Decor – Changing Christmas Displays (Part One)

During the holiday season, as most readers to my blog will know, I like to change my Christmas displays from year to year.  Sometimes, I will change the location of the displays to different rooms of our house or I will add various accessories or embellishments to the displays from year to year.  In this two part series I will show my annual Christmas displays and how they have changed throughout the years.  In Part One I will feature my Fontanini Nativity display and in Part Two I will show my Department 56 North Pole village display.

When I was growing up my mother had a beautiful nativity set with hundreds of pieces that she always set up under our Christmas tree every year.  One of favorite things to do during the holiday season was to lie on my stomach just looking at the display and the various figurines and sometimes, when my mother wasn’t looking, I would play with the pieces.  Unfortunately, after my mother passed away, I don’t know what happened to her nativity set.  It would have been nice to have one or two pieces for remembrance!  (below is a Christmas 1971 photo of my mother which shows just a small portion of my mother’s nativity set under the Christmas tree)

1971 Christmas - Mom and Barbara

When I first got married, I knew I wanted a nativity set to carry on the tradition for my own family.  There is a wonderful Christmas store in Solvang, California called the Jule Hus ( and that is where I purchased my Fontanini Nativity set.  The small starter set came with a stable, Gloria the angel, Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  My nativity set will never be as big as my mother’s nativity set but it is just the right size to display anywhere in our house.

The first few years I traditionally displayed the nativity set under the Christmas tree but then as I bought more Fontanini pieces and accessories I wanted to get a little more creative.  One year I displayed them in our entrance hall on an antique sewing machine table.  I raised the nativity stable on a box covered with a piece of sand colored suede material (this material would be re-used again in a variety of different ways for my other nativity displays over the following years).  By that time I had added a few more Fontanini pieces to my collection, which included a donkey, cow, goat, two sheep and a couple of white doves, and set these additional pieces into the display.  To complete the display I added a set of palm trees and ferns, a wooden fence and a couple of miniature clay pots that I had purchased that year. 


The following year I decided to display the nativity set inside an antique trunk in our living room.  I had my husband cut a piece of wood to fit the dimensions of the trunk to be used as the base and then covered it with the suede material and placed the nativity stable on top.  Next, I cut a large piece of Styrofoam board and covered it with variegated blue cotton fabric to use as a background and then I placed a large flat rock in front (the foam board with blue material would be used again in another year’s nativity display and also in another year for my Department 56 North Pole display).  Then, I set out my original Fontanini pieces and added the ones that I had purchased that year which included the three wise men, shepherds and villagers and a few more sheep and a dog.  To complete the display I had found a lovely white ornament which I hung over the nativity stable as the evening star. 


The following year, we had recently purchased a large oak cabinet for our living room and I set up the nativity set on top displayed in a way similar to the previous year.  Because I could not safely support the weight, I decided not to use the large flat rock and instead draped the suede material to resemble small hills which added an extra dimension to the display.


The next year I decided to move the nativity set into our dining room in an oak cabinet that we had recently purchased.  I removed one of the extra shelves and covered the remaining shelf with the suede material and tucked a box under the material and placed the nativity stable on top.  Then, then I added a new sheep shelter which I placed to the left of the stable and two campfire sets.  That year I had purchased several additional Fontanini animal figurines, which included several more sheep, goats, an extra donkey & cow and three camels and herder from the wise men’s caravan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following year, I displayed the nativity set in the same oak cabinet in the dining room but I decided to add more layers to the display.  By separating the Fontanini pieces into the additional layers allowed more room to display the collection and provided a better view of the individual pieces.  As an example of my ever changing nativity display, I had purchased at an after Christmas sale the previous year another nativity stable made of resin with more detailed features which I set out in the center as the focal point of the display (I kept the original wooden stable for possible use in the future for another craft project).

2007 Christmas 2

The next Christmas we had moved from California to our current home in the Midwest.  That year I decided to display the nativity set on top of an antique piano in our library room at the new house, it was a sentimental piece of furniture that had previously been in my husband childhood home in Berlin when his family had lived there for a few years.  Once again, I used the suede material with a small box placed underneath and to the left side to provide some height in the display.  The nativity stable was set on top and because of the size of the surface of the piano top I decided that I would edited down the Fontanini nativity display and only used a portion of my collection (this is another example of changing a display from year to year)

2009 Christmas

By the next Christmas, my husband’s grandmother had passed away and we had inherited an antique table that had been in her family for several years.  I thought that it would be a wonderful idea to honor her memory and incorporate this sentimental piece of furniture into the nativity display.  The table was placed in our library and I covered it with the suede material.  Next, I placed in the center a small piece of Styrofoam which I had painted in several colors of tan and brow to match the material and placed the stable on top.  Once again I edited down the collection to fit the dimensions of the surface of the table and used only selected a small portion of my Fontanini collection.  To add some additional interest, I scattered some sand around the display to create the illusion of the desert location of Bethlehem.

2011 Christmas  22011 Christmas 1

The following year, in keeping with my ever changing Christmas decorating from year to year, I decided to display the nativity set on a larger table which was placed in front of the windows in our library.  Once again, the suede material was used and I positioned the nativity stable on top of pervious Styrofoam base used last year.  Next, I placed the nativity stable on top of the Styrofoam base and set out only a small portion of my Fontanini collection.

2012 Christmas The next year I decided to create a more elaborate nativity display on the same table in our library.  I used a new moss covered base set with two “rock” fences and a “rock” arch piece placed to the back of the display.  Next, the palm trees that I had been using for years were starting to show some wear so I decided to repair them instead of purchasing new ones, I also redesigned a resin water well that I had used in previous displays (these are great examples of keeping the cost down by refurbishing existing items).  Next, I set out some recently purchased display accessories, such as clay ports of grain, basket of fish and another one of olives.  I also added to my Fontanini collection and had purchased four additional figures of a shepherd and several villagers.  (This display was featured in a previous post from my blog and for more detailed information on how it was created please click on the link to Setting up a Fontanini Display)

2013 Christmas

The following year I decided to move my nativity display into the dining room in our home, this was one area of the house that I hadn’t used yet for the nativity set.  I emptied everything out the bottom shelf of the oak china cabinet to make room for the display.  I used the three piece moss-covered base and set the nativity stable in the center and then arranged all the other Fontanini figures and accessories, although I didn’t use the palm trees because height size was too tall it fit in the china cabinet.

2014 Christmas

For this year’s nativity display, I kept it in the dining room but moved it to an antique tea table.  I used only two sections of the moss-covered base stacked on top of each other.  I also changed the palm trees because the weight of the heavy cactus top caused them to be unbalanced.  I replace them with lighter cactus tops and gave some weight to the base of the palm tree by hot-gluing on some metal discs underneath, this worked great and solved the problem of the toppling trees!  Once again, I edited down my Fontanini collection using only a few pieces that would fit the dimensions of the tea table.

2015 Christmas 1

As this post has shown in detail, a nativity display can be frequently changed from year to year by moving it to different rooms or areas of your home and also by adding accessories or other decorations to the display.  I hope this will inspire my readers to think about the options for displaying a nativity set in several different ways!

One last special note:  As you might have noticed in some of the photos shown in this post, the figure of baby Jesus is missing from the manger.  The reason for this is because our family tradition every year during the holiday season is that the manger in the nativity display stays empty until Christmas Eve.  On that evening we read from a beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of the birth of Jesus.  After we are done reading, my daughter will put baby Jesus in the manger and we say a prayer.  It is a lovely moment to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.

Decor – My Christmas Decorations from Past Years (Part Two)

As previously mentioned in Part One of My Christmas Decorations From Past Years series, I like to challenge myself every holiday season by using my Christmas decorations in different ways and sometimes in different rooms of our house every year.  Shown in the photos below are a variety of decorations from several years of Christmas past.

Pine Garlands

Some of my favorite Christmas decorations start with simple artificial pine garlands and at our home in California I frequently used them to decorate the entertainment center in the living room, the china cabinet in the dining room, the fireplace mantel in the family room and even above the bay window in the kitchen.  Every year I used different Christmas items to decorate the garlands, such as a variety of glass ornaments, artificial poinsettias, holly leaves with red berries in the living room and dining room, and one year I used artificial “sugared” fruit in the dining and wonderful artificial candy decorations for the kitchen for a fun and whimsical look.  (For more information about these decorated pine garlands, please click on the link to Part One of the “My Christmas Decorations From Past Years” series)

Besides using pine garlands in the interior rooms of the house, I also used them to decorate the front door of our home in California.  To start the display, I hammered in several nails above the front door which I used to hang an artificial pine garland which I decorated with several artificial red poinsettias and sprays of red berries.  I also hung a large artificial pine garland decorated with more red poinsettias, sprays of red berries and real pine cones.


Pine Sprays

Artificial pine sprays are also a versatile Christmas decorating accessory that can be used to create wonderful displays in a home.  During the holiday season I use several pine sprays that I place behind the picture frames of several pictures in the family room, library and dining room throughout the years in both our former California and our new home in the Midwest.  Some of these pine sprays that I have used are plain and others have pine cones attached to them, I have also added red berry sprays for additional decorations.

I have also used artificial pine sprays to decorate the tops of tables, curio cabinets, fireplace mantels and even kitchen cabinets.  One year I decorated the pine sprays on the top of the tall cabinet in the dining room with the artificial “sugared” fruits that matched the pine garland I used above the china cabinet, the photo above shows the display.


When we moved to the Midwest, I decided to use the gingerbread and candy decorations from the previous year’s pine garland in a different way than I had previously used above the bay window in the kitchen of our California home.  In our new home there was a space above the kitchen cabinets that was the perfect spot to create a new holiday display that used several pine sprays decorated with the gingerbread and candy decorations and finished with the gingerbread train from a previous year’s display.   (Please click on the link, Christmas Home Decorations, to see a photo of this display)

Also on the fireplace mantel in our Midwest family room, I decided to use several artificial pine sprays instead of a pine garland.  Below are two photos that show how I decorated the pine sprays in three different years.  The first year, I used two sets of pine sprays place on either side of the picture above the mantel.  I decorated them with red berries, real pine cones and I also placed two sets of candles on the mantel.  The next year, I placed the four pine sprays across the mantel below the picture which I decorated with red berries.  I also set several family Christmas photos on either side to complete the display.  (Please click on the link, Christmas Stockings/Fireplace, to see photos of these displays in another Décor post)

Finally, the following year I decided to do something a little more elaborate to include a special Christmas sign that I had recently made.  In previous years I had usually displayed my Dept. 56 North Pole Village in the built-in bookshelf to the side of the fireplace but this time I set up the North Pole display on the mantel.

2012 Christmas  Family room fireplace mantel

Tabletop Christmas Trees

Small tabletop Christmas trees are also a very versatile accessory that I use frequently in my holiday decorating throughout our house.  As previously mentioned in another Décor post entitled Christmas Trees, during the season every year I set-up several special and unique trees for family members.  My husband has a Star Trek tree placed on the deck in his home office and my son has a Star Trek for his room.  My daughter has another small tabletop Christmas tree for her room that I have decorated with Barbie ornaments one year, Disney princess ornaments for another year and Snowbabies miniature figurines for a different year.  (For more information about decorating with Department 56 Snowbabies, please click on the link)

2007 Christmas Cassie's Christmas Tree

Even more tabletop Christmas trees have decorated the various rooms of our house throughout the years.  In the entry way on a wooden bench I have displayed a Santa in a beautiful white embroidered cloak with two elves.  In another room is another tree placed on the fireplace hearth with an old fashioned Santa dressed in lovely red velvet cloak with two reindeer.  In the dining room on the chest of drawers is a porcelain dark-haired doll dressed in a red wool coat, hat and black fur muff and displayed with a reindeer and a wooden sled.  Even in the bathroom there is woodland small Santa dressed in a green corduroy coat with a fishing creel with a small Christmas decorated with red berries and a gold star on top.

I have also repurposed my holiday decorations from other displays from previous years to use as decorations for several more tabletop trees.  Above the refrigerator in our California home I decorated a small Christmas tree with chocolate candy ornaments that I had used the year before in the pine garland over the kitchen window and finished the display bay placing a gingerbread train in front of the tree.


Another tabletop Christmas tree is decorated with the Boyd’s Bears ornaments that I had previously used on the fireplace mantel in our California home.  In keeping with the bear theme, the next year I decorated another Christmas tree with small stuffed teddy bears.

2009 Christmas Library - Boyds Bears

Decor – My Christmas Decorations from Past Years (Part One)

When we lived in California, I decorated our house for Christmas in a very different way from our Midwest home.  I used artificial pine garland in several of the rooms, including the living room, family room, dining room and kitchen.  Pine garland is a wonderful Christmas decorating accessory to use and it can be very versatile with the use of different items added from one room to another to get a wonderful variety of looks.

As I discussed in last month’s Décor post, Fall decorations, in our previous home in California I used several lengths of pine garland set up in both the living room and dining room decorations with golden roses, berries and oak leaves with pre-strung with lights because the intent was to leave the garland in place until Christmas.  This was meant to save time during the holiday decorating process and the accessories in the garland would be changed from the Fall to the Christmas seasons.  In both rooms there were large oak pieces of furniture, an oak entertainment center in the living room and an oak china cabinet in the dining room, and the garland was secured into place at the top of each.

For the 2002 Christmas season, I removed the Fall decorations and added red poinsettias with red berries and holly leaves.  The inspiration for this was a trip had recently made down to Encinitas, California to the Ecke farm that grows poinsettias which are marketed and shipped throughout the United States during the holiday season.  I started the arrangement by inserting several artificial poinsettias into the existing garland and in between the flowers I added holly leaves and red berries.  The contrast of the green pine garland and the red poinsettias was very festive for Christmas.  Both arrangements in the living room and the dining room used the same decorations.


For the 2003 holiday season, I decided to do a different arrangement in the dining room.  I thought it would be appropriate to incorporate artificial fruit into the garland for a food themed arrangement that was reflected in the still life painting over the china cabinet.  I started by lacing red burgundy colored ribbon throughout the artificial pine garland. Next, I secured artificial “sugared” fruit onto the garland; I used grapes, apples and pears.  I think it made a wonderful display and looked very elegant in the dining room and the arrangement was used for both the Fall and Christmas seasons.  (Please check out the craft post, Victorian centerpiece, to see how I repurposed the “sugared” fruit into a lovey arrangement that I used last year in our Midwest home for the holiday season)


In our California home, I always decorated our kitchen with a gingerbread and candy theme for the Christmas season.  To start the 2002 decorations, I hung an artificial pine garland over the window.  I had found various candy themed items in the local craft stores, such as artificial chocolate candies, white chocolate covered strawberries and white “Icing” snowflakes.  These items were secured to the garland and the decorations looked perfect for the kitchen.

In keeping with my decorating style of constantly changing my holiday displays, for the 2003 Christmas I again used an artificial pine garland and laced a cute “Ho,Ho,Ho” red and white ribbon through the garland.  I still used the artificial chocolate candies but that year I added artificial gumdops, peppermint candies and red and white lollipops.  All these items were secured to the garland and once again the contrast of red and green colors looked great for the Christmas season.  As you can see for the photos of the kitchen garland for one year to the next, the same candy theme was used but with different accessories the garlands had to distinct and different looks.


For the last garland arrangement in our California house, I used another artificial pine garland for the fireplace mantel, this Christmas decoration was featured in the Décor post, Displaying a Boyd’s Bear Collection – Part Two.  I had found a string of amber pinecone lights in a local store and strung them through the garland.  Next, I evenly spaced my collection of Boyd’s Bear ornament nestled among the pine boughs.  To finish the display I added several real pinecones and red berries scattered throughout the garland.

As you can see by moving from one house to another I adapted by Christmas decorations and used the items in new and different ways.  I hope this inspires you to take a look as your Christmas decorations as you unpack them from their storage boxes and think about displaying those items in fun and different ways in the rooms of your home.

Craft – Christmas Ornament Displays

As I mentioned in this month’s Décor post, Ornaments Used in Unusual Ways, ornaments are not just for the Christmas tree and they can be used in many different ways throughout the house during the holiday season.  In this post I will show three examples on how ornaments can be displayed in some fun and creative ways.

Ornament Snowglobe

The idea for the Ornament Snowglobe is to use an ornament that can create a winter scene and then be able to turn the jar upside down for the artificial snow to create a falling snow effect.  The gingerbread house is a great example to use for this craft project, other ornament suggestions are: a Santa Claus ornament, a Snowman ornament or a single Christmas tree.

For this display I used a small glass container with a lid, a gingerbread house ornament, some artificial snow, and a glue gun/glue sticks.  Craft NoteWhen purchasing an ornament for this craft project, be sure that the ornament is small enough to fit inside the jar with the lid closed, also check the width of the ornament so it can fit through the jar’s opening.

Snowglobe ornament display - supplies

To start, be sure the inside of the jar is clean and remove any price tags or metal display loop from the top of the ornament.  To remove the display loop, grab hold of the loop with a plier and then twist with an upward movement.

Secure the gingerbread house ornament to the bottom of the jar with glue.  Optional step: For a permanent “snow base”, lay some cotton balls or batting onto the bottom of the jar after attaching the ornament OR paint the bottom of the jar with white paint and let it completely dry before attaching the ornament.

Next, add a small layer of artificial snow to the bottom of the jar.  Then, to finish the ornament snowglobe, securely glue the lid onto the top of the jar so that the jar can be turned for the “snow effect”.

Snowglobe ornament display - final

Framed ornament

For this display it is important to use ornaments with flat backs, such as the deer or gingerbread ornaments seen below.  I used a wallpaper remnant (but scrapbook paper can also be used) for the background, a frame that matches the ornament and a hot glue gun/glue sticks.

Framed deer ornament - supplies

Disassemble the picture frame, separating the glass and back from the frame.  Cut the wallpaper remnant (or scrapbook paper) to fit the size of the frame.  Then, glue the paper to the glass.  Re-assemble the glass and the frame backing inside the frame.  To finish the display, center and attach the ornament to the paper.

Framed deer ornament - final

Craft Note: The theme of this Framed Ornament is not specific to any holiday and would look wonderful on a side table or bookcase and can be displayed year-round.

Ornaments Under Glass

This project is similar to the ornament snowglobe but the difference is that this larger display can only remain stationary and uses multiple ornaments or accessories.

For this ornament display I used a large glass container with a lid, a boy and girl skater ornaments, four small artificial pine trees, artificial snow and a glue gun/glue sticks.  The idea for this craft project is to have one or two ornaments and use accessories like trees and artificial snow to set a winter scene in soft pastels or whimsical with primary colors.

Ornaments under glass - supplies

To start, be sure the inside of the glass container  is clean and remove any price tags or metal display loop from the top of the ornament.

Next, position the accessories, such as the pine trees, and secure into place at the bottom of the glass container with the hot glue gun/glue.  Be sure to leave room for the ornaments by positioning the accessories to the sides of the container and leave the area in the front clear to view the scene inside.

Then, secure the ornaments into place at the bottom of the glass container.  To finish the Ornaments Under Glass display, add a small layer of artificial snow to the bottom of the container to look like fresh fallen snow.

Ornaments under glass - final

So, next time you are shopping in the local retail or craft stores during the holiday season check out the Christmas ornaments and think about a different way of displaying them in fun and creative ways!

Decor – Fall to Christmas Change Over

The week after Thanksgiving is a very busy time for me!  That’s when the Fall decorations are put away and the Christmas decoration boxes are brought up from the basement.   I really enjoy taking my time to unpack each box and deciding how I want to do this year’s displays.  Even when I’m using the same pieces year after year I try to set my displays in different ways or in different rooms of the house.  Sometimes the Fontanini Nativity set will be in the dining room and the next year it will be in the our library or the Department 56 North Pole Village will be in the family room bookshelf and the next year is will on the mantel over the fireplace.  This keeps everything interesting and it is fun to use different ideas or techniques to set up the displays.

In upcoming December posts, I will take you through all my preparations of the different Christmas displays I create in our home, such as: Fontanini Nativity Display and Department 56 North Pole Village.  Some other December posts detail my other Christmas decorations, such as: Themed Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths.  All of these Christmas decorations are created to make the holiday season a special one for my family.

Now, I wanted to discuss how to use some of the same materials for both Fall and Christmas.  When this is done in a creative way it can save time and expense when changing over the decorations from one holiday to next.  (Who doesn’t want to have extra time and save money at this time of year!!)

Pine garlands are a very versatile material for this purpose and I will show how with some simple changes it can be used for both Fall and Christmas decorations.  One of the most traditional ways to use pine garlands are on a mantel over the fireplace.  Below are two photos showing the same garland decorated for both holidays.  Keeping the same pine garland on the mantel, I switched out the fall decorations and replaced them with the Christmas decorations.  For Fall, the pine garland is decorated with colorful ceramic fall leaves and red berry sprays scattered throughout.    For Christmas, I used several ceramic snowflakes, large green glass pinecones ornaments and red berry sprays.


Small tabletop Christmas trees can be used in the same versatile way.  In my dining room I create a “Memory Tree” and placed it on a tea table.  This special tree is decorated with family photos in small bronze photo frame ornaments.  (Please see this week’s Craft post for more information on the Memory Tree or Wreath)  Below are two photos showing the “Memory Tree” decorated in two different ways for Fall and Christmas.  For Thanksgiving, the tree is decorated with golden feathers and oak leaves with acorns.  For Christmas, I replace the golden feathers with burgundy feathers and small glass pinecone ornaments.


As you can see, all it takes is a little creativity and by simply using different decorations to accent a pine garland or a tabletop Christmas tree the look can reflect the different holidays.

I would love to hear from you so, please write me to share your own ideas or comments.