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Holiday Decorations: From Labor of Love to Instant Gratification

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Oh, how the years of repeated ritual can produce a strong desire to create a shorthand to achieving final results. That certainly has been the case for me after almost a half century of assisting my wife in creating a festive atmosphere in our home around the holiday season.

Our first year of marriage, we spent weeks in preparation for the wintry holidays. This year, we decorated in little more than an hour.

We married in late September during the dark ages and almost immediately upon returning from our honeymoon, we engaged in our first crafts project, more like a marathon, to create all of our own ornaments for our inaugural tree. I guess that’s what a young couple with not much money and a lot of time on their hands can do.

In the days before A.C. Moore and Michael’s, the place to get the wildest stuff for ornamental projects was in Manhattan’s hat district, west of Fifth Avenue on 38th Street. On my way home from work each day, I’d pass through and buy interesting hat decorations from the time when women still wore hats.

Then, immediately following dinner, my wife and I would sit in the living room, spread out my finds on our large coffee table and get to work decorating various sizes of Styrofoam balls.

We came up with the idea of each making one elaborate tree ornament every year throughout our marriage, but we got so much into our new hobby that it became an obsession the first year. The balls became increasingly more elaborate as we practiced our skills, and many were themed with their own names.

One ball, completely covered in pink ribbon, gathered and pinned, was named our Baby Girl ball, even though we didn’t have a baby yet.   There was the Grace Kelly ball with pale blue and yellow ribbons and pearls; the Swan Lake ball with white ribbons, white feathers and crystals; the Can-Can Girl ball with black and red ribbons, beads and a black feather plume on top; and our real piece de resistance, a large Faberge ball with semiprecious gems all over it, taken from old pieces of jewelry.

The tips of our thumbs had developed calluses from pushing in the pins until we got smart and used thimbles.

We decided it would be safer to buy a large artificial tree so that there would be no threat of sap staining the balls, and we kept producing our little gems until we ran out of space on the tree. We had become tree ornament addicted.

The bottom line, however, is that we must have OD’d on our first year’s attempt because we haven’t made a single ball since then. We did, however, add antique and specialty ornaments over the years, as presents to each other.

As we have gotten older, our tree has become smaller, and our daughter, who was predated by that pink ribbon ball in her honor, is now the recipient, one by one, of our early Christmas ornament binge.

Today, it’s just a matter of unwrapping each ornament from its tissue and hanging it on our artificial tree, already strung with lights from the manufacturer. While the whole decorating process took less than an hour this year, I have known speed demons who beat our record. There are those who simply place their tree stand on wheels and when the holiday is over, drape it with a sheet, fully decorated, and roll it into storage until next year.

As for outside decoration, whenever I see a home with its lawn highly decked out for the holidays, I get the urge to pull up, knock on the door and meet the owner. I’m sure he or she loves kids and probably is still wondrous as a child.

For many years, we were specialists in lighting Christmas wreaths and hanging them at strategic points along our outside fence, connected with garlands of lighted pine garlands looping from one wreath to the next. If I were to attempt any kind of outside display today, I would simply invest in that highly advertised Star Shower Laser Light projector where you just plug in the device and let it do its thing.

Have I grown lazy about holiday decorating over the years? As I see it, it’s more a matter of efficiency to be enjoyed.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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