Holiday Decorating Planner

Try our 6-week planning guide to get your home festive a little bit at a time.
Even without snow, you can guarantee a white Christmas with light, bright, romantic decor.

With Thanksgiving still two weeks away, it might seem a little early to start thinking about Christmas, but now is the best time to get a head start on the holiday season. This week's to-dos:

Pick a theme. Christmas decorations can go beyond the traditional red and green with beautiful results. Need some inspiration? Try a holiday decorating theme such as vintage, all-white, gold, natural, or even beach-inspired.

See today's top decorating themes

Hang wreaths. Save time and money by selecting a wreath that can do double duty: Put it up now -- in time for Thanksgiving -- and leave it up through Christmas. For a live wreath, you can gather leaves, nuts, and twigs from your backyard. For a longer-lasting wreath, stop by your local craft store for faux berries and dried flowers.

Learn how to make holiday wreaths

Make candles. Set aside an afternoon to create your own homemade candles. Candle-making is also a great project for older children (be sure to supervise). Make enough candles to decorate your home, plus extras to wrap up as gifts. Candles make great presents for friends, neighbors, and teachers.

Make your own holiday candles

Sew stockings. Christmas stockings are a not-to-be-missed holiday tradition. And you still have plenty of time before Christmas to make your own unique stockings. Create one for each family member -- you can even personalize them with names, if you'd like.

Greet your guests with seasonal style right at the front door.

Happy Thanksgiving! Use the long weekend to get your outdoor lights up and your indoor decorations on display. This week's to-dos:

Put up outdoor lights. Give your home holiday curb appeal by adorning the facade with lights. You might want to recruit a helper as hanging lights can be tricky alone. A few tips: Don't forget to test each strand of lights before you hang it -- you'll want to make sure each bulb works. Also, measure the distance you want to cover with the lights to determine how many strands of lights you'll need.

View outdoor lighting tips

Add outdoor decorations. Lights aren't the only way to add Christmas cheer to your front yard. You can also use topiaries, icicles, and lawn figures to dress up the outside of your home. Think simple when decorating (and avoid climbing ladders, when possible) by opting for greenery or a garland around the front entry and a big red bow on the door.

See outdoor decorating ideas

Put up indoor decorations. Bring out the stockings, Santas, elves, and nativity scenes to truly deck your halls. If your family has a collectible village or nutcracker collection, find a place of honor for those favorites. Liven up mantels, stairways, doorways, and entry areas by draping them with festive garlands. Put on some Christmas music to really get in the spirit while you decorate.

Pick holiday garlands

Start your Advent tree or calendar. Starting on December 1, count down the days until Christmas morning with an Advent calendar or tree. Designate a specific time each day and let your children take turns marking each day on the calendar. You can purchase a paper Advent calendar that has pictures or quotes behind each day's door. Or make your own Advent calendar or Advent tree with your kids.

Make an advent tree with walnuts

Put up an artificial tree. Artificial trees can go up sooner than live trees so now is a good time to get your tree up and decorated. To determine how many strands of lights to use (50-light strands are your best bet), decide whether you prefer subdued, moderate, or showcase lighting. For subdued lighting on a 6-foot tree, use 12 boxes of 50-light strands; for moderate lighting, use 20 boxes; and for showcase lighting, use 40 boxes.

See Tree Lighting 101

Since it usually occupiessuch a prominent place,you'll want to make yourtree beautiful.

Did you know that decorated Christmas trees first appeared in the mid 1800s? Two or three weeks before Christmas is the perfect time to continue the tradition by putting up your tree. With the right care, a fresh cut tree can last through New Year's. This week's to-dos:

Pick a live or cut tree. There are many varieties of trees to choose from. Some of the most popular include Douglas fir, Eastern white pine, Scotch pine, Frasier fir, and Eastern white cedar. When selecting your tree, look for a straight (or almost straight) trunk and branches that bend without breaking. Check the freshness of a tree by pulling gently on a handful of needles. The fewer that fall off, the fresher the tree.

Decorate the tree. In most homes, the Christmas tree is the centerpiece of all holiday decorating. You can create a dazzling tree with this decorating formula: Lights first, then garland, and ornaments last. Plan to use about 100 lights per foot of your tree's height. And when it comes to placing your ornaments, start with the largest ones and then fill in with the smallest. You might also consider decorating your tree around a theme such as gingerbread, Victorian, or Asian-inspired.

Select from 10 Christmas tree themes

Use extra ornaments. No room on your tree for every ornament you own? Then turn the ornaments that didn't make it onto the tree into shining ornament candles to display in the living room or dining room. All you need is a candle, a pedestal dish, and shiny Christmas ball ornaments. Tip: When decorating, keep in mind that not everything has to be used for its intended purpose. A little creativity goes a long way!

Don't forget to kiss the lucky person standing beneath the mistletoe!

The big day is almost here. Use this last week to put the finishing touches on your decorations, introduce live elements like flowers and fruit, and set a festive dinner table. This week's to-dos:

Display poinsettias and hang mistletoe. Don't forget these Christmas classics. Poinsettias can be used individually for a burst of color or grouped together for a for a lush look. No home is ready for the holidays without a sprig or ball of mistletoe dangling from a doorway or chandelier. And don't forget to kiss anyone standing beneath it!

See how to make a mistletoe kissing ball

Dress up the dining room table. Chances are, you'll spend a good amount of time gathered around the dining room table with family and friends during the Christmas season, so create a table that's sure to impress your guests. Some ideas: Add oomph to a solid-colored tablecloth with a pretty table runner or napkins. Use small Christmas ornaments as napkins holders, or float candles and holly leaves in a punch bowl filled with water for a romantic centerpiece.

Take a walk-through. Do a quick walk-through of your house and note any areas still lacking in holiday charm. While guests probably won't see your bedrooms, they will see the bathroom and kitchen so those areas deserve a few decorations. In the bathroom, it can be as simple as some pretty candles surrounded by a string of silver beads and glass ornaments. For the kitchen, add a few small topiaries or glass jars filled with candy canes and peppermints.

See our Last-Minute Decorating Slide Show

Luminarias are easy to make and add a cool charm to your outdoor decor.

Gather family and friends for a holiday to remember. All that's left to do to make your home festive:

Welcome guests with party lights. Light the way to the party by lining the front walk with glowing lights. Luminarias are deceptively easy to make. You can even craft them out of ordinary tin cans. You can make the luminarias in advance, but set them out just a little while before your guests are expected.

Learn how to make winter luminarias

Light your inside candles. Give your home a friendly glow by lighting all of the candles you created and displayed earlier.

Put some holiday carols on the stereo. A final touch: Turn on the Christmas tunes to make your home even more festive and welcoming.


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