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Photo: Annie Meyers-Shyer
My family has always loved the holiday season. My parents made that time magical and special for my sister and me when we were children, and when I became a parent, I knew I wanted to do the same for my kids. For my son’s first Christmas, I was the fool who bought a million presents and wrapped them all and then had to unwrap them because he was only 6 months old and clearly too young for any of it. It was joyful nonetheless.
Now that it’s mid-November, things are almost in full swing at my house. All the Halloween stuff goes down on November 1, and I immediately hang a rust-colored gingham bow that’ll stay until the wreath goes up in December. We have the Ralph Lauren holiday candles burning (even though it’s still 80 degrees in Los Angeles). And soon, around November 15-ish, I’ll pick up large poinsettias at Costco, which are by far the best around. The day after Thanksgiving is when our house really turns into Santa’s Village. The boxes come out of the garage along with the life-size reindeer. I start polishing my menorah, and then I head to the Christmas-tree lot to find the perfect noble fir.
At the moment, I’m knee-deep in a home renovation; I’ll never forget our first meeting in our new house when I asked our architect where he thought we should place the Christmas tree. This whole room of people looked at me sideways, but these are my priorities.
I grew up celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, so we do the same with our kids. A newer tradition is our yearly visit to Candy Cane Lane — it’s this four-by-four-block stretch in the San Fernando Valley where every house just goes all out. I don’t know if you have to sign something if you move there agreeing to decorate your house, but cars line up to view the amazing decorations, and the children really enjoy it. We always watch holiday movies with the kids; Elf is probably one of our favorites. We showed them Home Alone last year, which they loved. And The Holiday, obviously. And every year we write down notes about what’s happening in our family at the present time, and then we pack them up in the ornaments. When we open them the next year, we always enjoy reading what we wrote the year before. I got that ritual from my mom.
I recently found some Martha Stewart holiday books from the ’80s, and after sifting through them I realized that maybe what I love about the holiday season is that it’s one of the few things that really hasn’t changed throughout the years. It’s always been a time to slow down, cozy up with family and friends, and, of course, decorate.
But don’t expect my decorations to linger through January. I pack everything right after New Year’s. That’s when we close up shop and the countdown until the next holiday season begins.
I typically order paperwhite bulbs to arrive in early November and plant a few the weekend before Thanksgiving. I plant a new batch each weekend until the beginning of December. That way I always have blooming paperwhites throughout the holiday season.
I was given this candle by my husband’s mother when he and I first started dating. There are a lot of holiday candles on the market, but this one is the actual holiday season in candle form. I buy a few each year and give them as gifts too. There’s a three-wick version if you’re feeling fancy.
This is the Straw London bow currently on my front door — I ordered it last year. I keep it up from Halloween through Thanksgiving. I love this bow so much that I may keep it up all season long this year. I have the rust color, which feels perfectly transitional.
[Editor’s note: Straw London lists its prices in English pounds. The price listed is an approximation.]
I order special ornaments to tack onto gifts when wrapping. My favorites are from Old World Ornaments. Last year, I gave my mom a typewriter. This year, I ordered this Birkenstock ornament to tie on to my sister’s gifts (we love Birks). The company carries a ton of ornaments, so there is really something for everyone. For a tree topper, this is my favorite.
I love to place colored-glass-ball ornaments in bowls around the house. You can find these in any hue, so try for something that works well with your décor. This year, I am ordering yellow. In the past, I’ve used vintage ornaments I found on Etsy. These are a great find.
We buy a real Christmas tree every year, but I use faux garland for the mantels. I zhuzh them up with twinkle lights, fresh pine cones, pomegranates, and eucalyptus from Trader Joe’s. While we’re on the topic of faux versus real, I own and love this wreath from Front Gate.
My friend Heather Taylor makes the perfect tree skirt. You can’t see much of it once the presents are under the tree, but adorable bits of red plaid peek through. I love things you only buy once and can use year after year.
My favorite wrapping paper is from Pops and Piaf in London — they come out in mid-October. I already placed my order. I promised my mom I wouldn’t tell anyone about this wrapping paper because we don’t want them to sell out, so don’t sell them out, okay?
I order my velvet ribbon from Amazon — but make sure it’s double-faced so it looks pretty at all angles. I also just ordered some of this Swedish ribbon from Etsy. It will look great with just simple kraft paper wrapping.
I love making a stovetop potpourri. It also makes a great hostess gift when visiting friends during the holidays. I buy glass mason jars and fill them with 1/2 cup cranberries, 1 small orange, 1 spring of rosemary or pine, 1 tablespoon of cloves, and a few cinnamon sticks. You can tie on these cute free printable tags — and voilà! If making it at home, it’s all the same ingredients, just add 2 to 3 cups of water and slice up that orange. I can smell it already!
I typically order my kids holiday pajamas. These are my favorites. Tricia’s store also has amazing personalized ornaments. They are the sweetest heirlooms! You can customize them with your kids’ names on them.
My sister made the greatest holiday Spotify playlist. I start playing it November 1. My favorite holiday song is Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” It always kicks off the season for me.
These stockings are excellent and ship fast! We’ve had them for so many years, and I still love them. I am a dedicated knitter, but this is way beyond my skill level. You can personalize them too.
My friend the ceramicist Stephanie Dawn Matthias makes beautiful menorahs.
And because all details matter, these are the best candles.
When we move into our new house, I want to buy these snowflakes. I plan to place them sporadically across the front of the house. I already made sure we have plugs for holiday lights. Who knows, I may leave them up all year long.
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