Elegant holiday decorations have their purpose, to be sure, but many people are exploring ways to simplify their lives. Even at the holidays -- or especially at the holidays -- there are ways to take a gentler approach.
Make homemade gifts for family and friends, or help children fashion colorful tree trims. Collect pinecones and berries for natural decorations around the house.
Take a new look at special old holiday treasures. Show off photos from Christmases past, or group your collection of Santa or reindeer figures for more impact.
Bring out old books and toys from long-ago holidays and enjoy the wonder in the eyes of computer-savvy children.
Here are other simple ways to savor a heartfelt holiday:
-- String beads down the banister, or simply tie an elegant ribbon around the newel post.
-- Display old-fashioned ribbon candy or colorful gum drops in an antique dish.
-- Look for unusual display pieces -- bowls, boxes and baskets -- at flea markets for showcasing holiday decorations.
-- Tuck evergreen sprigs throughout the house.
-- For kitchen fun, place holiday cookie cutters in a large, clear-glass jar tied with ribbon.
-- When guests leave, send them on their merry way with a few holiday cookies wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow for the ride home.
-- Give gifts that keep growing. Purchase narcissus bulbs and place with root side down in a shallow dish filled with tiny pebbles.
-- Bring out lovely clear glass pieces that you don't use very often and put them to work as decorations. Fill them with shiny baubles or tree ornaments to show off treasures from previous fun holidays.
-- Set your holiday punch table with mismatched crystal glasses. If they don't match, so what? If you love them, they go together.
-- Whole cranberries look like wooden beads. Place a candle in the middle of a serving dish and fill in with the colorful berries for a natural accent. Or surround a candle with vintage Christmas lights or jingle bells.
-- Group white candles in a variety of clear glass and brass candleholders for a touch of elegance.
-- Float a poinsettia head in a large rose bowl. Place floating candles around it and light them.
-- Add battery-operated Christmas lights to baskets of pine cones or wreaths for sparkle.
-- Bring out antique quilts or quilt tops to use as tablecloths or tree skirts.
("Simply Christmas" (Meredith Books, $29.95)
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