photographs Meagan Breen
I must preface this by saying that the term “Christmas” is a catch all for the time of year that begins the day after thanksgiving and extends through the first week of January. It is just a generic term for a season, cultural and commercial. Nothing more, nothing less.
Most people don’t think of Christmas as being “alternative”. Alt or not, it’s still a festive time of year, with plenty of joy (not goth) and splendor (possibly goth). One can argue how goth and religion have ties to each other throughout history, but I am here to discuss the most fun part of the holiday season, the decorating. And when I decorate it’s darker, a more “gothic” approach. I suppose all the lame positive feelings associated with Christmas can be considered conformist, but who doesn’t want to feel good (emos)? Who wouldn’t want to be warm and cozy in your own home, decorated for the holidays, sipping on Irish cream, and gorging on cookies? That sounds to me like the most wonderful time of the year.
I like themes. I like to theme a room, particularly this season. I love dark red velvets and golds together. Recently, purple has made its way to the Christmas colors palette; paired with silver and/or black it’s dark and festive. Decorating like this can be expensive, but I find that adding a few new things each year can make it not only more affordable, but keep it new and fresh.
I like to start with the bathroom. Bathrooms are small rooms (normally) so they are inexpensive to decorate and since we do spend quite a bit of time in our bathrooms it’s nice to change it up for the season. Shower curtains are an easy way to start and they make a big difference as they take up so much vertical space (about 6×6). Once you have your curtain picked out, a matching soap dispenser (refilled with seasonal scented soap), hand towel, and bath mat almost complete the room! If you can’t find a curtain you like, get a 6×6 piece of fabric (hemmed) and a grommet punch, and you have yourself a one-of-a-kind shower curtain. Right after Halloween is a good time to peruse the clearance rack at your local fabric store. If you find something you like, it can be spruced up for the Christmas season with minimal effort, and for (as cheap as) one dollar a yard! For example, a black vinyl piece of fabric can be altered with some garland or berries either sewn or glued onto the fabric randomly or at the sew-line (you may end up with sew-lines because most fabric doesn’t come in 6 foot sections). You can pick a garland, berry, or what-have-you decoration to match that soap dispenser you liked so much! Add an inexpensive plastic liner and you are all set! Making your own shower curtain is especially recommended for anyone with tall ceilings. The higher the print goes, the more dramatic the result. The best part is that you can take it down at the end of the season and reuse it next year. After not seeing it for 11 months, it will seem new to you again too!
Many modern homes do not have formal dining rooms any more, but I live in an older home and have one. I like to use the dining room for some of the less-than-functional decorations. Things that if put in the kitchen would be in your way, because you need to be able to use that space. The dining room is the perfect place for these items. Large soldier nutcrackers, elaborate center pieces, tablecloths, candles, etc. I also like to change out the curtains from the normal over-length formal drapery, to the red velvet ones for the season. Ribbon is another favorite of mine. Velvet ribbon around the chandelier makes it more festive and just gives the room a little change from the norm. You can also use ribbon to tie back the curtains, or when in doubt, just tie bows on everything. Wire ribbon is a good choice; it will keep the bows looking fresh all season long. Keep the spools, just roll the ribbon up in January and put it away for next year. Add a fancy tablecloth and a few chair covers, and your room is almost set. I do recommend a darker tablecloth if you actually eat at your table. The light ones tend to stain, and there is no point in buying a nice tablecloth if gets stained and you can’t use it next year.
Kitchens, in my opinion, are by far the hardest rooms to decorate. They need to be functional year ‘round, as the kitchen is in constant use. Fabrics are out because of the hazard they’ll create when cooking, and they’ll get stinky and dirty anyways with all the baking. But, as kitchens tend to be where most of one’s time in the home is spent, it is necessary to give it some decoration. Bells on the cupboard doors, a seasonal spoon set on the stovetop, dish towels, and some sort of festive center piece should not be too invasive. Candy is always welcome, and if you set all that left over Halloween candy in a seasonal bowl, you might just make it through to the New Year. I like to put a festive area rug (with pad) at the sink or counter because I usually end up spending more than the normal amount of time standing there making goodies for the holidays. It doesn’t just look nice, but my feet appreciate it too.
The living room is where my tree goes, and for the most part the tree IS the decoration for the room. I like a burgundy and silver color theme for the tree. Much velvet is used; it’s dark and beautiful. I use a plethora of bows on the tree mixed with the two different colored ball ornaments (silver ones will reflect light) and lights. The stocking holders are silver and as much as I like everything to match there is some nostalgia about hanging up my childhood stocking every year. Candles and fragrance and string lights are a huge part of my decorating too. LED lights cost next to nothing to leave on constantly, but I still use a timer on all string lights. There is a nice ambiance, with the lights on the tree paired with candles, since the sun goes down at 5:30. Tuck your lights and ribbon deep inside the tree for interest and depth. Never forget the mistletoe, it’s festive and interactive. It’s always nice to come home to a kiss, even if that kiss is from your pet rat.
In addition, I have a “center piece” in every room. In the dining room it is on the table, in the living room it is on the coffee table, in the kitchen it is on the island, and in the bathroom it is on the cabinet or back of the toilet. For the “center piece” in the bathroom I like candles, they are warm and fragrant. Usually in the kitchen it is a large bowl or plate of candy/treats. For the living room, I fill up a glass pot or bowl with old tree ornaments that are not used on the tree anymore, and place a candle on top. In the dining room, I often use flowers mixed with a pillar, round candles, and whatever else didn’t seem to find a home as the decorations were going out. Yes, I like the candles. The different heights and shapes of the candles mixed with other items adds interest to an arrangement.
Lastly, gifts wrapped early and placed under the tree are the perfect finish to the holiday decorating. Again, with the dark ribbons and matching paper; a well-wrapped present is the perfect finishing touch to any holiday tree! Done right, and the receiver will not want to open it!
It may not be what Halloween is to the average goth, but Christmas gives us plenty of opportunity to express ourselves through decoration, and it doesn’t have to all be Santas and candy canes. Do what you like, and you may be surprised at how it can all come together.