Decking the halls for pandemic Christmas

A 9 foot nutcracker. Magic crystals that light a fireplace with green and purple flames. Glass-glitter pine cones so sharp they must be handled with protective gear.

These are just a few of the decorations Christmas enthusiasts use to show their holiday cheer in an otherwise dreary year. Dorinda Medley, a former Bravo star The real housewives of New York, is known for “making things cool,” especially the exuberant Christmas displays she sets up every year at Blue Stone Manor, her home in the Berkshires. But she’s getting really big this holiday season – literally, if that giant nutcracker she bought is any indication. “When I pressed the button, I was like, ‘What did I do?’ But now it’s on the American Express, paid for, and I’m happy with it, ”Medley says.

To be happy for that, for the little pockets of merriment in a time when all does not seem very happy, is adding big business for the purveyors of Christmas decorations, who are selling the holiday cheer at a rapid pace. “I have to put some effort into this year,” Medley says of his big expenses, “because it would be easy to fall into the 2020 slump and say forget it. But I think at the end of the day people need hope. “

Medley is not alone. In this year of scaled-down holiday celebrations, where many are skipping the holidays altogether and others are doing their best to adapt traditions to the security measures required by the Covid-19 pandemic, Christmas enthusiasts are choosing to redirect the energy that they would usually spend on feasting meals and frantic shopping to set up decorations and light displays.

Celebrants also express holiday cheer indoors, through old-fashioned Christmas activities like building gingerbread houses and stringing garlands as people search for what Medley describes as a Christmas. Norman Rockwell. “I want to evoke this feeling of home – because we have all been House, “she says. (It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Christmas crafts are highly, highly Instagrammable.)

It’s a scene that plays out across the country. “In the past two months we’ve seen a 45% increase in holiday lighting compared to the same time last year, and a 42% increase with wreaths and garlands,” says Andrew Wolf , Vacation Dealer at Ace Hardware. And John DeCosmo, president of the Ultra-Lit Tree Company, says, “Sales of lighting kits are up, sales of outdoor decorations are up, and sales of artificial Christmas trees are up, so yes, we see it. Our own online sales have grown by over 30% this year. “

Caroline Moss, author and podcast host Gee thanks just bought it, made an outdoor light display for the first time and saw no reason to wait until after Thanksgiving to light her home. “I installed an outdoor tree and outdoor lights on November 2,” she confesses. Moss, who moved to Los Angeles this year with her husband Dan, was concerned about what her new neighbors might think, although she didn’t need to worry. “I was very nervous because I didn’t want to be seen as a crazy new neighbor. I texted my neighbor next door, and she said, ‘Oh, we do too.’ “

According to DeCosmo, the day after Thanksgiving is generally the most popular day of the year for Christmas decorating. But this year, people like Moss started early, perhaps wishing to bring their holiday cheer to their lawns. Bronson van Wyck, a decorator who serves a high-end clientele, has seen a noticeable increase in his business, especially among early risers. “We would generally make between six and ten houses for Christmas, and we would probably have reserved them for about [mid-November], “he says.” This year we had a dozen reservations before Labor Day. “

Van Wyck capitalizes in another way: for $ 475, his website has something called “Sugar and spices, sensory delights package“With” (1) Evergreen, Cedar and Juniper Wreath adorned with Dried Citrus, Cinnamon Stick and Artificial Berry Handcrafted by Real Elves from Van Wyck, “a full color smart LED bulb from GE and a tube of those magic crystals to throw into the fire (Amazon Retail Price: $ 15.26). Van Wyck is not the only one to come out of the elves. On the new Netflix show Holiday home makeover with Mr. Christmas, interior designer Benjamin Bradley, incumbent Mr. Christmas, and his team (yes, from elves) gives four families vacation home renovations that feature hand-flocked trees, Della Robbia-style wreaths, lucite diamonds, hanging lanterns, and glowing deer. Mr. Christmas, in his own words, says “Christmas balls on the walls”.

Preston Davis, publisher of Stay chic, is another newcomer to outdoor vacation displays. “I have never put any light on the outside or in the windows and I plan to do so this year! I think it’s important to show that we’re here, that we’re celebrating, ”says Davis.

In past holiday seasons, Davis hosted a series of lunchtimes to visit with old friends returning home for the holidays. But with the trips and large gatherings off the table, Davis plans to build a gingerbread house and make an old-fashioned popcorn garland with his adult daughters, ages 20 and 25 – in provided they can return home safely. “I’m planning on really ramping up, the tree with the popcorn strings and everything. I really want to do it all, ”she says.

She also hopes her children will want to have fun. “I want them to help decorate and make some of these traditions, gingerbread houses and cookies. Maybe I’ll even make them produce sugar cubes for Santa. Who knows ?! “She sees these hands-on activities as a way to break her habit of multitasking – which, she admits,” takes a lot of value away from the time I spend with my family. “

It’s no surprise that in this socially remote year, where touching and physical closeness is widely prohibited, people are finding creative visual and aural ways to connect with others. Spring is every night applause and cheers for first responders spawn summer illegal fireworks shows, which gave way to giant skeletons come halloween. Now at Yuletide the creative ways have become literal, with people getting into these highly Instagrammable craft projects.

The garlands of Elizabeth Schulte.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Schulte

True to this Christmas’s nostalgic tone, Elizabeth Schulte of Salem, Oregon is stepping up her garland making, using dried fruits like oranges and apples alongside more traditional popcorn and cranberries. Dried apples are the literal fruit of illicit labor; she engaged in a practice called scrumping to obtain them. “It means, uh, liberator apples that may not necessarily be yours legally, from a place where no one really necessarily keeps them, ”says Schulte. To atone for scrumping, she is also considering adopting another historic vacation activity: sailing. “This is where they walked around and sang Christmas carols in the orchard” to encourage the trees to grow more apples, she says. “Considering the fact that we’ve just been stealing apples all over the state, maybe we should go cheer them on.”

Schulte incorporates nostalgia in another way. “I’m going to use some weird glitter on one of the garlands, I’m thinking maybe on the pine cones. Strange glitter? Schulte explains that before WWII, glitter was mostly made from frosted glass from Germany and that she wanted the real deal. “It’s pretty boring to find, I found some online,” she says.

Another problem with German frosted glass flakes was, albeit with a very 2020 fix. “I’m quietly worried about getting frosted glass into my lungs and eyes,” Schulte says. “I think to use it safely I have to wear a mask.”