Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein Our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long.
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.
When I was growing up, we took tremendous delight in decorating the Christmas tree. We had some beautiful old glass ornaments, and my dad one year went out and bought these bubble lights. The were shaped like candles in a holder, and the colored water in them boiled when they had been on for a while. Mama thought they were cheap looking but I loved them. (Well, I was only three at the time he bought them.)
But the most fun was making decorations for the tree. We went way beyond stringing popcorn and cranberries, and making paper chains. We cut out 3-D paper ornaments, made spirals and stars and all sorts of intricately cut chains of snowflakes. We got glue and glitter everywhere in the house; my mother kept saying she didn't understand how we could spread it all over the place when we did all the pasting and glittering in the kitchen. We never had books for this; my mother just knew how to do all this stuff.
When I decided to do some of these things with my god-daughter,
I couldn't remember how most of the things worked. So I started
looking for how-to books (which led to collecting books about
Christmas, but that's another story). The vexing thing was that
usually there was one really great project in a book, and the
rest wasn't very inspiring. But I did find some good ones
Creative Christmas Crafts, by Alison Wormleighton (Consultant Editor), published by Running Press, is great because it has projects from the simplest, which even young children can do, to more sophisticated decorations that involve sewing, baking and other skills with which children would need help. It's a particularly handy book because of the templates at the back, and because it begins by giving you a list of things for a General Workbox. There's also a list for a Sewing Workbox. Then for each decoration, there's a list of things you need right at the beginning. The photography is excellent in this book, really showing you the skills described in the text.
For a fabulous book to look at as well as use, I can't recommend any book more highly than Miller's Traditional English Christmas, by Judith and Martin Miller. The photos are atmospheric, and the decorations to be made from its instructions are gorgeous. Some are fairly simple
(dried citrus rings, cut-out stars, sea shells strung on
gold cord) but many are more opulent and challenging to fashion. This book has many pictures
and instructions on house decorations for your
mantelpiece, Christmas table, entry hall and other
rooms as well. The instructions are good because they give you opportunities to scale up or down, and they show you how to use everyday objects in gorgeous decorating that results in a real-life still life. There are also plenty of recipes for a children's Christmas party and edible tree decorations, and chapters on lovely home made gifts and gift wrapping.
And of course there's Martha Stewart. She has published several Christmas craft books, and many of the projects are repeated in several versions. The books are all good, because the directions are detailed and the photographs instructional. I suggest you browse them in a book shop and buy the one that appeals to you the most. I have several of them because I collect books about Christmas, but you really only need one. And, as always with Martha Stewart's work, these books are gorgeous to look at.
©2007, RK Silipo. All rights reserved.