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Decorating Themes For Christmas

Posted by Rae Lynn on 11/30/2015 to Winter & Christmas
The infinite selection of winter holiday and Christmas decorations available today make it worthwhile to choose a direction in tone and style. Generally, consider the mood, feeling and message you would like to convey, envision the interaction with existing decor and colors, assess the flow and areas to decorate. 

Stand-out from the ho-hum by centering your holiday decor around a distinctive and cohesive theme. Your theme may evolve as you plan, but choosing a specific direction will add purpose and enhance details for a more memorable experience. Your theme may be as simple as red ribbons or a plaid pattern; conversely, you could use candyland or the Nutcracker as inspiration for your decorating plan. 

Although a theme may be suited to a particular style of decorating, such as a whimsical style for a candyland theme, it is a good starting point to consider the mood you would like to achieve along with your existing decor. We've highlighted 5 distinct directions in tone and style to bear in mind, as you plan your Christmas decorating theme: 

TONE & STYLE

OPULENT

If you have a flair for the theatrical & flamboyant, an Opulent decorating style, done well, yields a stunning display of elegance. Look for lavish and ornate decor, complex patterns and plush fabrics. Use rich colors, such as burgundy and ruby red, emerald and forest green, and glitzy or antique gold. 

WHIMSICAL

For the unorthodox and creative, a Whimsical decorating style combines the imaginative and quirky to create a fun and playful setting. Look for unconventional shapes and patterns, such as swirls, erratic stripes, and polka dots. Use unpredictable colors, such as pink, purple, orange, turquoise and yellow. Or, for a twist on Christmas tradition, decorate with red and spring green. 

CONTEMPORARY

A Contemporary decorating style is clean and sleek with straight lines and smooth surfaces, and ideal for the minimalist. Look for a few simple, and well chosen, geometric shapes and high-gloss decorations. Less is more to create a breath-taking presentation of striking profiles and bold color. Use one strong color, such as pink or turquoise, against a monochromatic background, or red for a more traditional look. 

PRIMITIVE/AMERICANA

The boldly and blatantly real appreciate the unpretentious warmth and comfort of the rustic Primitive/Americana, aka Country, decorating style. Look for handcrafted and organic decor with rough and simple design, such as textured fabrics, weathered wood and distressed metal. Use warm and muted colors, such as rose and olive green, along with patchwork and gingham patterns. 

TRADITIONAL

If you prefer the cushy comfort of the warm and familiar, the Traditional decorating style delivers the predictable, in a good way. Look for classic lines and soft edges to decorate with a welcoming dignified order and balanced symmetry. Use classic red, green and cream colors with champagne accents; plaid patterns, and luxe fabrics. 

APPLICATION

In addition to decorations, highlight your chosen style and theme throughout all aspects of your seasonal entertaining. 

  • Food
  • Music
  • Attire
  • Invitations 
  • Signage 
  • Gift wrap 
  • Favors & Giveaways
  • Drinks
  • Lighting 
  • Activities 
  • Photos 
  • Serve-ware 

ELEMENTS

These universal decorations are the foundation for most seasonal styles and themes:

  • Wreaths 
  • Garlands
  • Christmas Lights 
  • Christmas Trees 
  • Ornaments 
  • Wrapping Paper 
  • Stockings 
  • Ribbons 

Choose motifs, colors, and/or patterns and repeat them 5 or more times in a setting to establish a theme.

MOTIFS:

  • Evergreens/Trees
  • Snowmen 
  • Reindeer 
  • Penguins  
  • Trains 
  • Santa Claus
  • Elves 
  • Gifts/Presents 
  • Shopping tags 
  • Candy Canes 
  • Pine Cones 
  • Angels 
  • Nativity Scenes
  • Ornaments 
  • Gingerbread Houses 
  • Bells  
  • Snow & Snowflakes 
  • Icicles 
  • Sleigh 
  • Candles 
  • Cardinals 
  • Doves 
  • Swans 
  • Holly 
  • Poinsettias 
  • Mittens 
  • Star of Bethlehem 
  • Nutcrackers
  • Music symbols

COLORS:

  • Red 
  • Gold 
  • White 
  • Green 
  • Blue 
  • Silver 

PATTERNS:

  • Stripes
  • Plaid
  • Polka Dots
THEME

You can develop a theme entirely from a single feature, such as all reindeer or gifts, a pattern or color, or any combination of elements. Sometimes less is more; while a candyland theme is delightful, all candy canes will also make a big impression. 

Create a dramatic effect by focusing all of your decorations on one color, or use any non-traditional color, such as orange or purple, against a white backdrop for a unique Christmas look. This strategy works well with a contemporary style and coordinated with existing home décor. 

Or, intertwine a number of related elements, colors and patterns to create a cohesive theme throughout your seasonal decor. Here are some Christmas themes and related motifs, colors and patterns to consider when planning your holiday decorations.

SANTA CLAUS
  • Frame the front door in peppermint white and red stripes, flanked by 2 over-sized elves, toy soldiers, reindeer or snowmen. 
  • Spiral red paper or streamers around white columns (inside and out) to make giant peppermint sticks. 
  • In addition, to Santa, sleigh and reindeer decorations, use Santa accessories, such as Santa's suit with belt, hat, and toy sack. 
  • Wrap the Christmas tree in red tulle or ribbon with a wide black "belt" and gold buckle around the center; decorate the top and bottom with a wide white feather boa or fluffy, fake snow batting. 
  • Cover the front (or any) door in red paper with a black paper belt and gold foil belt buckle. 
  • Fill shelves with old-fashioned, handcrafted toys: soldiers, dolls, Jack-in-the-boxes, trains, stacked blocks and teddy bears. 
  • Add a large armchair next to the fireplace (or instant view fireplace prop) with or without a Santa; set milk & cookies on an adjacent table and the book "Twas the Night Before Christmas" & wire rim reading glasses in the chair. 
  • Create a candy vignette (large or small) with gingerbread house, lollipops, gum drops, cupcakes, peppermints & candy canes. 
  • Make a centerpiece with a brick chimney top and Santa's sack on fluffy, fake snow batting; add Santa's stockings & boots upside down and/or dry ice for smoke. 
  • Hang a sleigh and reindeer from the ceiling or high on the wall along with snowflakes and varying heights. 
  • For humor, pin Santa's hat, suit, trousers, stockings and beard to a Christmas light clothesline.
  • Wrap picture frames as gifts and hang them on the wall. 
  • Top the Christmas tree with Santa's Hat.
MOTIFS:

  • North Pole
  • Santa's workshop 
  • Wood Toys 
  • Elves 
  • Sleigh 
  • Reindeer 
  • Penguins 
  • Polar Bears 
  • Snowmen 
  • Chimney 
  • Fireplace 
  • Gifts 
  • Santa accessories 
  • Santa's suit & belt 
  • Santa's hat 
  • Santa's sack 
  • Mrs Claus 
  • Twas the Night Before Christmas 
  • Wire rim reading glasses 
  • Long list of names

COLORS: 
  • Red & White 
  • Red, Green & White
CANDY & SWEETS
  • Wrap front walkway trees and columns in white paper and red streamers or ribbon to look like peppermint sticks and, optionally, add lighted over-sized yard candy canes. 
  • Use net mini-lights in a variety of colors over bushes as giant gumdrops. 
  • Run a strand of large bulb multi-colored lights along the top edge of the front porch, house or ceiling above the entrance with icicle lights hanging below. 
  • Frame the doorway in large multi-color string lights. Optionally, also frame front windows and roof. 
  • Flank the front door with large, swirl lollipops. 
  • Add candy pieces, lollipops, and red & white striped ribbon to a wreath for the front door, and hang a gingerbread man in the center. Alternatively, use a wreath made of whimsically colored ornaments. 
  • Make a bouquet of large, swirl lollipops in a variety of colors as a focal point or centerpiece. 
  • Paint large plastic bowls in different colors and place upside down for gumdrop decorations. 
  • Wrap white paper lanterns or large white Styrofoam balls like pieces of candy in colored cellophane and hang or place as decorations. You can also use colored paper lanterns, balls or balloons with clear cellophane. 
  • Use colored paper lanterns on a white stick and wrapped in clear cellophane as lollipops. And/or, wrap large Styrofoam discs in colored tissue paper and clear cellophane or, as a shortcut, wrap the circles in colored cellophane. 
  • For tables use bold colored or red & white striped draping and/or runners with solid colored napkins in matching colors. 
  • Fill glass vases and bowls with m&m's, jelly beans, jawbreakers, gum drops, bubble gum, and gummy bears. Hide cylinder glasses, plastic bottles or Styrofoam in the center to fill space. 
  • Decorate a white Christmas tree with candy, sweet-themed and/or theme-colored ornaments, and cupcake and/or popsicle string lights; use pink, turquoise, or purple ribbon. 
  • Paint large plastic bowls in different colors and place upside down for gumdrop decorations. 
  • Wrap large white Styrofoam balls like pieces of candy in colored cellophane and hang or place as decorations. You can also use colored balls or balloons with clear cellophane. 
  • Use colored paper lanterns on a white stick and wrapped in clear cellophane as lollipops. And/or, wrap large Styrofoam circles in colored tissue paper and clear cellophane or, as a shortcut, wrap the circles in colored cellophane. 
  • Drape the ceiling with different colored lengths of fabric, tulle, or plastic tablecloths radiating out from the center.
  • Set-up a carnival-style popcorn cart. 
MOTIFS:

  • Gingerbread Men 
  • Gingerbread Houses 
  • Peppermints 
  • Lollipops 
  • Cakes 
  • Pies 
  • Cupcakes 
  • Chocolates 
  • Gumdrops 
  • Ice cream cones 
  • Cookies 
  • Bubblegum 
  • Candy Canes 
  • Taffy 

COLORS: 
  • Multi-color: bright red, purple, orange, pink, green, blue and yellow 
PATTERNS: 
  • Stripes
  • Swirls 
COASTAL CHRISTMAS
  • Frame the front door with driftwood garland wrapped in teal and/or white mini lights. 
  • Make a 10-point Star of Bethlehem tree topper by using two bleached finger starfish of different sizes with the legs offset. 
  • Fill glass vases and bowls with sand, shells and white, teal, blue silver, and/or champagne colored ornaments. 
  • Alternate layers of red berries & small white sea shells in a cylindrical vase to look like peppermint sticks. Make a mini Christmas tree by stacking starfish of decreasing size. 
  • Create coral spray bouquets, accents and Christmas tree decorations by using glitter spray paint on wood branches. For a natural look, use chalk or matte finish spray paint. 
  • Glue pearl strands to the bottom of sea urchin shells to make unique jellyfish tree ornaments. 
  • Paint "Seas and Greetings" on a red & white life preserver, then add starfish & shells to make a coastal Christmas wreath for the front door. 
  • Bake Gingerbread man cookies with icing swim trunks. 
  • Signs: Seas & Greetings, Seashells & Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Beachy Christmas, Have Yourself A Sandy Little Christmas
  • Ribbon: Burlap, raffia 
  • Garland: Driftwood, pine cone, fishing bobbers, pearls, rope 
MOTIFS:

  • Lighthouses 
  • Buoys 
  • Pine cones 
  • Captain Nutcrackers 
  • Shells 
    • Sand Dollar 
    • Urchin 
    • Starfish 
    • Conch 
    • Scallop 
    • Oyster & pearls 
  • Boats 
    • Sailboats 
    • Lobster boats 
    • Row boats 
    • Captain's Wheels 
    • Anchors 
    • Life rings 
  • Birds 
    • Pink flamingos 
    • Shore birds 
    • Pelicans 
    • Sea Gulls
    • Herons
  • Beach 
    • Lifeguard chairs 
    • Adirondack chairs 
    • Driftwood 
    • Beach balls 
    • Flip flops 
    • Palm trees 
    • Coconuts
    • Surfboards 
  • Sea life 
    • Sea horses 
    • Coral 
    • Lobsters 
    • Crabs 
    • Sharks 
    • Whales 
    • Jellyfish 
    • Octopus 
    • Squid 
    • Sea turtles 

COLORS: 
  • Turquoise/teal, blue & white 
WINTER WONDERLAND
  • Blue uplighting around the perimeter and blue overhead lighting. 
  • Add candlelight and fairy lights; use white pin spot lights on centerpieces and focal points. 
  • Ice sculptures make a stunning presentation. 
  • Drape walls in white fabric or sheers. 
  • Create focal points and centerpieces with branches spray-painted white. 
  • Use glass, acrylic and metallic silver for serving and decorations. 
  • Hang crystals and glass icicles.
  • Fill glass vases and bowls with silver, white and blue ornaments. 
  • Hang snowflakes and white paper lanterns from the ceiling. 
  • Decorate front entrance trees, bushes, columns, house and front door in white mini lights, icicle lights and net lights on bushes.
  • Flank the front door with white or snow-covered evergreens. 
  • Hang a white wreath on the front door. 
  • Use a blue bulb for the front porch light. 
  • Cover and drape tables in white and use white covers for dining chairs. 
  • Use white floating candles in glass bowls and vases. 
MOTIFS:

  • Woodland creatures in white: 
    • Reindeer
    • Owls
    • Squirrels
    • Moose 
  • White or snow-covered greenery 
  • Snow 
  • Snowflakes 
  • Icicles 
  • Trees & branches 
COLORS: 
  • All White
  • White & Silver 
  • Blue & White 
TOYLAND
  • Use Velcro tape to make a beach ball arch entrance. 
  • Cut out puzzle piece shapes from a large colorful poster and put on the wall. 
  • Dress inflatable people as a giant Raggedy Ann & Andy.
  • Create giant alphabet blocks with painted & colored poster board pieces glued to cardboard boxes. Add corner edges for a finished look. 
  • Add a little magic with a bubble machine and fairy lights. 
  • Make a tent-like ceiling with draped fabric or plastic in 2 alternating colors, such as orange and red. radiating out from the center. Hang a giant teddy bear with an umbrella in the center. 
  • Hang marionette puppets and other toys from the ceiling. 
  • Hang a Twister plastic game mat on the wall. 
  • String colored pennant flags 
  • Set up board games. 
  • Fill glass vases and bowls with board game pieces in each: 
    • Dominoes
    • Jacks
    • Monopoly money
    • Scrabble tiles
    • Army men
    • Marbles
  • Put together a Lego, Lincoln Log, and/or Tinker Toys structure as a focal point. 
  • Use inflatable monkeys and a large whole or half barrel with "Barrel of Monkeys" label on white paper. 
  • Display a large floor urn with a stick-horse bouquet as a focal point. 
  • Mix in candy, lollipop and candy cane props (see Candy & Sweets theme above to make). 
  • Fill a red wagon with wrapped gifts.
  • Tie Christmas bows on teddy bears.  
  • Set toys on gift-wrapped boxes. 
MOTIFS:

  • Rocking Horse 
  • Soldiers 
  • Trains
  • Train Track 
  • Train Crossing Signals 
  • Cars & Trucks 
  • Alphabet Blocks 
  • Dollhouse & Dolls
  • Raggedy Ann & Andy 
  • Rubber Ducks 
  • Jack-in-the-Box 
  • Teddy bears
  • Clowns 
  • Carousels 
  • Old-fashioned Hot Air Balloons 
  • Wagons 
  • Sleds 
  • Drums 
  • Pellet drums 
  • Board games 
  • Dominoes 
  • Jacks 
  • Pull tools 
  • Cymbal Monkey 
  • Stacking Rings 
  • Stick horses 
  • Sock monkeys 
  • Marionettes 
  • Pin wheels 
  • Barrel of Monkeys 
  • Wrapped gifts 
  • Sweets 
  • Candy canes 
  • Gingerbread men & houses 
  • Gumdrops 
  • Lollipops 
  • Elves 

COLORS:
  • Multi-color with bold colors: red, blue, yellow, green and orange
PATTERNS:
  • Harlequin
  • Candy cane stripes
NUTCRACKER
  • Frame the front door with heavy greenery, gold mini lights, large red & gold ornaments and wide red ribbon, then flank the entrance with 2 large soldiers. 
  • Hang a similarly decorated wreath on the front door with smaller ornaments and ballet slippers in the center. 
  • Create a "Land of Sweets" vignette (large or small) with gingerbread house, gingerbread men soldiers, lollipops, chocolates, gum drops, cupcakes, peppermints, candy canes and a Sugar Plum Fairy. 
  • For a Nutcracker theme dinner, use gold chairs with red cushions, a royal blue tablecloth and red table runner. Use bright, glitzy gold accents. 
MOTIFS:

  • Soldier Nutcrackers 
  • Mice 
  • Wind-up dolls 
  • Sweets 
    • Candy canes 
    • Peppermints 
    • Lollipops 
    • Chocolates 
    • Sugar plums
    • Gum drops 
    • Gingerbread men
  • Flutes 
  • Grandfather clock 
  • Snowflakes 
  • Dancers 
    • Spanish 
    • Arabian 
    • Chinese 
    • Russian 
    • Danish shepherdesses 
  • Angels 
  • Thrones 
  • Pine forest 
  • Clowns 
  • Christmas tree 
  • Ballet shoes 
  • Ballet Tutu 
  • Characters: 
    • Drosselmeyer 
    • Mouse King 
    • Clara 
    • Nutcracker Prince 
    • Sugar plum fairy 
COLORS: 
  • Red, Royal Blue & Gold 
MUSIC
  • Hang silhouettes of jazz players on the wall. 
  • Flank the front door with a pair of guitars, tall drums, or giant ears. 
  • Hang records and CDs from the ceiling.
  • String five non-parallel black lines with musical notes attached. 
  • Make musical note toothpick flags. Print 2 appropriately sized musical notes side-by-side, then cut, fold and glue around a toothpick.
  • Copy Christmas song sheet music on parchment paper as decorations. 
  • Serve drumsticks 
MOTIFS:

  • Notes 
  • Bells 
  • Music Stands 
  • Treble Clefs 
  • Sheet Music 
  • Carolers 
  • Phonograph 
  • Juke Box 
  • Disco ball 
  • Records
  • CDs
  • Microphones 
  • Headphones 
  • Christmas song titles 
  • Choir 
  • Instruments 
    • French Horns 
    • Violins 
    • Trumpets 
    • Drums 
    • Saxophones 
    • Harps 
    • Pianos 
    • Guitars 
    • Banjos 
    • Flutes 
    • Tubas 
    • Clarinets 
    • Trombones 
    • Mandolins 
    • Bagpipes 

COLORS:
  • Red & Gold
  • Red, Black & White 
PATTERN:
  • Black & white stripes 
MORE THEME MOTIFS

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 

  • Partridge in a tree 
  • Doves (Turtle doves) 
  • Chickens (French hens) 
  • Blackbirds (Colly aka Calling birds) 
  • Gold rings (Golden rings) 
  • Geese (Geese a-laying) 
  • Swans (Swans-a-swimming) 
  • Milk maids (Maids a-milking) 
  • Female dancers (Ladies dancing) 
  • Male dancers (Lords a-leaping) 
  • Pipe/flute players (Pipers piping) 

WESTERN

  • Cowboy 
  • Cowboy hats 
  • Spurs 
  • Cowboy boots 
  • Horseshoes 
  • Barn stars 
  • Wagon wheels 
  • Lassos/rope 
  • Sheriff stars 
  • Steer skulls 
  • Barbed wire 
  • Hay bales 
  • Saguaro cactus 
  • Horses Saddles 
  • Covered wagon 
  • Six shooter gun 

NATURE

  • Organics 
  • Pine cones 
  • Holly 
  • Berries 
  • Evergreens 
  • Woodland creatures 
  • Weathered tubs/pails
  • Distressed wood 
  • Poinsettias 
  • Cinnamon sticks 
  • Nuts 
    • Chestnuts 
    • Walnuts 
    • Hazelnuts 
    • Almonds 
    • Pecans
    • Acorns
  • Fruit 
    • Apples 
    • Oranges 
    • Pumpkins 
  • Burlap 
  • Raffia 

LODGE/CABIN

  • Antler wreath 
  • Mini evergreens in pots 
  • Campfire 
  • Pine cones 
  • Vintage-style camping lanterns 
  • Fishing poles 
  • Canoes 
  • Rowboats 
  • Shotguns 
  • Weathered pails & tubs 
  • Red & black plaid

ANIMALS

  • Polar bears 
  • Penguins 
  • Woodland creatures 
  • Squirrels 
  • Foxes 
  • Rabbits 
  • Reindeer 
  • Camels 
  • Moose 
  • Mice 
  • Barn/Stable 
  • Donkeys 
  • Sheep 
  • Cows 
  • Goats 
  • Birds 
  • Doves 
  • Cardinals 
  • Owls 
  • Partridges 
  • Turkeys 
  • Geese 
  • Swans 
  • Peacocks 
  • Animal prints

MORE THEME IDEAS

RETRO VINTAGE
  • Decorate in the style of a specific period or decade, for example Victorian or the 1960s. 
CHRISTMAS MOVIE

  • A Christmas Carol 
  • White Christmas 
  • A Christmas Story 
  • Polar Express 
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas 
  • Nightmare Before Christmas 
  • Elf 
  • Charlie Brown/Peanuts 

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Kitchen/Food
  • Around the World
  • Sports
  • Barnyard/Farm
  • Arabian
  • Pets
  • Nursery Rhymes 

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