by Denise Weimer
Even if your home is not Early American in architecture, Colonial-style Christmas decorations revive holiday cheer, especially if you term your design style traditional, shabby chic, rustic, primitive or cabin. Natural decorations can provide a much-needed break from glitter and store-bought extravaganza. And expense! A quick trip to your yard or local nursery, a few basic supplies, and you’re ready to trim your home in a manner sure to set you apart from the neighbors.
On the outside of the house:
Stick to evergreen swags and wreaths with simple red bows. Non-purists may add fresh fruit arrangements, although these were not used on the outside of houses until Colonial Revival times. Hospitality candles in the windows can’t be beat for creating a mood of welcome.
In lieu of a Christmas tree:
Trees weren’t introduced to America until the 1800s, and simple gifts during Colonial times were only given to servants the day after Christmas – and perhaps to children on New Year’s. A precursor to the evergreen tree, with a slightly more Early American feel, was a tree made of goose and turkey feathers. If you do opt for a tree, consider wrapping gifts in plain brown paper and trimming with natural fabric bows and greenery sprigs.
On the dining room table or sideboard:
punch bowl ringed by apples, evergreen or holly
wooden bowl or platter filled with red apples and ivy tendrils
- An apple cone tree topped with a pineapple, filled in with small greenery and placed on a base of magnolia leaves, flanked by pineapples secured on fruit or candle holders
arrangement in a china bowl of white pine, magnolia, holly and cedar – with
cotton bolls as “snow”
At the fireplace:
- Try a swag of dried apple slices and cinnamon sticks on twine
- Pewter plates, cups and tankards interspersed with holly and evergreen on the mantel
- A holly-topped yule log on the grate. For a party, you might include a nearby bowl of holly sprigs. Colonial English guests tossed a sprig onto the fire to burn up their troubles from the past year.
- Wrap balustrades with evergreen swags and bows.
- Accent a key wall by covering a plaque or serving tray with magnolia leaves centered on a cluster of fruit. Pomegranates look especially festive.
- Early Americans loved mistletoe. A Norse legend credited a cluster with not only commanding a kiss, but guaranteeing luck and fertility as well.
- Tuck holly sprigs behind Old English prints and mirror, and mass it around pewter plates.
Research from Internet and “Christmas in Williamsburg,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1970, photos by Taylor Biggs Lewis, Jr.