I’m about as unreligious as one can get. My live-in partner is, too, except he also hates all visual manifestations of the holidays: Trees, ornaments, mistletoe, all things sparkly and pine-scented—you get the gist. And as much as I understand his argument about fighting back against the church and the man and the superficial/materialistic/marketing-driven ploys to get us to consume as much as possible from November through January, I still like a lit-up tree, dammit. It’s cozy! It’s pretty! It helps me combat my SAD!
I’m not the only non-Christian who enjoys partaking in the joys of a Christmas tree: One of my Jewish friends, Sarah, has thrown a tree-decorating party every year since I’ve known her. She invites a bunch of girlfriends over for cookies, wine, Christmas songs, “Love Actually,” and ornament-hanging. And so what? It makes her—and us—happy, too. Unlike my boyfriend, though, my only beef with the whole Christmas tree tradition is that it does have the potential to easily become cheesy-as-hell if you use (or overuse) the wrong decorations.
On one hand, sure, a kitchen-sink-type tree that’s loaded with ornaments of all types, shapes, colors, and stories can be charming and meaningful. That’s the kind of tree I grew up with, though my mom also strategically placed the uglier ornaments at the back. On the other hand, a tree whose branches are drooping with too many layers of multicolored lights and tacky reindeer ornaments can have the opposite of its intended effect, at least for me—it can be kinda a downer. That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of ideas for how to decorate a gorgeous tree this year. From Nordic minimalism and classic gold-and-silver grandeur, to a vibrantly bohemian floral tree and even a simply bare one (a statement in itself!) these 13 photos will give you the inspiration you need to decorate a tree that feels just right to you.