Sunday, December 5, 2010

Substitute Christmas Trees

There are many reasons why a broke, apartment dweller would skip the whole Christmas tree thing altogether - travel plans, fire insurance, building or city by-laws prohibiting trees, cost, and so on. Some will argue that a 'lovely plastic' tree (yuck) will pack up neatly into a box for storage, but I ask you - have you really got excess storage space? And do you want to commit to unpacking the same old tree for decades (which you should if you buy it - it's not like it'll decompose in the dump)? No, I don't think so either.

For two years in a row, I've gone without a tree at Christmas. My ideal tree is a living one, rootball and all, that can be gifted to the birds in the backyard adorned with then-stale cookies and popcorn strings. Alas, no backyard and several of the above restrictions apply.

First few stars and masking tape frame
Meet 2010's version of the Christmas tree in the Green, Broke & Living in Kits apartment! Inspired by today's sermon at Tenth Church, this 2-dimensional tree is made up of stars (some good, some bad) all leading to the big star at the top. I must admit that only a few of the stars represent people and experiences, but if you were to build your own, you might consider writing on each star the name of a loved one (friends and family) that you remember at Christmastime.

Mostly done... note the masking tape frame being eaten away

Last year's was a little less 2-dimensional and was accomplished by fluting sheets of green construction paper and pinning them to the wall. It also left a lot of holes in the wall.

Last year's tree, sans ornaments. Fluted construction paper and thumb tacks. Not the best place to put it, in retrospect. Avoid those baseboard heaters and radiators!

But this year, the tree is made of recycled/reused/repurposed materials: last year's Christmas cards, well-reused gift bags in need of retirement, scraps of construction paper, the interesting patten on the inside of envelopes meant to deliver cheques, wrapping paper scraps, book pages (leftovers from a past craft), origami paper, and even the box that stored last year's cards was used.

The tree, effectively, was free. The price is right!

Want to do it yourself? It's easy!

- papers, card stock, tags, bags, paper scraps of all sorts (postcards and foils from candy wrappers work, too!)
- masking tape
- a cookie cutter (mine was a star-shape)
- pencil
- scissors
- glue and glitter (optional - good to utilize if you have only flat, non-reflective papers)

How to do it:
Make an acute angle (i.e. the outline of a tree) with two long strips of masking tape. Stick gently to the wall when you've got the shape you like.
Trace and cut-out your stars.
Fold a loop of masking tape to affix the stars to the wall (top-down is how I did it). Make sure you've shuffled the cut stars well, and when you stick them to the wall, attempt to achieve balance in your design - keep the same coloured stars scattered evenly across the the tree shape. It's easy to move the stars in most cases if you're gentle and get your finger under the tape before lifting the star.
As you fill in the tree, make sure that the stars along the side align right against the masking tape 'frame'. As the stars are placed along this edge, you can peel back the masking tape that forms the frame from the areas where the stars have been placed. Use this tape to make loops for the backs of other stars!
If you're going to write names on the stars (or use glitter and glue) make sure you do this after cutting out the shape but before applying the loop of tape to the backside.

Placement of your tree:
A bare wall is an ideal place, but make sure it's not above a heater where it could pose a fire hazard!
Another great place is a door - your front door, the bathroom door, any flat door that isn't exposed to the outdoors (the dampness will not suit this activity).

That's it! Hope this inspires you to make your own non-traditional Christmas tree in your apartment.


  1. I'm going to do this or something similar. It reminds me how great Xmas is without the commercial influence! Thanks!

  2. Hey BIP! :)

    Thanks for your comment! I just posted a new substitute tree idea you might like:

    :) Merry Christmas to you and yours!