There's something especially magical about the understated beauty of December in the countryside. From brown paper packages to simple place settings, home-cooked holiday meals to homemade tree ornaments, here are 20 ways to have yourself a beautifully merry (and blessedly unhurried) holiday.
Draw some inspiration from the Junk Gypsies, who assembled this hay bale Christmas tree outside their Wander Inn in Round Top, Texas. Make your own by stacking straw and adorning it with lights, a star, and some ornaments.
Blogger and Connecticut homeowner Nora Murphy infused her home with holiday charm using tartan blankets as tablecloths, plaid dishware in her tablescape, and buffalo check blankets in her bedroom.
Add a touch of green year-round by installing forest green lamps on the exterior of your home or barn, then dress things up for the season: Outfit a drape of greenery with lights, ornaments, or berries. Finally, use what you've got: Stash plain , pots, and pails with and bedecked with .
Move over, Macy's! We love the pomp and circumstance of the big-city pageantry but, to us, nothing signals the start of the season—or shows off the heart of a small town—quite like a quaint Christmas parade. The excitement is everywhere, from the moment the homemade floats find their places. Folks happily take a break from the hustle and bustle the season brings. They slow down. They gather. They bid one another well. Year after year, along the never-changing route, Boy Scouts wave and toss out candy while little ones scramble to scoop up a treat or five. The local marching band cheerfully bears the cold, performing for friends and families huddled together. This year, don your and and hit Main Street to welcome the season the small-town America way.
Tired of popcorn? Thread marshmallows with for a sweet update.
Hang a grain sack, seed sack, or gingham stocking—they're just waiting to be filled with delicious dry goods.
This crate of fire starters—formed from natural resin—is a simple way to get a holiday glow.
Show off the influx of season's greetings on a vintage tobacco basket by tucking well wishes into the overlapping strips of reed. (For old baskets, try , , or CL Fair vendor ).
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Look no further than your backyard for the makings of a pretty table runner, then add a pop of plaid with a classic tartan tablecloth. For a whimsical place setting, slide good old handwritten name cards into the slots of (we found these ). Use candles in and —both help to reinforce the warm, magical vibe.
Say what you will about the convenience of an artificial tree, but there's nothing like holiday decorating from the ground up. So pile into the station wagon (or your family's equivalent) and go on a hot cider-fueled pursuit of this year's specimen at your local Christmas tree farm.
As is true for most family outings, good-natured arguments will ensue (That one's too wide! Why, why are we walking so far? Mom, put down the axe!), but all will be forgiven by the time that one-of-a-kind fir finds its way home. And after Dad hauls down the ornaments from the attic and you go to hang that clay handprint from 1972, you'll be reminded that family, like the "too-wide" tree and its humble homemade trimmings, is perfect in its imperfection. Take that, plastic.
...pinecones, wood, pom-poms, bells, paper, a wagon wheel, or rope! Or make your own Christmas wreath with flea market finds like Christmas carol sheet music, tinsel, bulbs, or shiny brite ornaments.
Simply affix the decoration of your choice to a and secure them u-shaped greening pins, tape, or hot glue depending on their size, weight, and shape.
From ornaments to garlands, punched-tin pieces are galvanizing to become this season's hottest holiday trend. Made of antiqued sheet metal, this star scores tons of style points.
RELATED: Creative Christmas Tree Toppers
Yet another reason to spring for the next you run across at the antiques store: It makes for a beautiful centerpiece (or menorah). Fill the wooden bowl with floral foam, insert candles (we love the simplicity of plain old white), and nestle seasonal greenery in between the tapers.
Blame it on the hurried pace of our hyper-connected world, but the sit-down breakfast, it seems, has fallen out of favor. Let's change that.
This year, on Christmas morning, after the gifts are unwrapped and the shiny new bikes make their inaugural trips down the driveway, assemble your family around the table to revive the lost art of a leisurely country breakfast.
Just promise us this: Between bites of sugar-cured bacon, pause, for a second, to sop up this delicious moment, when the humans you hold most dear are gathered, together, around the table, breaking flaky, buttery bread. This, this sunny-side-up moment is what matters. The rest—the tree, the gifts, the bikes—is just gravy.
The spirit of the old-fashioned general store lives on, thanks to newcomers like Laurel, MS' and Pawhuska, OK's . Plus, they're great resources for distinctive gifts!