Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

How to Decorate A Real Christmas Tree

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Today I want to show you how we prune our Christmas tree, place lights a better way, hang ornaments to cover gaps, and make ornaments to commemorate life events.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree

As you probably know, English is not my native tongue. If we ever had a conversation, you would think I speak quite well. You might even find my slight British accent pretty cute. But if we carried on conversing for a while, then you would surely start getting confused, as I happen to scatter those British words which are not commonly used in American English. You know…the ones like “boot” (meaning trunk), “hoovering the floors” (meaning vacuuming the floors), or “fortnight” (meaning 2 weeks).

I wish that was all…you see, while I have no communication issues in my daily life, my vocabulary is still a little bit limited. And with that, my friend, you would agree with Greg that I have great potential for creating our funniest memories every time I open my mouth…or my ears! LOL. πŸ˜‰

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Ok, so you may be wondering what this has to do with decorating a sentimental Christmas tree? Well, here comes the story of it…

It was our very first Christmas in America, and we wanted to have a real Christmas tree. As it happened, we were a little late to buy it (mid-December), so by the time we shopped for a tree, there were only oddly-shaped ones left. But as it was going to be my first real Christmas tree ever, the odd shapes and sizes didn’t matter. I was just so ecstatic about it! I was so excited that I almost hugged the delivery guy when I saw him dropping off our tree the very same day! LOL.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
Now that we know better, we buy our tree on the day after Thanksgiving. This year, we were the first customers at the nursery!

With all that excitement, of course we set it up right away, and I got on with decorating. Oh, I can’t tell you how great it felt to decorate my very first real Christmas tree! Despite it’s odd shape, it looked perfect to me!

Later that evening, Mom & Dad came to see us. While Dad was talking to Greg about how to secure the tree properly, Mom was complimenting our tree: “Oh what a perfectly-trimmed tree! It looks great, Handan!!”

And those words of hers started it all!…hahahaha πŸ™‚

Right after they left, I ran to the shed, grabbed my pruning shears and got to work. A little later, seeing what I was doing to our tree, Greg’s eyes almost popped-out:

G: What the hell are you doing to that tree, woman?!?

H: (humming Christmas carols with a big smile on my face) Nothing…I am just trimming the tree. Didn’t you hear what Mom said?

G: (can’t make sense of what he is seeing and hearing) No!! What did she say???

H: (still humming Christmas carols with a big smile) She said “Oh, what a perfectly-trimmed tree!” I actually didn’t trim it at all when she saw it. But I think that is what you’re supposed to do with the real trees….trim them off a bit…otherwise why would she think I trimmed it, right?

G: (laughing on the floor with tears in his eyes) ………

H: (trying to keep cool and hoping for the best) What is so funny, you silly?….Does it look bad?….Am I trimming it weird??

He was laughing so hard that he couldn’t even breath, let alone speak. Two minutes later, he took a deep breath and said:

G: She didn’t mean to prune the tree!….bbbwhhaahhaahaha…..(lost him to laughter craze again)

And with that, pruning the Christmas tree became our little tradition! πŸ˜€

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

But before getting into the details of pruning, let me share with you our second tradition along with some of our Christmas tree decoration tips.

Sentimental ornaments: telling your life story with your Christmas tree decoration

I must say, Mom (Greg’s mom) is great at starting traditions! πŸ˜‰ When Greg and Margo (Greg’s sister) were kids, Mom started to buy or make themed ornaments for them each Christmas which commemorated the major events in their lives that year. She would also write a clever caption and the year on those ornaments.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
When Greg was working in Boston, he lived in a pretty small apartment. The year he moved to a bigger apartment, Mom gave him an astronaut ornament with a clever note saying “Space! I got more space!” 1996

She would then gift Greg and Margo with those ornaments on Christmas eve for them to hang on the tree. When grandchildren arrived, Mom continued this tradition with them.

I learned about Mom’s Christmas tradition when Barish received his first sentimental ornament, and ever since, it has become our Christmas tradition too. Every year, I buy or make Christmas ornaments for Barish, Greg, Penny & Pepper (our dogs) and for myself to commemorate our major events in that year.

Here are some of our ornaments from previous years.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
Like all kids, Greg also loved his toys. So much so that at age 5, he couldn’t bear the thought of parting with his beloved toys, so he asked Mom if he could take them with him to college. The toy box ornament was given to him with a note saying “Greg’s toys for college!” LOL
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
This one is Barish’s. He was 8 when started living in India. As he is interested in engineering and architecture (which makes me a proud mama by the way), we took him to see the Taj Mahal. He was so amazed with it, he wouldn’t stop talking about it for weeks!
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
I bought this mailbox for 2013 Christmas. It represents our new home, as it was the first time in years we had a permanent mailing address πŸ™‚
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
Until we moved to America, we always lived in furnished rentals. Therefore, we never were able to hang anything on the walls, as our rental places usually came with certain rules. When we moved to our house in America, Barish was ecstatic. He grabbed all his drawings from his box and said “I have my first real room!” About an hour later when I went to his room to see what the was doing, I saw all the walls covered with his drawings πŸ˜€
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
In 2014, Barish won first place in sparring in his age group at the annual International Kung-fu Tournament. As I couldn’t find real sparring gloves, I had to get him a boxing gloves ornament, since they look pretty similar.
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
I bet you thought this ornament was Greg’s! Hahahaha πŸ˜€ But he is off the hook with this one, as Mooning Santa belongs to our girls (Penny & Pepper). Back in 2015 winter Penny caught a bad cold, and she was passing wind non-stop. But one night the poor thing let out a very long and “loud” fart which not only surprised us but even Pepper! LOL. Hence, I thought this Santa butt was the perfect ornament for them as it farts “Deck the Halls” when you squeeze it πŸ˜‰

As for this year, I already bought the ornaments for the boys and our girls (Penny & Pepper). The chair in the picture below is Greg’s, and it represents his new office chair. I already wrote the note and the year on it: “the royal chair for the royal butt!” hahahaha πŸ˜€

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

And the brass lawn mover is for Barish, as he just this year learned to mow the lawn.

Although Greg actually commemorated this event with his usual facebook posts, I thought our boy really well deserved this brass lawn mower ornament.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Now that you saw some of our ornaments, let me take you through the process of our tree decoration and how to get your real Christmas tree look like the ones in a magazine. πŸ˜‰

How to decorate a real Christmas tree

The first step is setting up the tree. As we usually go for a tree at least 9 feet tall, we use Mom & Dad’s old tree stand, because it is the heaviest and strongest one that we could possibly find. Right after we put the tree into the stand, we also secure it with wires that we attach to our baseboard. It is so the tree never falls which is a scary situation – oh yes! we went through it once with our very first tree and don’t want to go through that again. Luckily no body was hurt and no ornaments were broken! [Actually, it fell twice, and yes, ornaments were broken. I just hid them from you. -Greg]

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Then we water our tree and let it be for a day or two. I call this “tree’s relaxing time!” Not that our tree sits and enjoys a Christmas movie with us, but this relaxing time helps it to adjust to it’s new environment so it can start dropping it’s branches to a normal position.

When the tree’s relaxing time is over, I start with the lights. Now here is my first hint for you – although many people and professional websites will tell you that you need to wrap the lights to the branches as shown in the picture below, I never bother myself with that for two obvious reasons:

  1. Trying to wrap your lights around the branches causes more needles to drop, therefore the tree looks pretty naked in the end.
  2. Taking those lights out after Christmas becomes a pain the back.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Instead, I place the lights in a spiral manner as shown in the picture below. I start from the very bottom row of branches, and I work my way up. With every row of branches I wrap the lights first around the trunk. Then I make another round by placing them towards the middle, then the final round by placing them towards the end of the branches. Once I finish my work with the first row, I move to the next row above. This way when I take the tree down after Christmas I almost spend no time getting the lights out of it. I simply grab a pair of loppers and start cutting the branches row by row, and as each ow of branches falls on the floor, my lights become free for me to coil them back to their spool. πŸ˜‰

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Here is another hint for you: I always have my lights plugged in when I am placing them on the tree. This helps me seeing any broken strand of lights before I happen to place them on the tree.

Once I reach the top of the tree, I wrap whatever lights I have left around the top stem where our angel (tree topper) would be placed. While I’m at it, I also place our angel, then start decorating the tree with ornaments.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

As we always use a real tree, our trees never have the perfect shape that faux trees have. But let me tell you: it is pretty easy to give your real tree the perfect shape! Let me show you how.

Before hanging anything on the tree, I first step back a bit and determine the gaps our tree has.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Once I know the empty areas, I grab my lightweight-but-big ornaments and start hanging them into those gaps. But when I don’t have enough big lightweight ornaments, then I grab some of the heavier ornaments and hang them in a way to fill those empty areas. As the heavy ornaments will bring the upper branches closer the bottom ones, our tree ends up with evenly spread branches.

The green lines in the picture below is to show you the change in the angle of that specific branch after I hung a heavy ornament.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

After I finish filling the big empty spaces, I start putting our garland which is a simple red flannel ribbon I bought from Joann Fabrics 3 years ago.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

When I finish placing the garland, I get back to hanging the rest of ornaments: heavier ones usually go toward the top branches as they tend to be stronger, and lighter ones anywhere else on the tree, including the inner parts. I also try to fill the tree as evenly as possible. One thing I refrain from is hanging anything at the edge of the branches.

Once I hang most of our ornaments, the tree looks pretty much like it does in the picture below – not very attractive is it? Don’t worry, I won’t get offended, as this is nothing like how it looks in the end. πŸ˜‰ Now, do you see all the branches sticking out from the sides in a weird way? Well… only after I start pruning them does our tree start looking pretty!

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

As the final step, I grab my small pruning shears and start pruning our Christmas tree. Since I am not Edward Scissorhands, I always start taking off small pieces one at a time, so I don’t mistakenly cut more than I should. And if any of the ornaments needs to be moved to a different branch, I also do that during pruning.

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

The picture below was taken halfway through this process, and you can see how much I had pruned. It already looks much better!

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

When I feel like the tree has a better shape, I stop pruning and start cleaning the needles off the floor. Next, I place the tree’s skirt, then tuck the nicely-wrapped presents under the tree…

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

….annnndddd TA DA!

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Now that looks like a nicely-trimmed Christmas tree, doesn’t it? πŸ˜€ All the gaps are filled as much as possible and the branches spread out more evenly!

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

I’ll admit that it is definitely not like a designer tree, as our ornaments are pretty simple, so we tend keep the decoration also simple. But what we love about our Christmas tree is that it speaks to us – loud and proud, as it tells the fun and sweet memories of our lifetime. And I don’t think any designer tree could ever beat that! πŸ˜‰

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
Shortly after we moved to our home (Oct 2013), we realized we had the cutest neighbors ever: a red fox family! Luckily our backyard is fenced in, so our dogs could never disturb this lovely family. Although they leave every spring to discover the world, they always come back to their den every winter. As Barish was the first one to see our sweet neighbors, this ornament belongs to him πŸ™‚
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
In summer 2014, we wanted to extend our backyard fence toward our woods so we could have a bigger backyard. To do so, we needed get some trees cut down. Of course, us being us, we first wanted to try it ourselves. What a bad decision!! The tree we cut down smashed our fence and scared the heck out of us. Thank God nobody got hurt, but a great lesson was learned: don’t try to DIY everything and leave certain work to the professionals!
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
And this one represents fall 2014 , when got our fence repaired after the tree incident. LOL.
Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com
This represents Greg’s vintage desk makeover – if you’d like to get the whole story on this one just click on the picture. Pretty funny story! πŸ˜‰

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

Trimming a sentimental Christmas tree | Christmas tree decoration tips | How to decorate a real Christmas Tree | How to prune your Christmas tree to give the perfect shape | DIY sentimental Christmas ornaments | Christmas traditions | Festive holiday decoration | TheNavagePatch.com

I hope you enjoyed our traditions and our Christmas tree decoration. Do you have any Christmas traditions that you’d like to share with us? You know I would love to hear all about it!

Handan, xo

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15 Comments

  1. LOL Handan, I would have done the same thing and gone to get the pruning shears too. It seems our South African English is far closer to the Queen’s English than American English πŸ˜‰ I love your trimmed tree and all the ornaments that tell a story. What a lovely idea, I can only imagine all the memories and stories get shared when the ornaments go up each year.

    1. Don’t be fooled, Michelle! When those ornaments go up, our son is upstairs plugged into his video games, and I’m on the sofa watching TV with drool leaking from the corner of my mouth. If there is any reminiscing going on, it’s in Handan’s head πŸ˜€

    2. Hahahaha… He is such a fibber, Michelle! Just yesterday he was telling me that he remembers exactly what was going on in his mind when his Mom said yes to taking his toys to college…LOL…
      Now, think of a 5 year old sitting on the floor right in front of his locker (he thought colleges would also have lockers, but they would be bigger and taller which can take even more toys in :-D) with the greatest grin ever getting his toys out in the class breaks and playing with them while watching over his shoulder just in case another college boy would want to take them from him! Hahahaha πŸ˜€

    1. Great minds think alike Kat! I got him one just last week from Amazon.com (http://amzn.to/2hMgU3B). I already changed the writing on the star and got it all ready for hanging. But I am not giving this one before Christmas Eve, so for the past week he was like a little kid keep asking me if he could have it before…LOL πŸ˜‰

  2. I am gobsmacked, what a lovely tree and ornaments that have meaning are the best, although when I saw the chair for greg I thought you got it because he likes to sit and drool, ha ha, and don’t feel too bad about not realizing that trimming the tree meant decorating, we don’t use that word either xx

    1. Thank you so much, Chris! hahahaha…Actually that is a wonderful idea! I can get a miniature sofa and grab a lego man from Barish’s lego bin, hot glue the guy on the sofa and there you go! That would make an excellent ornament for Greg!! LOL xx

  3. I LOVE that your ornaments have meaning! While I love the look of designer tress I can’t bear to not hang up the decorations my daughter made in preschool and grade school! Pruning your tree is genius! It makes it look like it belongs in a magazine! Don’t be embarrassed about the word “trimming” it is not used very often anymore (at least not in Canada!). Also, I only wish I could speak another language as well as you speak English! Merry Christmas to you, Greg and Barish! Xo

    1. Thank you so much, Giselle! Putting up with Greg’s jokes for over 6 years now I totally passed the point of embarrassment, so I just go ahead and laugh together with him every time I think I pronounced something wrong or misunderstood something. Thank god, I have no problems at work, as technical English is almost a different language πŸ™‚
      Merry Christmas to you and to your family too! xo

  4. Love what you’ve done and all your creative and helpful hints. I laughed sooooooo hard at the tree “trimming” story. One thot about the garland. It traditionally was made of paper chains or popcorn or cranberries or the like. These things hung un graceful swags. With the ribbon, if you don’t have enough to twist and swag it, you might want to think about bringing it down from the top, tucking it in along the way. This can be repeated as many times as you have ribbon. When it is wound straight around I always think of a fat lady that has squeezed into a much too small dress. This is just my own personal thot and I love, love, love everything else.

    1. Thank you so much, Kathy! Funny you should say that: this year I actually thought about changing the way I usually put the garland, but when I realized I didn’t have much time for trial and error, I went with my quick old style again πŸ˜‰ I think I will try your method next year and see how that goes. Also hopefully for next year I will have a wooden bead garland and a faux cranberry one (of course they will be DIYed) which I am sure will look really cool on our tree. πŸ™‚
      Have a merry Christmas!