The winter holidays are a wonderful time of year. Snow is falling, cozy sweaters come out, and houses are decked out in holiday cheer. If you want to decorate the outside of your home this year, no matter whether you’re a first timer or a pro, October and November are the time to get started.
Today’s outdoor holiday decorations offer something for everyone. Whether you’re classy or outlandish, or somewhere in between, there’s a style for you. From flashing lights to lit inflatables to shuffling carols on the smartphone, there are so many ways to make any home spectacular this time of year. But did you know that outdoor holiday decorating has a long history in the United States?
People have been celebrating Christmas with trees, ornaments, wreaths, and candles for hundreds of years. The trend really gained momentum in the mid-1800s when publications showed Queen Victoria with her family around a lit tree. According to Heidi Davis in Popular Mechanics,
“Shortly after the Illustrated London News ran a picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert gathered around a lit Christmas tree with their children, British society embraced the tradition. Strangely, in 1850 an altered depiction of the Royal Christmas ran in the influential Godey’s Lady’s Book—removing such details as the Queen’s tiara and Prince Albert’s mustache—where it gained popularity in the States as the first ‘influential American Christmas tree.”
Early prototypes of electric Christmas lights were developed around 1892, and President Grover Cleveland featured the first electrically lit White House Christmas tree in 1895. However, these early lights were expensive to purchase, and most homes were still without electricity. By the 1920s, inexpensive, safe, Christmas lights were available throughout the country. As more and more homes upgraded to electrical power, the practice of adding holiday lighting for the home became common.
Almost as soon as homes embraced tree lights, they started hanging them out of doors as well. As outdoor lighting became safer, and holiday designs became more creative, home decorations moved from sweet and subtle to sometimes outrageous. Holiday lighting can be a tourist attraction and was even celebrated in movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, holiday light displays are more technology-driven than ever, which allows all kinds of people to get creative. If you want to see the most extreme or beautiful (depending on your point of view) light displays in the country today, go to https://www.tackylighttour.com/ and check out over-the-top favorites in almost every part of the country.
Want to Deck Your Home for the Holiday?
If you want to decorate your home for the holidays, you have a lot of choices and an almost endless variety of styles. You can decorate in a small way or go crazy and light up every part of your home. But if you’re not ready (or willing) to design and over the top light extravaganza, there are many other more tasteful ways to make your home more special for the holidays. Kefauver Lumber has provided a helpful checklist for you to get started.
Gather Up Holiday Inspiration
Let’s face it. The easiest way to decorate your home is to look around at your neighbors and steal their best ideas. Think about what you like and don’t like about the decorations in your neighborhood and use that as your starting point. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?
If you want your home to stand out a bit, you’ll probably need to go a bit further for inspiration. Magazines and their companion websites are always a great resource. Instagram and Pinterest also provide a lot of good ideas. And don’t forget to check out home ideas on YouTube.
While there are thousands of ways to decorate the outside of your home, for most people in our area Christmas decorations usually fall within a few distinct areas:
Wreaths and Garlands Christmas Decorations
Wreaths and garlands are classic holiday decorating items, and with good reason. You’re able to create a lot of impact with very little work. With a wreath hook, your wreath is hung (and removed) in an instant. With the help of zip ties or wire, a porch or railing can be festooned with garlands in less than 15 minutes.
While the instant nature of these decorations makes them popular, they don’t have to be ordinary. Consider adding electric or battery operated Christmas lights and decorations to your wreaths and garlands. Outdoor ornaments will add shine and color, and foam birds or animals will add a natural feel. Adding artificial holiday flowers, such as poinsettias, or sprays of winter berries are always a good add-on. Ribbons can add color, while the addition of spray-on snow or clear, plastic icicles can add a frosty, wintery feel.
Ribbons and Ornaments Christmas Decorations
Ribbons and ornaments are some of the most popular Christmas decorating materials, and it’s easy to see why. After all, ribbons and ornaments allow you to add bright colors, sparkle, and shine to wreaths, garlands, and other outdoor decorating elements.
Ribbons come in all types of materials, including wire-edged, so you can form them to create attractive focal points. Ribbons can be solid, striped, plaid, patterned, metallic, or even glittery. Many ribbons are made for outdoor use, withstanding wet weather without fading. These outdoor ribbons are usually much broader than typical craft ribbon, to make it easy to see from a distance. With so many choices, no matter which decorating theme you choose, there’s a ribbon that’s right for you.
Ornaments are just as versatile. Look for ornaments made from plastic or all-weather materials. Many outdoor ornaments are oversized with sturdy, oversized hooks to make them easier to use outdoors. The larger size also makes it easier to spot your ornaments from a distance.
Pinecones, Branches, Berries, and Other Natural Elements
Reindeer, deer, bears, birds, and other animal motifs are a great way to add a winter theme to your home and property. Even houses that stay away from traditional Christmas themes can enjoy this kind of winter décor, well into February.
Winter is an ideal time to bring birds into your yard with bird seed and feeders, but it’s also okay to add a few artificial cardinals (or other birds) to your porch, trees, or garlands.
Bears and deer images lend themselves to a woodsy theme. Use large or small images or figures as ornaments, in wreathes, on blankets, or even in planters to kick off a lodge-themed home.
Sleds, Skates, Saddles, and Winter Sports Themes
If you’re an athletic family (or a family with a lot of athletic equipment.) a winter sports theme might perfect for your home. Got any sleds lying around? Arrange them on the front porch with springs of pine. Found an old saddle in the garage? Arrange with boughs and branches to make a holiday garland for your entryway.
Skates, ski poles, hockey sticks, and snowboards all look good arranged with holiday greenery, lights, and ribbons. Whether you put your winter sports equipment on the front porch or add it to garlands or mailboxes, your new or old winter sports gear can be a fun way to personalize your Christmas decorations.
Candy Canes, Peppermint, and Confectionery Inspirations
Anything red and white striped will look Christmas-y on your home. Try wrapping a light pole or a porch rail with red and white. Using candy canes or peppermints in your wreaths and garlands is another fun way to add whimsy to your home decorations.
Santa and Mrs. Santa
Anything, and we do mean anything, with Santa or Mrs. Claus says Christmas. But a little goes a long way. So, unless you’re aiming for an over-the-top look, stick to just one use of Santa in your outdoor decorating.
Packages and Gifts
Not sure what to do with that unsightly electrical meter box? Wrap it as a gift. Is your door the wrong color for Christmas? Cover it in wrapping paper and a bow. Not sure what to put in your empty window boxes? How about an assortment of packages and bows? Including stacks of gifts in your yard, on your porch, and around your home is a fun way to add color and interest. Just make sure your boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbons can stand up to the elements.
Candles and Lanterns
Christmas is a time to light up the night, so don’t forget about candles and lanterns. While they may not flash and blink like Christmas lights, theses elegant additions can add sophistication and charm to any holiday theme.
Electric or battery-operated candles are a great choice to place in windows. Automatic times make them even easier to turn on and off.
Battery-operated votives are also a nice touch for walkways for special parties (weather permitting) and can add a soft glow to entryways and covered porches throughout the season.
Lanterns are a traditional Christmas touch. While wax candles work fine inside a lantern, battery-operated votives might be easier to manage. The protection offered by the lantern keeps the batteries away from the elements.
What Parts of the Home are Decorated for the Holiday?
Even if you’ve decided to decorate the outside of your home for the holidays, you might not be sure where to start. What parts of your home should be decorated? We’ve provided some ideas below to help you get motivated to make this your most decorated Christmas ever!
Entrance Doors Christmas Decorations
Front doors get a lot of attention during the holidays, but don’t limit your decorating to just one entrance, especially if it’s not the one your family uses the most. Back doors and garage entrance doors can look great, too, with just a wreath and a few Christmas lights. And if you drive your car into a garage every night, why not decorate the garage area with lights and garlands as well? While you might not walk through your front door much, garage decorations are an area you’ll see every day during the busy holiday season.
Walkways Christmas Decorations
The sidewalks and driveways around your home can be extra special during Christmas with the addition of lanterns, lighting, or small evergreens. Consider putting candles in cans, cups, lamps, or buckets for special evening events.
Lining walkways with lights is another attractive option. The Lawn Care Nut shares tips for installing this kind of feature in this video.
Roofline Christmas Decorations
Lights on the roof are a holiday classic but can be a dangerous decoration. Make sure you invest in the right kind of ladder, wear high-grip shoes or boots, and always decorate with another adult. If you’re using a step ladder, never go beyond the top steps. If you’re using an extension ladder, make sure you have another person holding the base of the ladder as you climb or descend the ladder. If you’re not sure about the best way to install lights, this video from The Lawn Care Nut for smart tips.
Porches and Decks Christmas Decorations
Porches and decks are a natural gathering place, even in the winter, which makes them a perfect spot for holiday décor. If you’ve got swings, rockers, or chairs on your porch, drape them with holiday blankets and pillows.
Add some greenery to empty pots that held flowers last summer. Add garlands to posts and railings. Consider icicle lights for the roofline of your porch.
Still not enough? Add packages beside the door, and wrap them in bright, weather-resistant ribbons. Hang lights around the front door and throughout the porch or deck area.
Wreaths are lovely on doors, but they can also go in windows as an extra accent. If you’ve got lattice, consider adding a wreath to that as well.
If you’ve got a few steps, add decorative lanterns to light the way. Use battery-operated votives to keep them burning bright all season.
Outdoor Branches and Evergreens Christmas Decorations
Take advantage of the evergreens and pines already on your property. Adding lights to your evergreen hedge is a wonderful way to expand your holiday decorations. Christmas lights can be purchased as netting to make covering large bushes simple.
Any tree gets more festive the addition of meteor lights, cascading lights, or icicle lights. Many homeowners go all out and wrap lighting around the main branches of a bare tree to get a stunning effect at night. Adding groups of single lighting elements such as snowflakes or balls in your deciduous trees is another attractive way to add light to any tree on your property.
And, of course, if you have one triangular evergreen tree (or more than one), consider giving it extra attention as your outdoor Christmas tree.
Fencing Christmas Decorations
Nothing puts your Christmas home over-the-top like lights or garlands on fences. Whether your fence surrounds your home or is just featured on portions of the property, fences are the perfect place to hang pine swags, add Christmas lights, or even display lit snowflakes.
For a really elegant effect, continue your décor on every part of your fence, front and back. You’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.
Mailbox Christmas Decorations
What’s better than loads of holiday cards? Getting them in a holiday-themed mailbox! Don’t forget to include your mailbox in your holiday decorating plans. Whether you decide to wrap your post like a peppermint stick, or you choose to drape the top with an elegant swag of holly and pine, your mailbox is a great way to add dimension and curb appeal to your holiday decorations.
Still Not Sure How to Get Started? It’s Time to Create a Plan.
The best-decorated homes don’t just happen. They are the result of a vision and plan that brings all the elements together. The good news is that creating a plan doesn’t have to be long, difficult, or complicated. Whether you want a pared back look or an explosive extravaganza, planning will help you achieve your holiday decorating goal.
“The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods,”
The same Atlanta Constitution article adds,
“Decorating the outside of you house can have another benefit. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests a decorated house makes others think you are friendly.”
If you’re ready to get started on decorating your home, your planning begins outside. Start by taking a long look at your home and your lot. Walk around your home and look at it from every angle. It may help to take photos (or sketch it if you prefer.) Whether you take photos, make sketches, or even create a blueprint, it’s important to inventory the entire home, all the windows, the doors, the landscaping, and the hardscaping like patios and walkways.
Take notes on ideas you have as you do your walkaround. Think about holiday styles you like. And consider how your outside elements will work with your inside decorations. Once you have all the elements of your home in front of you, organized in the way that makes most sense to you, it’s time to decide how much decorating you’re going to do. You may have a budget that will help you reign in ideas and get focused on what matters most to you.
It may help to prioritize your décor. What’s the MOST important element? Is it your front door? Lights on your roof? Reindeers in your yard? A huge snow globe inflatable? Starting with the most important thing will help you get started on a theme. After all, if your mom’s vintage wreath is the star of the show, you may not want to fill up your yard with inflatables. Conversely, if inflatables delight you, it might not make sense to put demur candles in each window.
After you decide on your focal point, and your associated theme, think about colors next. What colors make sense for your decorating plan? If you’re going for a fun, child-friendly look, you may want to include lime green and cherry red elements. But if you’re shooting for an old-time lodge look, deep browns, black, brick red and pine green might be more your taste.
As you build your decorating plan, keep in mind the practical side of your embellishments. Do you have the right ladders? How will those lights stay on the gutter? Where will they plug in? Do you need weather-proof extension cords? Timers? Hooks? More Lights? Make a list, and have everything ready when you start decorating.
Who will help you get your décor in place? For example, wreaths on doors are pretty simple, but if you want to hang lights from the roof, you’ll need a safe extension ladder and a buddy to hold the ladder steady. Never climb extension ladders without another person to keep the base secure. You may want to hang lights around the eaves, but that may require specialized hardware, outlets, or cords. If you’re going to hang pine garlands on your fence, measure out the footage of garlands needed, and think about the required equipment (hooks, wire, gloves, measuring tape, etc.) And a second pair of hands will make almost any task easier.
Remember that if you plan to leave the ground in any way you should have a partner to spot you on ladders and help you get lights and ornaments into higher places. And if you are working with electricity, make sure your cords are weatherproof, that your lights are outdoor lights, and that your home’s electrical system can handle the extra work. (Because no one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital.)
And finally, as you create your decorating wish list, think about how you will store your décor once Christmas is over. Will it all fit neatly in the garage, or will you need to get creative with storage solutions? Be sure you’ve gathered everything that you will need to complete the decorating plan and get the equipment (or people) you need to implement your plan.
It’s your home and your life, so make your decorations work for how you live. Create a plan that provides beauty and cheer in the places you and your guests see most.