Christmas decorations clutter

The festive season comes with all the accompanying paraphernalia of Christmas decorations. But how did this tradition actually start? And do Christmas decorations really have any deeper meaning at all?

Christmas decorations

The history of Christmas decorations

The Christmas decorations tradition certainly didn’t start in Bethlehem, or anywhere near it. It’s thought that Christmas trees were first introduced to Germany in the 7th or 8th Century by a monk called Saint Boniface, and the practice of Christmas decorations spread to the rest of the western world from there.

There may well have been a genuine spiritual impulse behind this. The conical shape of the fir tree, for example, was said to represent the Holy Trinity, and the reason it was adorned with white candles may well have been because people at that time knew how to use the physical structure of the tree and the flames of the candles to anchor high spiritual forces during the Christmas period.

This knowledge has long since been lost, and what remains is a symbolic imitation, with many Christmas trees now made of plastic, and spiritual forces now symbolically represented by electric fairy lights, shiny balls, stars and angels.

The same is true of tinsel, which was introduced in the early 17th Century and was made of shredded strips of real silver. Originally I’m sure there would have been people who knew how to use the qualities of this precious metal to anchor the spiritual frequencies that resonate with it, but now it’s all plastic and purely for decoration.

Christmas decorations are big business

In fact, Christmas decorations have become a huge, multi-billion dollar industry, tempting us all with their glitter and glitz. It’s the part of us that yearns for the spiritual realms from which we came that is so attracted to these items, but the sad fact is that no amount of tinsel can bridge that gap. There certainly are spiritual practices that can facilitate this, but decorating your home with Christmas bling isn’t one of them.

Balinese temple decorations

I’m not saying that Christmas decorations are bad or wrong. But you will certainly see how insubstantial they are if you ever go to Bali and experience first-hand the 10-day festival of Galungan, where the island’s 20,000 temples are adorned with decorations, and ancient rituals are used to invoke sacred presences. This is not symbolic. You can go to a temple, participate in the ceremony, and tangibly feel the presences land and wash over you. It’s deeply refreshing, revitalizing, and uplifting. By the time you leave the temple, you feel like you are walking on air.

Christmas decorations clutter

In Bali, as in the West, when the festive season is over, the decorations come down. In many western homes they are stored up in the attic or down in the basement, but clever commercial marketing and ever more tempting designs means the collection tends to grow with each passing year. One box becomes two, three, or ten. I’ve met people who have an entire room in their home just for storing Christmas decorations.

So this year, I suggest you do some decluttering. The first to go can be any decorations you don’t like enough to put up this time. Next can be any that are broken, damaged or beyond repair.

Then seriously assess how long it takes you to put them all up and take them all down, and whether a more modest quantity would suffice. Or — dare I suggest it? — consider using none at all, now that you understand more about their origin and what a huge commercial con they really are.

Related article
How to cancel Christmas

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Copyright © Karen Kingston 2014, updated 2019


About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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14 Responses to Christmas decorations clutter

  1. Louise says:

    I think that you should follow your own will and not feel guilt or shame or try to intellectually justify any choices about the being or non-being of Christmas ornaments and/or celebrations in your home and family.

    For me, a mindfulness audiobook is something that I listen to this time of the year. It’s become a tradition. Starting at the same time as the cold weather prevents me from riding my bike to work and I walk instead. Each person has to figure out their own way I guess.

  2. Pixie says:

    This is fascinating to me on 2 counts:

    1.) I don’t remember ever seeing so many responses to one of Karen’s newsletter articles. Christmas evokes something deep within us. As a friend once said, “Regardless of how we feel about it, it’s in our DNA.” Sir Walter Scott wrote, “A Christmas gambol oft could cheer the poor man’s heart through half the year.”

    2.) The phrases “spiritual forces” and “You can go to a temple, participate in the ceremony, and tangibly feel the presences land and wash over you” once rang true for me at Christmas time as well.

    I’m very sensitive and I used to feel powerful, tangible forces at Christmas time that I no longer do. It seems to me there used to be a Sentient Spirit that walked the Earth—and perhaps even the cosmos—at this time of year. It mingled among us and flowed through us. It came to me in the pungent aroma of fresh-cut balsam and the soft glow of incandescent lights…in a stranger’s ready smile and the not-quite-silent falling of the snow. The nights felt soft as velvet, no matter how dark or deep the cold. Nighttime was when I felt it most keenly…especially on Christmas Eve. It possessed a luxuriant warmth and a deepening fullness. Each year I marveled aloud at how candlelight looked, felt and even flickered in a distinctively different way at this time than at any other time of year. The Christmas tree seemed like a Being to me…a sentient individual. My sensations were not a Christian feeling nor anything connected to the Santa Claus story. It felt like being “Home” again, connected to a sense of Oneness and to something extremely ancient.

    Its presence left my life sometime over the past 25 years. Each year I search it out and hope for its return, but it’s just a distant memory now. I dearly miss it. It was the very best part of Christmas…the invisible part. The connection to Spirit, mystery and an uplifting sense of magic that didn’t diminish with childhood, but only grew stronger in time. And then, one year, it was gone. Just gone. Like a sudden death or a missing person. I don’t know why. There simply was nothing there. I suspect it’s because Christmas has become so over-commercialized that it leaves no space for Spirit. But I don’t really know. The season now feels hollow, empty, flat and lonely without it. Even with the blinding overabundance of LED lighting, there’s a sense of darkness now.

    Still, I hope it’s just me and that others can easily sense and feel what I no longer do.

    I decorate simply with a bit of woodland greenery, potted plants, fresh flowers, and a modest fresh-cut balsam minimally trimmed with soft white lights and blown glass ornaments in the shapes of nature symbols such as pine cones, mushrooms and birds. And I still light a candle in case my Old Spirit returns…

  3. Kate says:

    Hi Karen
    Thank you for explaining the Christmas tree feng shui issues. It’s very informative. I will be using the Council’s shredding scheme to recycle my tree in January. I have experimented with all scenarios – a plastic tree, no tree, a tree that you can plant in the garden – but all were not suitable for various reasons. This year is the first time I’ve ever bought a cut tree.
    Kate

  4. Kate says:

    I forgot to ask Karen: If I have a Christmas tree, is the Wood area in feng shui the best place to keep it?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Kate – If you follow the logic of your question, everything made of wood in a person’s home would need to be placed in the Wood area, everything made of an earthy material would need to placed in the Earth area, and so on. Feng shui doesn’t work like that. In any case, a Christmas tree is not just made of wood (Wood). Its most prominent feature is that it is triangular-shaped (Fire), and it is adorned with decorations of different colours and shapes, which can add accents of any of the elements (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire). So there is no one-size-fits-all best place to put a Christmas tree or to decorate it. Many other factors need to be taken into account.

      My best advice? A Christmas tree is only a temporary, so there’s no need to overthink this. Just put it somewhere where it will not block the flow of energies around your home for the few weeks it is there, be sure to remove it as soon as it shows signs of dying, and dispose of it responsibly. My father used to plant ours in the garden, then dig it up and bring it into the house each year. But it’s rare to hear of anyone doing that these days. Millions of tons of Christmas trees unnecessarily end up in landfill each January. Here are some ideas for how to recycle your Christmas tree.

  5. Kate says:

    Lovely article as always Karen! I have been struggling with the concept of Christmas for a few years. I don’t have kids and my husband’s Kurdish, so we have little incentive to put up a Christmas tree. This depressed me somewhat. I have always loved the Chris tree aesthetic – the combination of dark green and hidden glowing fairy lights and tempting hangy things. I could stare at a Christmas tree forever.

    BUT, it took me many years to work out my conflict with Christmas trees – many of the things Karen writes about in her article.

    How to have a Christmas tree without the negative accompanying issues? I decided to worship Christmas as Yule instead and focus on the pagan pre-Christian aspects.

    I have a tree every year, my decorations are in one box – they are enough for any tree that would fit in my house.

    I buy all my decorations from charity shops. In the UK you can fine really nice quality baubles if you look. I don’t use tinsel or anything that (if it ever found it’s way into the waste stream) would harm wildlife or the environment.

    If I change decorations, it’s one in one out. Everything has to fit in my box or it’s donated to charity.

    I have a garden so I pick yew and box branches to decorate. I use candles infrequently due to air pollution.

    I have no angels or religious symbols ( I’m atheist) but think about the green (nature), renewal and endings, the warm, happy glow and the level of fascination my cat shows when the tree is brought in!

  6. Rachel says:

    thanks for adding that…evergreens coming inside (mid November or so) is a Really Old tradition. We now are in a pretty small space, but will have fragrant greenery and whatever we can fit on it from our cherished collection…It helps to inventory and store in meaningfully labeled small boxes.

  7. Kate says:

    Hi Kathy
    I get why you’re reluctant to get rid of your Christmas decorations.
    Maybe consider donating them to a children’s hospice or similar so they can use your decorations? That way they’d still be of use to an important sector of society, not just chucked in the bin.

  8. Michele says:

    I am a devoted clutter clearer but I certainly do not regard my wonderful collection of Christmas decorations as clutter. I have collected tree decorations from many different parts of the world and I also have one from my childhood and some that I have been given.
    I treasure these decorations and it makes me feel happy looking at my (artificial) Christmas tree all lit up and decorated.

    In the meantime I continue to clutter clear at least one unwanted, unused or outgrown item from my home once a week.

  9. Virginia says:

    Karen A–I agree with you! It’s about Yule. Kathy–I live in PA and thought the same thing! I often wonder if other countries are like ours! Being in PA, you probably see the Christmas lights still hanging in the spring. When a husband asked his wife what she wanted for MOTHER’S DAY, she said, “For you to take down the lights!” They are now divorced.

    We have been moving toward a minimal lifestyle and this was our first “minimal Christmas.” My family liked it! No one really missed the “Christmas in CT” or “Martha Stewart” decorations. Managed to get decorations to two boxes. For next year, I plan to replace many of the commercially made ornaments with handmade ones. No tinsel–we have a cat. Take a look online for “images for minimal Christmas decorating” to see some beautifully simply looks.

    Great article! I’m going to pass it on.

    Happy New Year!

  10. Jo-Anne says:

    Yes, I can agree that modern Christmas decorations are symbolic imitations however as I put up my tree and decorate it each item is a trip to a happy place. I have many restrung and repaired ornaments and I have decoration that were my Mother’s, I have nearly every one I had from my first Christmas when I left the family home and I have every one that my children made decades ago which, along with the tree, are recycled year after year decade after decade.

    I don’t do the current ‘trend’ each year and yes I do have enough to dress the tree three or for different ways but I am happiest to put it all up en mass. And yes I do buy a few new decorations most years to replace the broken or the damaged or just because I am caught up in the hype. It is also the gift I give when I do the secret santa thing.

    I have lived in homes ranging from modest to very tiny and I transfer ‘Christmas’ to each however for the rest…the space defines my stuff. I can imagine my room in the nursing home if I ever go there with as much Christmas as I can put up just as I do for my mother each year.

    For us Easter and Australia Day are low key, valentine, halloween are non events, and most of all my day to day is minimalist and getting more so each year. I am happy with the excess that Christmas is and very happy to live a life decluttered the rest of the time. A nice balance I would say.

  11. Kathy says:

    I have 13 boxes of Christmas decorations that I have not used in over 10 years. This is because I had them when I was married but I am divorced with no kids so I haven’t wanted to put them up in all this time. Many of the ornaments and decorations have a sentimental association with my former husband and I haven’t had the courage to go through the boxes. I don’t want to look at the ornaments and get sad, but they seem too precious to throw out or give away. So they sit there. Meanwhile, I am really questioning the commercialism of Christmas. And I see that the lights and decorations and blow-up Santas and snowmen seem to really be getting out of control here in Pennsylvania. I feel like Scrooge sometimes! Anyway, thanks for giving me the courage to go through my boxes. I think with your encouragement I will finally be able to do it.

  12. Theresa says:

    Every year it seems like we put up out fewer things yet we still have at least 5 boxes in the basement marked “Christmas.” Your blog has encouraged me to let everything we didn’t use this year go … in good conscience! Thanks!

  13. Karen A says:

    It was traditionally a pagan holiday and still is. Merry Yule!! Happy Winter Solstice!! )O(

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