How to decorate a Charlie Brown Tree.

Every year I am asked about our tree.   We often hear we have the best tree and so I find myself answering the question,  how do I get it to look that way?
We start with a tree that Pat & Edie cut down.  We prefer imperfect looking trees.  After Ashlawn-Highland discontinued the practice of having folks cut down trees from their fields, we found a cut-it-down yourself farm near Covesville that has the sort of trees we like.
This year’s tree started out looking like this.
(That would be the good side.)
First the lights go on.
I like to work from the inside out, starting at the bottom, wrapping lights around the trunk.  When I get to the top, I move the lights out just a wee bit and work my way back down.
That’s what 200 lights look like.
Working my way up and down, out and around the tree,  you can see where I’m slowly filling it in with light.
I took this shot after I had 400 on the tree – getting close, but still, not enough.
 This was where I ran out of lights to be used on the tree. That’s 700 Christmas tree lights. I wanted more lights, but I didn’t want to go out and buy them.  So I stopped there. From the moment we brought the tree in the house Saturday, we’ve realized it’s far wider than we initially realized. So 700 lights didn’t quite go as far as I thought they would. 
I know, there are some out there that think 700 lights are excessive.  I’m strongly considering making sure I have 1000 for next year, just in case. 
Next up come the hanging of the ornaments.  Here it helps to have lots of these as well.
This is where Edie comes in to help. Left to my own devices, I will spend days getting the lights just so before then carefully considering where each ornament should go.  I think 3 days is a decent amount of time spent putting a tree up.  My offspring however, thinks that you should be able to do it in an afternoon. She’s ever so proud that this year the lights went up in one try (there have been years where I’ve taken them down and completely restarted more than once) and they were done in under 2 hours.  This year’s tree trimming was definitely the fastest it’s been probably ever.
The first ornament hung is always this gem, the lone survivor of a set of pipe cleaner and styrofoam balls my parents made their first Christmas together back in 1968.  This was the most ornate of the set and every year this was the one my dad wanted to hang first. I always hang it in a tucked away spot.  It’s definitely a bit worse for the wear, but one I can’t not hang.
Edie’s first ornament this year was this beauty, hung in a spot of honor, smack dab in the front and center of the tree.
Until we got other ornaments hung around it, it was my own little episode of having that lamp in my front window. Thankfully, by the time we were done, it was not as prominent, without me having to rearrange it.  Or knock it off while watering plants. And because that kid can hang several hundred ornaments well in less than an hour, she had it blending it in no time flat.
We have a wide variety of ornaments.  There are ones from Christmas past, like this one:
There the ones Pat & I made and were given as children, like these two:
 I made that Jack in the Box in Girl Scouts back in 1978.
There’s also this one, one of my favorites.  I found that at an after Christmas sale the Christmas we were engaged while I was shopping with our mothers.  Could it be any more perfect?  Every year I hang it in a prominent spot.
We have ones Edie made.
And the ones she’s acquired over the years including princesses and Hello Kitty.
Ornaments get hung similar to the way the lights go on – from the inside out, so that the tree has a bit of depth and texture to it. I like to mix them all up, so that the Mary I painted as a toddler is hanging next to a Wise Man painted by my mother from one of those 1970’s wooden ornament kits (anyone remember those?) is hanging next to a vintage Shiny Bright I bought somewhere along the way.
I have a thing for vintage Christmas ornaments.  I have a hard time passing them up at yard sales and estate sales, but these days, unless I find something so spectacular that I don’t already have, I am getting better about walking past.  Not having enough room to store them all helps. 
I finish the tree with a set of glass ‘icicles’ I was given several years ago.  There are about 2 dozen of them in various combinations of colors and styles.  After they are hung, I drape a beaded garland, add the tree skirt and call it a day.

The tree skirt is an embellished vintage item. I was given the plain red corduroy skirt with a red & gold trim and green pom poms.  I added the buttons to look like snowmen and snowflakes.  
And here is the finished tree.  While pictures never do justice to it, you can see what a difference lots of lights and a giant tub (and a half) of ornaments and a few strands of beads do for a perfectly imperfect tree.  The only thing missing are candy canes, which will be purchased and hung in the next few days.
And that, dear friends and readers, is how you take a Charlie Brown tree and make it beautiful. They really just need a little bit of love.

18 thoughts on “How to decorate a Charlie Brown Tree.

  1. Cassi Renee says:

    It looks great! I like the strand of beads –that's something I'd like to add to our tree.

    We always get a blue spruce, because in addition to lights, we also use real candles on the tree. The blue spruce has strong enough branches to hold the candles. I like it because it has an open form, so ornaments can be placed into the interior as well as on the outside.

  2. Lesa says:

    Beautiful! I say go for those 1000 lights next year. My brother once had 1500 on his tree (he has lots of electric connections)and it was stunning. Sounds as if you and I like the same kind of tree, one with lots of memories. I use strands of draped pearls on the downstairs tree and garlands of bright candy on the upper tree. Oh, what fun!

  3. Marie Fisher says:

    Thanks for posting all of your xmas pics! Didn't remember that my jack-in-the-box was from Girl Scouts. My Jack has been glued back together and is missing the tip of his box lid (after one of my cats climbed my tree and knocked it over years ago), but he always gets a prominent spot near my ceramic Santa from 1977. Good times. Happy Christmas!

    Your home is lovely.

  4. Jane @ The Borrowed Abode says:

    Oh my gosh, I'm so impressed! My mom was always hardcore about putting lights inside the tree as well as the outside…guess who inherited that trait along the way? Me 🙂
    It didn't go so well this year with our fat tree, but I love how you start with wrapping the trunk. I will do that next time. And I need many more lights. I only had 2 strings. Thanks so much for the tour!

    • Becky says:

      You can always lop off a few branches in the middle for the charlie brown look. I published a version of this in the December CharlottesvilleFamily magazine this month too.

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