child are the treasured memories and I’m glad your family is doing the same now. So many memories and traditions just make it all so special!
    Wishing you and yours a blessed and very Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks Pat!! Those Christmases really were the best. My kids were in their teens when I started shaking things up, so I'm glad they also have some lovely memories of those same kinds of decorating days. It was a fun detour, but I'm glad we've been diving back into tradition! Wishing you and yours the Merriest of Christmases, too!! ❤️

  4. Yes you are right...remembering the charm of the older items. My neighbor children always gave me new self photos in clear glass balls ready for hanging. Memories can certainly put priorties in order. May God continue to remind us of our covenant with Him as we continue to remember our Redeemer.

    1. What a great comment...Memories can certainly put priorities in order. I love that!! You are so right! Wishing you and yours a lovely Christmas! 🎄

  5. We do the same thing, Kim. The ornaments and other decorations are the same with a few that have been added over the years and we welcome them back every year. The memories are much more important than a 'magazine worthy' tree! Merry Christmas!

    1. I agree, Ann. Christmas decorating, to me, is no different that decorating in general. I love the story behind the item as much as the display itself. Merry Christmas my friend!! xxoo

  6. I love my traditional all-types-of-ornaments look. I remanence as I place the ornaments on the tree; who gave us the ornaments and when, and I place the like kinds together!!! I tried going with just the "Hallmark" ornaments but the tree looks bare compared to this year's!!! Lol I have too many items to set around to change them or put them away and buy new to have a theme!!!

    1. There's nothing like a traditional all types of ornaments look. During the years when I did do the themes upstairs, I gave the kids free reign in our basement, so at least we had a sentimental holiday below deck!! Haha!! Merry Christmas!!

  7. Nothing wrong with a hodge podge of Christmas decorations. I love to recycle mine and switch things around. I may not pull everything out. I do switch out how I decorate one tree. Most of the time, I am using many thing already on hand. Crazy to buy all new stuff. My children are grown so many of their ornaments and homemade ornaments they made have been given to them for their family trees.

    1. Hodgepodge Christmases for the win, Tammy!! I have to say the only "new" things I've purchased for Christmas in the past several years have been thrifted items. I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the stories about what came from where...and the kids like it, too! Merry Christmas!

  8. Great post, Kim! I agree that holidays are all about family tradition. The things that make lasting memories, like your decorating day when you were a kid. That's what our kids remember, and will pass down to their own kids someday. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks Amy! I didn’t start “theming” until the kids were deep into their teens. The fact that in their late teens, early twenties they decided memories and tradition were more important than aesthetics tells me that it’s something they’ll be doing themselves as well!! Happy Holidays and I hope you have a lovely weekend!!

  9. You are 100% correct, and I salute you for coming out and saying it. I wonder about the children in the homes of those "designer-look" Christmas trees. What kinds of memories will they have? I don't have children of my own (I acquired 2 teenage boys when I married in my 40's.) But i still have and put out ornaments from my childhood, and my Mother's wrought iron half-size "Victorian" style street lamp that I decorate with birds and greenery. Everything else is what I have had and used for years. This is a direct quote from my Christmas post this year: "I have a deep traditional street and am simply (and happily) oblivious to the Christmas trends zooming around blogland." Can you tell I have strong feelings about this? I'm so glad I found your blog this year. Best wishes to you and your family for a truly joyous and wonderful Christmas.

    1. I'm glad to hear I'm not alone, Kristine! The designer look trees are lovely and I've always been a strong, do what makes you smile decorating advocate, so if that's your thing, I say go for it. However, for me and my family, tradition seems to be what makes us grin. And yes, so much happier the past several years, in my oblivious state!! Your kind comment has also made me smile today, thank you, and Merry Christmas to you and your family, as well! Enjoy the weekend!!

  10. 100%, yes yes yes. Comparison is the thief of joy. I pulled out more old favorites this year, thinking "why keep them in boxes forever?". It was eye opening. They bring back so many memories! My mother NEVER decorated our house in any way, and she wasn't about to start that for Christmas. Perhaps that's why my home needs to be pretty, cozy, holiday, warm, and smell wonderful at Chrismtastime. Its an expression of love for my family. Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

    1. Yes, I believe that creating a pretty (and great smelling!) home is absolutely an expression of love for your family...especially during the holidays. I'm glad my own family gave me the room to experiment with themes a bit, but it just led me back to my own, old well worn decorating path!! Merry Christmas Gina!!

  11. One of my favorite parts of decorating for Christmas is reminiscing about where the ornaments came from. I don't think I would enjoy doing themes much.

    1. It's been much more fun, these past few years, to go back to having our traditional decor back on our main tree upstairs. It's much more enjoyable than the themes!! Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!!

  12. I cried while reading this, Kim. Yep, same kind of Christmas for me. I don’t even buy anything new for I love the old, familiar decorations from years gone by. Thank you for writing this, dear Kim. Merry Christmas to you and your family. ❤️🎄❤️

    1. Merry Christmas, Kitty! I'm sorry about the tears, but I cried a bit while I was writing it, too. It had me thinking of my dear parents who created those lovely traditions for me...and missing them during this lovely season. I hope you have a wonderful weekend surrounded by your sweet, sweet family and your familiar, sentimental decor! ❤️

  13. It's all beautiful Kim. I love that your girls still want to keep up tradition. I have passed down a lot of my Christmas traditions and decor to my two daughters and now that they host they keep those traditions going. They even love putting their ornaments and treasures made from their childhood on their tree along with their daughters handmade items. Traditions are always the best. Merry Christmas. xoxo Kris

  14. You can't beat traditional and sentimental! I wish I had some of those old ornaments back. I got rid of much of our stuff when we moved and I miss it. Everything got pared waaay down, and I miss it. But, the lights are so pretty, now I don't put ornaments up. Pre-lit Christmas tree lights seem to be bigger than the old strands, or maybe it's my imagination. Anyhow I've never used ribbons in trees, but they are pretty.

  15. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

    All the best Jan

  16. Mitch Miller? Seriously, you're old enough to remember Mitch? Not the Mitch Miller show on TV, surely, With the bouncing ball on the musical notes? LOL So much of what you shared about your mom's Christmas decor and the reminiscing brought back memories of my own childhood. There was something so comforting about unwrapping those same ornaments year after year and hanging them on the tree. We had bubble lights for years. I think she finally got rid of them when the little white lights came on the scene...that was long after I was married. Your Christmas decor is always charming. Hugs and Merry Christmas!

  17. Merry Christmas, Kim! I enjoyed reading your Christmas memories and thoughts on decorating traditions. I hope you’re having a lovely Christmas 2022!

  18. Merry Christmas, Kim and you couldn't have said it better. That's what Christmas is all about. Good memories, laughter and above all else LOVE. Sadly we can't put up a tree. Our cats see it as their personal playground and the sound of baubles and tinsel crashing to ground in the middle of the night is enough to make anyone think that World War II is upon us. We do decorate in a cat-friendly way though, but not so much now that the kids have both moved to Canada. Sending lots of love from S Africa.

  19. Kim , I’m 100% with you. I never actually went the themed route. I always wanted a tree that told our live’s story. If anything in our homes can have a soul, it is our Christmas tree. Merry Christmas my girl.

  20. Hello Friend,
    Oh goodness, the memories rushed over me when I read "I was the one tapped on the shoulder to go into the tiny crawl space and push the items out." Hee Hee. I had to do the same for my Grandma Vida.
    I have so many stories about helping her decorate for Christmas.
    I enjoyed your post Kim, as always right to the heart.
    xx oo

  21. I love decorating the house and our tree with all of our ornaments from when we were all children. It's so nice to just decorate for the holidays without a theme. The themed trees look beautiful but there isn't anything sentimental about them. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas Kim. Wishing you a happy new year.

  22. Kim,
    can you hear me loudly applauding you ???? This was one of the best Christmas posts that I have ever read!! Yes, i do different color themes for me rooms but I have done that for 20= years so it is my tradition for Christmas for my home. I can not even imagine changing the entire look of my home each year for Christmas...I may move a few things around, add some new things but for the most part, my home looks the same each year....On the top of my Christmas blog, I mention that at Christmas, it is like seeing old friends when i unpack my decorations because many were gifted to me by family and dear friends...So I APPLAUD you for decorating your home for Christmas in YOUR FAMILY"S STYLE!!! Kudos to you, my friend!!