Agnostic seasonal decor: it's winter, not Christmas

December 21 |
Make SO MANY SNOWFLAKES! Can't remember how? Here are instructions  Source: papernstitchblog.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Make SO MANY SNOWFLAKES! Can't remember how? Here are instructions
Source: papernstitchblog.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest

Emma needs inspiration:

I'd love to get some ideas for non-Christmas-holiday decorations. DIY would be especially treasured. Something more winter solstice-based…or really just not anything overly Santa Claus/presents/Christian-centered.

I am really awful at bringing details together, and I would love some offbeat advice!

What can I do to my home to make it wintry, but not Christmas-y?

So, you're kind of non-specifically celebrating winter, yeah? I get you. I've found lots of ways to get seasonal but avoid all things which speak to specific beliefs.

Lights

Winter solstice celebrations are often light-centric.

Source: designsponge.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Source: designsponge.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest

Click through for a tutorial on a really simple way to make an ice lantern infused with wintry bits.

Source: theinspiredroom.net via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Source: theinspiredroom.net via Offbeat Home on Pinterest

Light up hanging planters to make them pull double duty — green and flowery in the summer, subdued and pretty in the winter.

More light:

51tKyQAK0lL"Christmas lights" are becoming less Christmas-centric and more awesome-home-decor. The big colorful bulbs are so cheery. Seeing them makes me feel like the nice old lady at the office made me Christmas cookies.

Things to make

These simple crafts can be accomplished in a fairly short period — they might be a nice meditation on a dull December day.

Source: sweetpaul.typepad.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Source: sweetpaul.typepad.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest

Two sheets of cardstock paper + scissors + tape + interesting stick = oddly simple festivity log!

Source: burlapandblue.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Source: burlapandblue.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Make a swirled lacy snowflake. Click through on the image for the VERY simple instructions.

71O-Oz5+5BS._SL1500_This gorgeous Felt Holiday Wreath comes in a easy-to-make DIY kit.

Source: giverslog.com via Cat on Pinterest
Source: giverslog.com via Cat on Pinterest

The description calls these poofy pine cones miniature Christmas trees, but eff that. These are just cute. Everything looks festive with a rainbow poof stuck on it! Festivity and winter are like peas in a pod.

Source: theviolethours.typepad.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest
Source: theviolethours.typepad.com via Offbeat Home on Pinterest

Oh, the ever-popular bunting. So "joy to the world" is a great thought on its own, but it's certainly evocative of Christmas. Could you string up a sentence bunting that says, like, "Man is the measure of all things" or something?

Do you have awesome secular decorations that highlight the season? Get 'em out in the comments — you too, below-the-Equator.

  1. We put up paper snow flakes taped to all our windows and I put garland on the tops of books cases and around the around the railing of the balcony. I use pinecones and garland with mini pointsettias for table decor.

    I also love penguins. They don't have anything to do with Christmas (or any other holidays) but they are everywhere. I have a penguin sign on my door that says "let it snow" and a light up penguin on my balcony. He has a bow-tie and his name is Rupert.

    9 agree
  2. I just rewatched the 2010 Doctor Who Christmas special last night. I'm totally making word bunting today that says "Halfway out of the Dark" – geeky AND wintery!

    25 agree
  3. Question: how do people decorate for winter if they live in places where it doesn't snow? Do you put up snowflakes, icicles and white fluffy things anyway, or do you go more for lights and stars?

    5 agree
    • I live in the Phoenix area and it doesn't snow here nor does it get too cold. Here we have a lot of lights, reindeer, santa stuff. I like to do a snow decor actually, snowmen, snow flakes, etc…I hate the cold but I do miss snow and sledding and snow ball fights, so I try to incorporate it in my decorating :)

    • I live in tropical Australia, and lots of people here have never even *seen* snow, but Christmas decorations tend to be snowmen and snowflakes anyways. It's kind of weird to me, coming from a snowy place.

      This year I put crochet christmas ball ornaments up on palm fronds.

      8 agree
      • I'm in Australia too and have decided that "Christmas" is to be a celebration of midsummer from now on. I've brought in foliage from trees in the garden. I have a big pot of fresh green oak branches and a vase of red furry kangaroo paw flowers. In future years I plan on buying a live bush that flowers over Christmas to bring inside and decorate. Summer decoration themes include birds, dragonflies, cicadas, flowers, the colours red, green and gold…. the house can look quite festive and Christmassy while being about summer rather than winter.

        12 agree
      • Especially since Christmas is in summer here, too! (Although here in Sydney, it doesn't seem like it…)

        1 agrees
      • Me too. I'm in the tropics of Australia. We don't decorate winter style we decorate with GLITTER! How can you not with the sun so bright (at least before the wet starts). We have branches painted and coated in glitter that fill a huge vase and glittered baubles hang in all the windows to catch the light.

        2 agree
    • I am a native Floridian, as is my husband and daughter. We have a traditional X-mas tree, but it's covered in birds, pineapples, and my personal favorite: a snail. We tend to do less traditional because a) we live in Florida–half of the world celebrates December-Holiday-time in a temperate or summer season, and b) we're atheists who don't do the whole Santa thing either.

      My mom, who grew up in Michigan, does a lot of crocheted snowflakes and snowmen, but it's because she misses that a lot. One year, she bought me a sandman. It looked like a snowman, but it was covered in fake sand. He holds a beach pail and shovel. I love it.

      6 agree
  4. Atheist-mas bush! I really really wish I had a picture.

    When my mom was pulling dead ivy from her tree, she found a gorgeous piece that had dried perfectly, with a vertical "stump" and beautiful, full "branches." She went to Michaels, bought a few yards of tiny crystals wired together, and wired the entire "bush" with these tiny crystals. She put the bush (in total about 3 feet high and 5 feet in diameter) in a old pail filled with sand that she wrapped with white fairy lights (LED) and filmy white cheesecloth.

    The bush sits on a trunk in the living room and overlooks our presents. The PERFECT substitution for a Christmas tree. Very icy and elegant.

    1 agrees
  5. Things like holly, mistletoe and pine boughs (and "Christmas" trees) actually stem from Germanic pre-Christian traditions, so if you're going for more of a traditional pagan approach, those work nicely.

    11 agree
    • In Russia and I think some parts of northern Europe they're known as New Year trees and still don't have anything to do with Christmas.

      3 agree
    • I was just going to suggest seasonal greenery. You can have a "Christmas" tree if you want – we do, and I just decorate it with all blue, white, and silver decorations. Snowflakes and icicles and moravian stars and Swedish heart baskets and jingle bells. Nary a nativity, santa, or dove to be seen!

      Pinecones, candles, holly, bittersweet berries, citrus fruit – these are all lovely, seasonal decorations that don't scream "Christmas." Because let's face it, the only thing about Christmas that's actually derived from Christ is the birth of a god, which probably actually happened in the spring. So embrace the trappings guilt-free.

      5 agree
    • Yep, most of the trappings come from pagan traditions. The red and green colors, the greenery, the Yule log, it's all pagan. The only things that's really Christian about the whole season, is the manger and crosses. There's a lot of old feasting holidays this time of year.

      1 agrees
  6. I like to use rich jeweltone colors like burgundy & forest green for an old-world Victorian wintery feel. Lots of wired ribbons wrapped around greenery, fat pillar candles, pinecones & grapevine wreathes spray-painted gold. It looks warm & festive yet nondenominational.

    3 agree
  7. I like decorations with snowmen. Not only are they non-religious, they can stay up all winter, not just for December.

    2 agree
    • Yeah, I've actually done a Snowman Tree for the last 10 years or so. There are a few crocheted snowflakes and Scandinavian designs, but it's mostly snowman right up to the tree topper. (If you want a snowman tree topper, though, odds are good you'll have to make it yourself. I was lucky that my aunt was willing to give me hers when I saw it.)

  8. (don't you mean "secular" not "non-secular"?)

    2 agree
  9. Thanks for all the help ladies! I love all the ideas…especially the star-planter with the tiny lights….and the yellow wreath!

    1 agrees
  10. Incorporate greenery and wildlife that's native to your winter season! For example, decorating with white pine boughs and little fake cardinals or prairie chickens. A lot of deciduous species look interesting even when their branches are bare, like the paper birch or red osier dogwood, so you can use those too.

  11. I think a lot of Christmas-y decorations can totally work for a Winter-y theme. White twinkly lights aren't just used for Christmastime and they're beautiful. Also ball ornaments in silver and white are snow-y, and can be hung from the ceiling with clear string – it looks adorable. Just a couple of thoughts!

  12. There are lots of great things to do with pine cones, and you can get them for free! Just clean them by soaking 20 minutes in hot water with plenty of dish soap; then rinse. Bake until dry and not sticky in a 200* oven – but stay nearby, because of course they are flammable and you want to keep an eye out for safety's sake (although I've never remotely had an issue and I've done this a LOT).

    Add scented oils and dried cranberries or orange peels and make decorative poutpourri to put out in dishes for small pine cones; for large ones, you can soak them until flexible in water and thread them onto a wire wreath frame for a wreath, or hot-glue ribbons or string onto the top to hang them.

    I've painted the tips of the pine cone scales gold on a mess of white pine cones and hung them on bunches at the ends of my curtain ties in the dining room as well as at the center of my valances. Very wintery, very festive, NOT necessarily Christmas.

    3 agree
  13. I got a bunch of paper lanterns shaped like stars, some LED candles, and hung them from our dogwood tree. It looks fantastic at night.

  14. As a Grade 1 teacher with kids from a variety of cultures and religions, I sidestep the whole holiday party thing by holding a New Year's Party on the last day of school.

    This also lets the kids do a the New Year's Countdown at 3:00 PM (we dismiss at 3:30) and they love it.

    So what about decorating around the idea of New Years?

    2 agree
    • I second this! While I love christmas…whatever happened to having an AWESOME celebration for new year's?

  15. Back in high school we used those lacey-paper-snowflakes to decorate for our winter ball…and everyone liked them so much they stole them and took them home! At least it made cleaning up easier 😉 And they are SO easy to make. I think we made close to 30 in one afternoon (like 2 hours).

  16. Two ideas using oranges:

    One, cut oranges into thin, approx 2cm, slices such that you get star shapes in the cross sections. Dry these out on a baking tray, either in an oven on a low heat or in the airing cupboard, until totally dry. Then hang them using pretty ribbons!

    Two, christingles. I think that's what you call them anyway. We used to make them at school for Easter, but I think you can definitely divorce them from the Christian imagery. Basically, you take an orange and stick loads of whole cloves into it at 1cm intervals. You end up with a funny spiky orange that smells amazing. Somehow the cloves preserve the orange, so it doesn't rot, it just dries out and shrivels. Again you can hang these with ribbons or put them in a bowl.

    Also, pomegranates! Festive looking and you get to eat them.

    • I'm fairly sure that clove-studded oranges were originally used as pomanders to mask bad smells. I've never come across them being linked to any religion before, so it's obviously not a universal thing, if that helps.

      2 agree
      • Very belatedly – in the UK Chrstingles and pomanders are separate things: a Christingle is actually an orange with a candle stuck in it, and usually toothpicks with sweets on stuck in the sides. The candle is Jesus an the orange is the world and the sweets are god's creations. Apparently it started in Germany in the 1700s to get kids thinking about Jesus (because the Church being concerned about the secularisation of the season goes alllll the way back!) but it got big in the UK in the 60s as a way of getting kids into the Christian meaning of the season. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-30186196

        Pomanders were often linked to Christmas because of the expense of buying fancy-dan things like cloves and oranges. Also, when you got sewn into your clothes for winter, you probably need something to help alleviate the smell come late December!

  17. We celebrate Yule rather than Christmas. I make decorations out of ceramics, ribbon and all kinds of stuff. I've got some on my website if anyone wants a look. I like using lots of things from the garden too as it represents how the seasons change around us.

  18. Just like Nicky, we celebrate Yule as well.
    But we actually currently still put up 'Christmas-y' decorations: the tree, specifically. My husband, son and I live with my parents and my husband and I were raised Christian, so while we are Pagan now, we see no harm in having a similar celebration. When we move to our own place, I have no idea how we'll celebrate. This is the first Yule for our son to be big enough to celebrate. (He was just 10.5 m/o last year at this time.) So exciting!

    1 agrees
  19. I'm Christian, but my Fiance is Asatru, so we both celebrate BIG winter Holidays. Luckily Christians stole a lot of decorations from the Yule/Mother's night festivities, so they overlap. We decorate our Yule/Christmas tree with animal ornaments, drinking horns, antlers, and LOTS of silver and gold sparkly ornaments. We try to stick with animals that are present in the Appalachian mountains in winter (where we live) so lots of deer, bear, cardinals, and small mammals.

    The rest of the house is just silver sparkly things and greenery.

    2 agree
    • Hahaha, I am so putting our drinking horns on the tree next year. We've got at least six, and our "tree" is usually whatever potted bush we can borrow from Viking's dad's nursery. It'll look awesomely ridiculous.

      1 agrees
      • They do look really awesome. They kind of reflect the lights in a cool way. One year (before we lived together) my Viking put one of his large horns on the top of his tree like a hat. It looked kind of fun!

  20. Oh man .. if only this had been posted a teeny bit earlier and I had seen that beautiful felt wreath! Now I feel like it's a bit late to put up any more holiday decor. Oh well! I'll save the link for next year.

    1 agrees
  21. I use tempra paint each year to paint my windows at home and at work. I typically just do a winter scene – evergreen trees and snowflakes falling, sometimes a snowman or two. If I'm feeling especially artistic, I'll add animals to work windows or winter faeries to my home windows. Since tempra is a water based paint, it comes off easy with a little vinegar water at the end of the season (but be sure to paint INSIDE, otherwise rain and outside moisture will ruin your art).

  22. We just decorate for nature.

    Multi colored stars and snowflakes on the windows.

    All the ornaments on the tree are woodland creatures (I love the little bottle brush guys) and glittery snowflakes. We even have a snowflake tree topper.

    Oh and LOTS of multi color twinkle lights!

    I do have two little vintage guys who I am sure were meant to be "Santa" But we believe look more like gnomes so they work for us.

    We also have holiday books out to read. But nothing about Santa.

    We use to have traditional Christmas stuff around but over the years have weeded out. I didn't want my son to associate the season with "stuff"

    • YAY! Woodland Creatures! I got some awesome woodland creatures on sale at World Market this year and I freaking love them. They were on display on my "fall" table with some felt leaf place mats faked into a table runner, and are going to transition to my "winter" table with white paint dipped pine cones and a different table runner.

      I love woodland creatures. Get in my house, tiny furry animals.

      1 agrees
  23. If any other Aussie/Kiwi/South (or southern) African types stumble in here this year, any other ideas for summery secular holiday decor?

    1 agrees
  24. I just made a bunch of decorations out of salt dough and I'm loving them! The dough is just 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour mixed together until a dough is formed that has a smooth, not sticky, consistency. Then you roll out the dough and can use cookie cutters or make free hand shapes of whatever you want (don't forget to punch holes if you want to hang them somewhere, I have mine hung all over the apartment on bottles, vases, lamps, etc). They take a while to dry and aren't necessarily much to look at when they're plain but you can use paint to finish them off; I used an awesome gold acrylic paint for mine. Twine is good for hanging them but you can use anything you want.

    I love making decorations this way because it's easy, fun, cheap to pull together and completely customizable!

    1 agrees
  25. I'm confused by the comments linking Santa Claus with Christianity. Wut. If you're going to go back far enough to link St. Nicolaus or Father Christmas to Christian traditions, might as well go back further and grab the winter solstice celebrations that were around before the church hit.

    I would argue that today's jolly Santa is pretty secular. I have even heard of Christians that are anti Santa, since he's no baby Jesus.

    Anyway, far be it from me to care if you want Santa decorations or not. I just think it's a stretch in today's day and age to link his current incarnation with religion.

    (I personally dislike the modern Santa in appearance so I stay away from him too. I love the older versions like the Scandinavian tomte or nisse or the Russian Ded Moroz or even Victorian versions which look like kindly mountain men to me and therefore remind me of my father.)

    I would say that for me the season is all about bringing in greenery and light, two things that are usually lacking (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). Snowflakes and penguins are neat and I like them too but I'd personally rather celebrate warmth (think glowy lights, velvety fabrics, plush knitted things and jewel tones) rather than be reminded of Antarctica. 😉 That said I think all you Off Beat folks sound super festive and know what works for you and that's awesome!

  26. The kiddo and I made "solstice stars" out of cinnamon dough and dried orange slices. I don't do very much decorating but these are both fun to make and make the house smell awesome! I like to use dried herbs also.
    cinnamon dough: 200f oven for 1-2 hours, 2/3 cup applesauce, 2 bottles(2 1/3oz) cinnamon
    Orange slices take about 3 hours at 200f

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