How to Decorate Christmas Trees

Originally published in The Cottage Hearth, December 1876

The popular custom of preparing Christmas trees for the delight and amusement of young and old, increases yearly; and the question, “How shall I trim one?” is often asked. In the Country Gentlemen, “Daisy Eyebright” tells how to do this. I shall try to answer it. If you can obtain the tree from some pine woods near at hand, select a finely shaped fir balsam or spruce, with firm branches, and about nine or ten feet in height. Then spread a large sheet over one end of the parlor carpet, and put a good-sized tea chest in the center of it.

Couple kiss beside the Christmas tree in this antique German postcard.

A charming antique Christmas postcard from our collection.

The lower limbs of the tree must be sawn off so that it can be firmly fixed into the box; and any small heavy articles, like weights and flatirons, can be put in for ballast, to keep the tree firmly in place. Then fill up the box with hard coal. The chest must be concealed with some pretty material; old curtains will answer the purpose, or the American flag; and a white furry robe is also suitable. Drape these articles close to the tree, and let them trail a little on the floor, to make a graceful sweep.

Now the tree is planted, and we must proceed to decorate it. Make chains of popped corn, strung together with needle and thread; at least a dozen yards will be none too much for a large-sized tree, and the pure white festoons entwined amid the dark green branches of the tree produce a fine effect.

We must also have chains made either of glazed scarlet, gilt or silver; cut the paper into small strips, four inches long and not half an inch in width; fasten the two ends of each strip together with flour paste, and make half of them into rings; then take the rest and make into similar rings, but first slip each strip through two of the dried rings before joining the ends. In this manner all the slips of paper are interlaced, and we have a chain of rings which will greatly adorn our tree. They must be festooned in long, graceful loops from limb to limb, and the effect is very charming.

All this work the children can do, and it will add greatly to the entertainment of the long evenings at this season. They can also assist in covering English walnuts with tinfoil, or gilt paper, and in filling small apples with cloves, which will serve to keep moths from the drawers of our bureaus, and therefore make inexpensive but acceptable presents.

If we posses a cracked mirror we must take it to the glazier’s, and ask him to cut it into two inch squares. Around the edges and across the backs colored paper must be pasted, and long ribbon loops attached to the backs by which to suspend them behind the tiny wax candles, where they will do duty as reflectors.

Fancy glass balls of all colors can be purchased for a few cents each; and several dozen of colored wax candles, with tin rests to attach them to the tree, can be bought. Self-balancing candle holders can also be found at most toy shops, and need only to be placed on the branches. If these cannot be obtained, common copper wire can be heated a little way, and the other end can be twisted firmly about the branch. If the wicks are brushed over with a little kerosene put on with a camel’s hair brush, they will light very quickly.

The light, showy gifts can be suspended upon the tree, but the heavier ones must be laid upon the piano or table, or else wrapped in paper and arranged around the base of the tree. A pair of scissor must be in readiness to cut the gifts from the branches. When such a tree is trimmed, filled with gifts and lighted, it is indeed a beautiful sight — a graceful green pyramid, with the numberless little jets of flame, trembling and flashing mirrors, garlands of bright hues — all brightness, sparkle and color. Try it, fair friends, and see for yourselves how lovely it is.

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