I didn’t even have one Christmas ornament. We didn’t have a tree or stockings or anything even resembling a manger scene. We lived in an area that did not celebrate Christmas, and did not have any stores that sold Christmas stuff. It was a pretty dismal year. We had to use pillowcases for our kid’s stockings. I felt like a failure as a mom. I had friends tell me sweet things like, “Christmas is not about the decorations.” and “You will get to find out the true spirit of Christmas.” I know my friends meant well but it didn’t make me feel any better.

It was a difficult season. Our family decorations aren’t meant to impress anyone. They aren’t about an insatiable desire to buy everything we see. They are part of our family tradition. They ground us to our history. They help us celebrate who we are as a family.

The next year, I planned ahead. I hauled an artificial tree over the island on a float plane. I had my sister send us our special family ornaments, like our honeymoon ornament, our babies’ first ornaments and that vacation to Arizona ornament. I read an old December “Real Simple” magazine for inspiration. Remember when we actually read magazines? Those were the years before Pinterest. In that magazine I found cute diy instructions on how to make your own Christmas tree bunting. Even though at the time I didn’t consider myself a “crafty” person, I was motivated to make that Christmas the best I could make it. I thought to myself, “Anyone can cut out a Christmas tree.” That bunting turned out great. I still have it and use it to this day. It’s seven years old, but it still looks great.

That year I made as many DIY decorations that I could think of. I laminated the kid’s Christmas art and hung it up, we cut out tons of snowflakes, and I bought the only Christmas lights I could find. They were left over Chinese New Year lights, but I bought them anyway.

It was so much fun. Except for our family Christmas ornaments from home, there was not one store bought decoration in the house. And to my kids, we had the most decorated house on the block. We had the only decorated house on the block. But that’s beside the point. It was magical.

In the spirit of that wonderful year, I have gathered a list of do-able DIY decorating projects from Pinterest. These are especially selected for those of us away from home this year. It’s for those who want to add a bit of magic into their homes. For those who may be away from everything that is familiar. You may or may not have everything you need to make every single one of these. Pick and choose what works best where you are and don’t forget the expat’s most useful word…substitute, substitute, substitute. If you don’t have every single thing needed for every project, think through what you can substitute.

Are you without a tree (and maybe even the option to purchase a new one)? Try these Christmas tree alternatives.

Now it’s time to decorate your tree (or tree substitute) with some homemade ornaments. Try making your own salt dough ornaments, cinnamon ornaments, and string ornaments.

If you like to put a star on top of your tree, you should try making a twig star. You can make even more twig stars and attach string if you need some more ornaments.

Next, you’re going to want to deck the halls with some festive bunting and holiday garland.

Maybe you feel like your home still needs a little more holiday cheer. Try your hand at painting your own Christmas art on canvas, like this piece of art.

This snowflake seems easy enough to make (if you can get your hands on some popsicle sticks). The perfect decor for your front door.

Finally, as you wrap gifts for you loved ones, add a homemade gift tag similar to these for a personal touch.


What are some of your favorite decorations to put up for Christmas? Are any of them handmade? Do you have any favorite decorations that bring back  fond memories?




Feature Image by Industructables.com