Christmas Freak

The merriest corner of the Internet

Category: Decor

The Back of the Tree

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This is a divisive subject, one that might ruffle some partridge feathers, but I’ll just come out with it because here at Christmas Freak we don’t shy away from the tough issues: Does it really need to be decorated? I think of it as the tree’s built-in spare room, existing solely for excess tinsel storage. If I’m feeling particularly sentimental, I’ll hang a sad, bottom-of-the-box ornament on a rear branch, but I otherwise concentrate my efforts on the front of the tree because this is the 21st century and I’m too busy Google street viewing the North Pole to worry myself with formalities.

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Heavy Paper Stock

and a snug envelope and a ballpoint pen ripe enough to turn punctuation into heartfelt blots and misspelled words into beautiful cursive. Put on a baggy sweater and write someone a note under the dim light of your desk lamp, then fall asleep dreaming of wintery nights in shades of brilliant white and ivory linen, pearl cotton and classic cream; a line of watermarks barely visible beneath the snow.

 

Inconspicuous Tree Disposal

The trick to taking down your Christmas tree without leaving a trail of needles down the hallway of your apartment building and thus drawing attention to your Christmas Freak status is to keep it for so long that by March 1, you’ve vacuumed it all up.

Christmas Tree Graveyards

Bloodbath.

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Wrapping Paper Ball

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The most versatile sport. Wrapping Paper basketball is a classic, an across-the-room giftbox as the hoop. Its close relation, Wrapping Paper dodgeball, uses the unconventional sofa cushion as a shield. A quick game of Wrapping Paper hacky sack can be played solo or with a group. Ditto for juggling. Though my personal favorite is Wrapping Paper kickball, which requires little to no coordination, and seems to go on for days after Christmas, the stray balls gathering dust beneath the radiator. There’s nothing more satisfying than sliding across the carpet in a pair of wool socks and kicking a knot of wrapping paper out of your way as you go about your business.

I’m not a sports person, but this time of year makes me wonder if I could be. I’m thinking Superbowls played with crumpled paper tied with twine, March Maddness hoops swapped with garbage bins and brown bags from Macy’s, Stanley Cup players padded with bubble wrap, their suits stuffed with packing peanuts, their visors made of that awful plastic packaging that encases electronics. Even trash is festive on Christmas.

Garnish

New Year’s Eve is always a let down when you’re expecting a second Christmas instead of a party that starts too early, making it impossible to show up fashionably late; swaps sequins for tinsel, listicles for icicles, mini dresses for fair isle, and boring champagne for spiked nog, mulled wine, and punch; and ends with a countdown to January, which is arguably the second worst month of the year. Enter garnish, Christmas decor in miniature. A tri-colored wreath of caviar. Crimped carrots and leafy tufts of kale fanned along the edges of a platter. A cozy bed of lettuce. Snowy sugared rims and ribbons of lemon peel suspended in syrup and maraschino cherries dangling in grenadine like ornaments. You can find Christmas in almost any holiday.

The L.L.Bean Holiday Catalog

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I need all of these items. A wreath? Can never have too many. A handheld radio? Essential for power outages. A pop-up lantern? Perfect for camping out under the table with a plate of cookies. A headlamp? Great for attic gift spelunking. A fleece-lined flannel shirt? All clothes should be lined with a blanket. Sheepskin booties? Just look at them.

Though I spend most of the year trying to outsmart junk mailings with pseudonyms and trails of fake addresses, I cherish the arrival of the holiday catalog. I save it for when I’m all alone, then dim the lights, cue the Motown holiday hits, bust out the mulled cider, and slowly peruse each page with a sharpie and a set of post-its while slathering myself with maple syrup and peppermint melt-away crumbles. Wherever you are, I hope your Christmas Eve is bursting with the anticipation of sugary treats and snowy nights bundled with fleece, of french toast doused in jam and syrup, and inessential essentials piled beneath the tree come morning.

The Furtive Poinsettia

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I’ve never been fond of poinsettias. I consider them sly and untrustworthy. Their “petals” look suspiciously similar to the leaves beneath, and though the vibrant red looks good from far away, it has this odd dustiness that seems noxious if airborne, and makes me wonder if the color was sprayed on. Do they even need water? Unclear. I don’t even like to walk close to them when they’re displayed by the entrance of a store. It seems unwise to turn one’s back on a plant that is trying to disguise itself as a ribbon. To what end?

It took seeing a pale, sickly poinsettia discarded in the parking lot at Trader Joe’s to change my mind. Its foil was shredded from the wind, its leaves frostbitten and dappled with white spots. The ghost of Christmas past must have entered me, for I felt so sorry for it that I almost picked it up and put it my trunk. It looked so lonely. I didn’t, of course. I left it there, and watched as a minivan backed into it. I suppose it was inevitable, though I drove home feeling like a scrooge. What’s wrong with a bunch of ugly little plants trying to get into the holiday spirit? They deserve happiness, too.

Urban Tree Toppers

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In the decade plus that I lived in New York, I don’t think I ever saw a star. I was too busy peering into other people windows, checking out their furniture. Besides, most city dwellers know that a distant airplane can look just as pretty as a star, and that the lit up windows of a skyscraper can look just as lovely as a constellation. So when I was looking for a tree-topper, a star just felt . . . unnatural. If you live in New York and feel like personalizing your tree, may I suggest topping it with a homemade water tower? Mine also ended up looking kind of like a rocket ship; I like that it’s up for interpretation. Below are a few more ideas:

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Clockwise from the top left is a cloud of fog for San Francisco. Which can also be used as smog for LA. The O is obviously for Chicago. Oprah! And then a burning Red Sox car for Boston. Sorry if I didn’t name your city. I need to travel more, and plane tickets always seem too complicated to put on a Christmas list.

Every Paper Snowflake is Unique Chain

Proceed with normal paper snowflake chain making. Unravel, then snip indiscriminate bits off of each flake. Step back and behold the marriage of nature and art.

Nativity Scene Storage

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(not enough nativity)

When it comes to nativity scenes, the more life-sized and three-dimensional the better. I want lit-up figurines and burlap robes and hay, lots of hay. I’m looking for an immersive experience. In my ideal world, they would be kept up year round, which is why I’ve never given much thought to nativity scene disassembly. It seems an assumed fact that nativity scenes just vanish after December 25th, the golden light around them fading into the snowy sky like a distant, benevolent star.

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(not enough hay)

But the other day while I was driving back from the grocery store, an awful image flashed through my mind: a middle-aged man jamming a life-sized Joseph figurine into a shed packed with crap. That got me picturing storage lockers crammed with off-season mangers, tool closets wedged with a macabre mix of shepherds and hedge clippers and snowblowers, Mary’s unblinking eyes staring vacantly at the drafty cobwebs lining the roof. Jeez. Can all you Bethlehem landlords please just go buy a separate manger shed? And promise me that all the figures will be standing upright. Perhaps you can even position them dramatically. Maybe shine a light up at them for some ambiance, open the door to give them some air, then scoot the shed closer to the front lawn until it’s visible from the street. Just throwing ideas out there.

Strings of Things

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December will forever be the month when adults are allowed to produce arts & crafts that would, in any of the other eleven months of the year, be considered the equivalent of noodle art, and not be ridiculed. I want to say that I created the above “holiday garland” from artisanal kraft paper, using Biblical folding techniques, but in reality I stapled a bunch of toilet paper dowels together, then applauded myself for creating something that looked marginally like home decor. Maybe we can run with the “k” thing and call this “kringle paper.” Waste not, want not, okay? It’s the spirit of the season.

Kringle paper was borne from my desire to decorate my living room with ye olde strings of popcorn and cranberries. Then fear took hold. What if I get ants? What if the cranberries shrivel and grow mold? Perhaps I’m betraying how long I usually keep my tree (three months). Then I had a thought: Craisins! But when I strung them, they ended up looking like . . . elf turds.

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Though I kind of like it. It makes me think of Ye Olde ChristmasFreaks of Yore, taking down their trees in March only to discover an accidental garland of dried fruit. Christmas concentrated.

Heavy Ornaments

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(dramatic rendering)

Why do they exist? The above ornament weighs more than my cat. The only branch that can sustain its weight is a stubby one deep in the middle, so densely covered in pine that I can only see the ornament when I bend down to water the tree. So unfestive! Also, I really think its weight has set my tree slightly askew (though I suppose that could also be the product of an uncalibrated tree holder). The paranoid part of me wonders if this is a scheme devised by ornament fabricators to trick us into buying a second heavy ornament to balance the tree on the other side. A Christmas Conspiracy! One so insidious, so pervasive that it can be traced up to the executive branch of the government! One so terrible that once it’s revealed we’ll have to hold a second, even better Christmas to make up for the first. Lightweight ornaments for all, pine needles scattered across the streets like confetti, 2.5 Christmas trees for every household . . . ! End fantasy.

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