Here's a holiday confession: I am an Eastern European Jew who loves Christmas. I don't mean to say I love any of the religious aspects of the holiday. Believe me, Hanukkah does me just fine. The candles, the warmth, the magic of the menorah. I'm totally covered in the spiritual department. (Don't even get me started on latkes. My favorite food of the season!) But there's nothing that says "Winter Holiday" to me quite like a Christmas tree, ornaments, twinkly lights... Hell, I even like it when the Starbucks red cup appears. Thing is though, I don't love too much of it in my home. My husband celebrates Christmas and I celebrate Hanukkah and it would feel a bit absurd to drape our 950 square foot apartment in full decorations for both holidays. The last thing we want is for our home to look like a Macy's, the ninth circle of hell during the holiday season, as far as I'm concerned. A pool of red, white, blue, dancing Santas, gaudy menorahs, oppressively hung ornaments, dreidls that looks like boulders... You get my point. Not exactly a relaxing setting to walk into every night.
So how do you solve for this problem: Decorating a small space for two holidays without going overboard but still making it look festive?
My solution over the last few years has been simple. Cut out all the fuss. We don't put up a tree for two reasons, there's not a ton of space and we spend Christmas with Ian's family. There's no point in a tree that will stay up for only two or so weeks. The upkeep, not to mention the hauling it to our third floor walk up, isn't worth the money or effort to me. There's also the problem with storage. There just isn't a lot of it and any prime closet/under the bed real estate is going to my shoes, not holiday decorations. Instead, I make do with a reusable garland on our bookshelf and a Hanukkah letter garland in the kitchen. Both fold into a small box and the evergreen has built in lights. I like to hang a few small ornaments and ribbon scraps saved from last year's gifts to make it more festive. Cinnamon scented pine cones and plastic winter berries (the real things are incredibly toxic for dogs) scattered around the books add to the jovial vibe.
The other solution to my dilemma is to stick to what's most seasonal. Instead of going in one direction or the other with our holiday decor I give the entire apartment a natural, wintry vibe. This is super easy and really, really cheap. Every winter New York turns into what I (affectionately) like to call a "Christmas Tree Graveyard". Almost every corner store has them piled outside like some kind of testament to the logging industry. With evergreens inevitably come fallen branches. If you're nice, most store owners will be more than happy to sell or even give you their scraps for free! (Yes, they will look at you like an insane person when you bypass the trees and head for the trimmings but whatever. It's New York. For every time you look crazy there's probably a guy down the street wearing a doughnut as a hat.) I place the cuttings in jars and bottles around the apartment with other seasonal branches and leaves. Bonus, they dry well and don't require a ton of water. In a small space, a few trimmings of evergreen here and there really do the trick. You don't need much more.
So there you have it. My own little Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter wonderland. Not too much, not too little. Seasonal without being obnoxious. Also, hot cocoa every night but that doesn't need explaining.