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O Christmas Tree


I stayed up too late (again) last night, eyes heavy but fixed on the softly-lit tree that sits in the corner of our living room. I was thinking about how something so simple—a few strings of plastic lights and strung ornaments—continues to enchant me day and night, year after year.

There’s no shortage of reasons why I love Christmas trees. I would put one in every room of our house if my kids would let me. There’s the traditions and ornaments, and the meaning they each carry, for one thing. With each new year, we get to take the best parts of every Christmas past and unpack them for Christmas present. That, in and of itself, always feels like a gift.

But just as easily, I find myself delighting in the creativity of decorating our tree. Christmas has a way of calling out my different design personalities when it comes to style and how I want our home to look and feel. For as much as I anticipate the nostalgia of tradition that comes with the holidays, I also love to lean into the celebratory side of the season by dressing things up a bit with a more sophisticated and elevated style. Then there’s the whimsy and wonder that I can’t help but get swept up in every year, lending itself to colorful and playful details that bring out the kid in all of us.

And that's how one tree becomes three in the Gaines household! I had so much fun decorating each one of our trees that I thought I’d share the styles—or what I like to call “personalities”—that inspired me this year.

So, allow me to introduce you to…

The Family Tree

Chip is a traditionalist, and every year he wants to be first in line at the local tree farm so we have our pick of the largest pine we can find. This year, I asked Chip if we could put up a nice, large faux tree instead so I didn't have to mess with a real one. He called me the Grinch, and needless to say, we were on our way to our favorite tree farm that night. Honestly, this tree tends to stress me out. It’s never perfectly straight, and there’s always a fifty percent chance it could come crashing down at any moment. We have to water it daily, and most of our ornaments are too heavy so the branches droop…and stringing lights around a 12 foot tree isn’t always easy. But, I have to hand it to Chip for keeping this tradition alive because this tree is always my favorite in the end. I love unpacking all the family ornaments that we ooh and ahh over each year, the ones commemorating family trips and first Christmases. Many of them are handmade and quirky, and loved all the more for it. Every year, it's an emotional experience for me when this one goes up. It’s a reminder of how many Christmases we have left under one roof, all together, and how fast the kids are growing up. So to sum up this one—the “family tree” is risky and unpredictable, but always turns out to be our favorite.

Mama's Tree

I call this one “mama’s tree”—predictable, one-color tone, faux, and perfectly pre-lit! There’s zero stress when this one goes up, and it fits just right in the corner of our bedroom. I love falling asleep to this one every night.

Crew's Tree

None of the other kids wanted a tree in their room this year (not even a mini little guy 🥲), except for Crew! His is simple, sweet, and mostly full of felt ornaments. He's like me and loves that he gets to stare at the tree when he falls asleep, and then wake up to it in the morning! Every day there seems to be a new ornament on his tree that he has pulled from one of the other trees—he also believes there's no such thing as too many ornaments on your tree!

I’m grateful for a season that brings out beauty in many forms, and of course, for my family who is always willing to help me decorate more than one tree. Whether your own tree is on the simple side or elegantly dressed, full of meaning or pared back to just the essentials, or something in between—I hope you find delight in the ways it most reflects you.

Merry Christmas!