Tree decorating – C’bbean style

by SJN Essential Designs

The traditional Christmas tree is an evergreen such as pine or fir. In modern times, the artificial Christmas tree was developed, and usually made from polyvinyl chloride. Unlike the evergreens, the artificial tree can be stored away carefully and reused the following year making it cost effective over time. But, it can never delight the senses like the sweet smelling, brilliant evergreen.

The elements of art are line, shape, form, space, texture, value and colour. When choosing our Christmas tree we instinctively try to find some of these elements. Have you ever seen people shopping for Christmas trees? Have you noticed how they walk round and round the trees looking for the right height and colour, and making sure there are no gaps or mangled branches? Most people don’t even realise they are looking for the basic elements of anything artful. They want a full, well shaped tree with an upright line, rich colour, and leaves of a specific texture because instinctively these elements are eye catching and pleasing.

The non-traditional Christmas tree can be an exciting alternative to the evergreen and relatively inexpensive. In the Caribbean we have a variety of imaginative choices for a Christmas tree and various ways available to decorate them. We can incorporate indigenous fabrics, materials, stones etc. In the mountainous islands like Saint Lucia and Dominica we find the traditional evergreens in abundance. But we can go a step further and use other “out of the box” natural options like drift wood and coral found in Barbados and Antigua. Wire and wood can also be fashioned into Christmas trees. Line, form and shape are very important when choosing our non- traditional tree.

The Drift Wood Christmas Tree

1. Head out to an Atlantic coast beach to scour for large, shapely pieces of drift wood. If the piece you select is wet or even damp let it dry in the sun for a few days. The smoother the wood the better it takes the application of paint.

2. Paint the drift wood in the colour of your choice. If you choose a colour that contrasts, it will stand out in the room, especially if it contrasts with the Christmas balls and lights as well. In our display we chose red and white, the traditional Christmas colours because they contrast with the dark wood floor and white cushions in the living room, where we placed the drift wood. You can use acrylic spray paint or gloss as this will dry very quickly or you can buy any gloss paint or lacquer and brush it on.

3. Place the drift wood in a bucket and anchor it with large stones. You can then fill the bucket with small decorative stones, dress it with a Christmas tree skirt or simply drape a piece of cloth around the bucket.

4. Starting from the highest limb run the lights around the length of each limb. Important note here: Make sure the string of the lights is the same colour as the colour of your painted drift wood so the string does not show; or you can camouflage or hide the string with garlands or vines. Lights in any size or colour will work depending on the look you want to achieve.

5. At this point add the decorations, and there is a world of options available. You can use bright, shiny or glittery balls; pine cones from the garden sprayed lightly in gold and silver; ribbons, artificial poinsettia, tinsel, beads. Other homemade decorations can be crafted out of styrofoam, paper or plastic. Let us not forget decorations handcrafted from local woods, bones, metal, coral, shells, gru gru seeds, ackee seeds and more.

For our display we used red and white poinsettia with green leaves, shiny, red, gold and green balls. We also covered inexpensive balls with Madras cloth used traditionally in some islands. Hang the decorations creatively, making sure you hang them uniformly all over your tree. Don’t forget the back of the drift wood. Turn on the lights and voila your own, unique Christmas tree!

Include friends and family. Throw a tree trimming party! Decorating your tree should be fun for the entire family so pour yourself a glass of sorrel or milk punch and get creative!

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