Maybe it’s the sparse foliage or the colder weather, but decorating for fall and winter holidays seems so much more important – and more inviting – than any other time of year. With frequent family gatherings during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, among other holidays, creating a cheerful, gracious atmosphere for guests is de rigueur.
Whether you’ll be decorating on a dime or are ready to call in the pros, here are five tips for making your home safe, inviting and delightful during the holiday season:
- Hire professional decorators.
- Make your own decorations.
- Keep safety in mind.
- Make guests feel welcome.
- Remember your pets.
Outsource Your Holiday Chores
For magnificent holiday decor with minimal effort, tapping into professional decorators is a wonderful time-saver during the busiest, most stressful time of year. While some contractors work exclusively outdoors, creating lighting extravaganzas to rival that of Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” many full-service holiday decorators offer extensive interior and exterior services encompassing stoops, stairwells, fireplaces, Christmas trees, dining tables and more.
Check your local business listings, homeowners association and personal network for recommendations, and be sure to ask all the right questions before signing up. For example, what exactly does the quote include? How long does installation take? What items are you buying and what components are you renting during the installation? If fresh foliage will be used, how should it be cared for and how long should it be expected to last? What are your options if anything begins to wilt or sag unexpectedly? Does the contracted price include post-holiday undecorating, and if so, how do you go about scheduling the removal?
Make Merry While Saving Money
If the expense of a professional decorator is out of reach, fantastic holiday decor is easily achievable on a small budget. In fact, handmade decorations often last longer, have a warmer appeal and provide an excellent opportunity to get creative while spending time with family and friends.
Garlands are a marvelous way to make gorgeous tree trimmings on the cheap. Gather up old buttons, beads, sequins and ribbon, or add in traditional organic elements like popcorn and cranberries, and let your imagination run wild. Bunting, bows, and banners for all variety of holidays, plus wrapping paper and ribbons, can be found on the cheap online, at dollar stores or post-holiday sales.
An upfront investment on exceptional quality, say for well-made keepsake ornaments, stockings, menorahs and nativity sets, can last for years to come rather than ending up on the curb come New Year’s Day.
Be Sensible About Safety
Even better, choose battery-operated candles wherever possible. Double-check all twinkle lights to make sure cords are in good order, and supervise all holiday cooking. Lastly, check those smoke alarms and ensure your family has an evacuation plan in order should something go wrong.
Of course, safety extends far beyond fire prevention. Keep doors and windows locked, alarm systems on and gifts out of sight to help prevent thefts. Keep small kids away from choking hazards, and for those of you in colder climates, clear snow and ice from walkways and stairs.
Make Guests Feel Welcome
A beautifully arranged guest room can do wonders to lift the moods of travel-weary friends and family.
Take a five-senses approach to decorating guest accommodations: High thread-count linens, fluffy towels, and thick comforters tend to the sense of touch, while candles, soaps and fresh flowers provide an inviting aroma. Consider including plenty of reading materials and noise-canceling headphones for jet-lagged visitors. And who can resist a plate of fresh-baked cookies, a bowl of in-season fruit and a small coffee pot or electric tea kettle?
Don’t forget to add little conveniences like space for hanging clothes, a suitcase stand, a selection of toiletries and a handwritten welcome note with the Wi-Fi password and agenda, if any. Even if your accommodations are more pull-out couch than a private guest suite, you can still deliver a gracious welcome with a small side table and gift basket devoted to the items above.
Don’t Forget Your Fur Family
Pets often need special care and attention during the holidays, especially if they’re not used to a bit of hustle and bustle. Make sure cats and dogs have a safe and quiet place to retreat if you’re expecting guests or trick-or-treaters, and be aware of the many toxic plants that are common during the holiday season, including poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.
Whether as a climbing post or a tug-of-war partner, a Christmas tree is often irresistible to our four-legged-friends, so ensure that trees are securely anchored and supervised at all times. Advise family members and houseguests to avoid handing out human-food treats to furry beggars, monitor all open flames, and avoid tinsel (a serious digestive hazard) in pet-friendly homes entirely.
Often equally joyous and stressful, the holidays can be a heady, busy time. But they’re also when our warmest, most long-lasting memories of home and family are created. With a little bit of thoughtful planning and a whole lot of patience, the holidays can be merry, bright and safe for all.
Originally published here.