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15 Alternative Christmas Trees

There are many reasons why people who celebrate the Christmas holiday have a tree atypical to the customary and traditional fresh-cut Douglas fir. Some may not have access to or the funds for real trees, some may not like the mess or the environmental impact of cutting down a tree, some may not have ample room in their current living space for a traditional tree. –Or, maybe some of us are just bored and tired of the usual trees, and are looking to majorly spice things up with a truly remarkable and memorable alternative tree this year! Here are 15 ideas for very cool, unconventional Christmas trees for you, your friends, and family to try this year! Many of them are inexpensive DIY versions, and most take into account economy of space. Enjoy!

15. Lights

You may not have gotten your tree yet, but something you’re bound to have left from last year’s decorations is Christmas lights. Arguably the most beautiful part of any tree (okay, maybe tied with ornaments), lights will absolutely do in making this version of a Christmas tree. Simply attach however many strings of lights you want in a zig zag pattern on the wall, (pointed at the top, wider on the bottom—triangle shaped) attaching with tacks, removable hooks, tape, tiny nails, etc. You can also make just a tree outline, a skinny-branched non-pine tree, an upside down tree (—honestly, any shaped “tree” you desire.) Leave as is with stunning lights or add decorations on top, hooking ornaments or candy canes on the wire. (This can even be done in addition to another tree or just for decoration.) You’re bound to have the most dazzling tree, or at least, the best-lit one!

14. Ornaments

Again another way to disassemble the elements that you use to decorate a tree to make the tree itself! There are many ways to display your collection of exquisite ornaments as a tree themselves. Typically, most of these displays work best with ornaments of a similar style, shape, and size, so this is perfect for large cases of similarly or identical spherical ornaments. You can hang them at varying heights to create a 3D tree, glue them together in a conical shape, zig-zag fishing wire on the wall to hang them from, hang them from a fine window screen, attach them nestled together on a large board or frame for display, get imaginative with how to arrange them. It may take a bit of creative thinking and work, but the results create an absolutely spectacular effect.

13. Blanket/Quilt/Cloth

This can be either literally a quilt of a tree, or, a green blanket tacked up in a triangle. This is also a nice addition to a regular tree or for extra decoration. Especially if it is a handmade or custom-made quilt depicting a Christmas tree or scene that can be used year after year and be handed down as a family heirloom. Blanket trees are also nice for babies and young children since they won’t fall over and are safe and soft to the touch unlike a pine tree. You could even go so far as making a tree-shaped hanging blanket “nook” to tuck presents in. Or add comfy pillows and hang out inside this “tree tent.” You can amp up the “Christmas” factor by replacing regular ornament hooks with safety pins and pinning garland on the fabric. This is nice for a small space, having a lot of babies or animals around that will be messing with the tree, or just a cozy alternative.

12. Photos

This is a cute idea to make a very personal “2D” tree that showcases all your best and favorite memories. Deciding what kind of a photo tree you want is part of the fun. You can install shelving (long shelves on bottom, narrower to the top to a one-picture shelf) and have framed photos adorn the triangle shelving among ornaments and Christmas keepsakes. You can also choose to have photos of friends, family, or just your favorite Christmassy images. They can be framed, unframed, pinned on a string of lights, all black and white, all color, all from one photo shoot or trip, images from Christmas past, etc.! Printing a batch of photos is pretty inexpensive these days, (and when’s the last time you held a physical copy of a photo in your hands?) Arrange your chosen photos how you like and bask in the precious display of memories.

11. Books

This one takes a little hard work and know-how, but is perfect for a “themed” tree for big readers, writers, offices, librarians, or libraries. There is also a lot of customization, for example if you want to use all green-covered books, all the same books (for example at a Christmas-time book launch,) children’s books, your favorite novels, or a wide variety of tomes. Some important things to remember are to make sure the books you select aren’t super slippery and to make sure each layer very level so there aren’t any book avalanches. You can either choose to stack or create a round tree shape. Starting with the base of the desired size, stack books in a circle, alternating stacking like bricks. (So a book is over the seam where two books meet under it.) Work your circle tighter and tighter, stacking books slightly in to make a conical shape, until you have a nice peak. Decorate with garland, ribbon, bookmarks, (low-heat) lights, whatever you like! This tree is certainly any bibliophile’s dream.

10. Bottles

This is another good “themed” tree that can be used at restaurants, bars, wineries, breweries, or just someone who loves bottles or drinking! If you think it won’t be completely classy, (you may be imaging a college kids’ beer-can pyramid,) no worries. Unless that’s what you’re going for, with the right bottles and display this look is far from trashy, especially with clean, clear-of-labels, green-glass bottles. (Add lights and—GORGEOUS.) There are different ways to have a bottle-tree, so research what’s best for your supplies and what you’d like to have. You can stack them base-side-down (on a sturdy series of shelving or glued together) or upside-down hanging on pegs (as pictured.) They can be new bottles full of spirits for a party, a pyramid of champagne glasses, and even decorated with window clings for “ornaments.” This tree is here to seriously party!

9. Yarn

Stemming along the route of textiles as well as “themed” trees, yarn is the perfect, malleable material to design a cozy yarn Christmas tree. You have the option of stringing it in a design flat on the wall, wrapping the strings around a cone form, using whole skeins to make a nice soft, colorful, 3D tree, or making an assortment of varying pom-poms to fix together in a conical shape. Pom-poms also can look “bushy” like a nice, full fir tree! (You can also make pom-pom ornaments or knit or crochet ornaments.) This is perfect for a textile shop or anyone who is heavily into knitting or crocheting. There are some beautiful shades, styles, and designs of yarn out there, and it can be used in so many different ways to create a really cozy Christmas tree!

8. Advent

A Christmas tree and presents all in one? Sign me up! There are a huge variety of advent calendars available out there, but this way you can make your own. You can create a Christmas tree shape out of a variety of envelopes or same-sized boxes to form a Christmas tree shaped stack. This is a cute way to deliver small advent presents to children or loved ones while counting down until the big day. This Christmas tree can be a present in itself for someone, giving them a chance to slowly open their daily gifts. (To make an even tree silhouette from 25 envelopes or boxes, begin with one at the top, two below, three below the two, etc. until you reach six items. Then reserve the last four for the “trunk” in two rows of two.) It’s a decorative, functional, fun, interactive way to count down the days and make them last.

7. Chalk/Drawn

This idea is fun because it’s incredibly easy to change up the design, even every day if you wanted! Get a large chalkboard, paint a wall or large board with chalkboard paint, or use a massive roll of paper. This is also a fun activity for kids to be able to draw “on the wall” and to go crazy designing their ideal Christmas tree and decorations. (You can even hang each child’s paper tree on Christmas morning and put the presents for them under the one they drew.) Chalk is definitely a classier, more “grown-up” route, but who says adults can’t have fun drawing their very own Christmas tree? Grab some markers, chalk, or chalk markers and have friends, family, and kids help you design a hand-drawn tree. (You can also cut out paper ornaments and play “pin-the-ornament-on-the-tree” after!)

6. Skinny Deciduous Tree

Minimalistic, elegant, and simplified, a bare-bones, non-fir tree can be just as pretty and festive as a full-blown pine. You can either take the store-bought route and get a reusable, pre-lighted decorative tree and decorate accordingly for Christmas, (and keep around after or decorate for other holidays—bonus!) or find your own young, sturdy, thin bare tree to add delicate fairy and twinkle lights to. This is understated piece that would go perfectly with an effortless, dainty style and can be easily repurposed. It won’t unmercifully shed pine needles or be a strain to carry and set up. While the glitz and glamour of other trees is certainly fun, there’s something to be said about reflecting on a simple style every once in a while.

5. Wall decals/removable stickers

Wall decals are becoming more abundant and varied; you can even custom order exactly what you want in a removable wall sticker. These are a great alternative, because while they may be of some cost, the effort in them is practically none! And with the choices out there for decals, you can truly pick something to dazzle without any elements of installation or DIY-ing. Research different Christmassy wall decals to see what kind of style you like and what you can find. This would be an endearing idea that will do zero damage to your wall for a friend’s party or as a place to put gifts at an office party. Unobtrusive, flat, but still capable of conveying that Christmas tree feeling, decals are a fun alternative for sure.

4. Christmas cards

This is a sweet idea that can deal with the issue of display for Christmas cards that you receive this year, or perhaps made from a collection of received cards over the years. They could also all be of similar color or maybe all featuring images of Santa or snowmen. (Maybe you can even collect Christmas cards of ornaments to make it more like a real tree!) This is so convenient because you can easily reflect on these special greeting cards, pretty, nostalgic pictures, and memories of the messages over the years. Even if you have a different Christmas tree as your “main” one, regardless, this is a perfect way to proudly display those cards!

3. Wood

Maybe you’d still like to retain some natural elements in your tree display. You can still achieve this without having to bring in an entire tree. Add a quaint and rustic feel to your “tree” by using wooden dowels, or even more rustic-y, found sticks and branches. Natural woods can be pretty and interesting even on their own, so arranging them by length into a hanging triangle formation will certainly exude charm. (And even better: branches and sticks from your backyard are free!) The wood display can be stand-alone or decorated with more old-fashioned, rural, or handmade organic decorations; it is up to you how simple or decorated you want your wood tree to be! Sticks or dowels can be drilled on the end to string together or can be glued or tied together. Collect your chosen wood pieces and see what feels right for you!

2. Garland

This is probably the closest dupe for what looks like a real pine tree, but in very handy and convenient 2D form! Using as little or as much green garland (the non-shiny stuff for a more “realistic” look,) zig-zag a tree shape on the wall (just like the tree made from lights) to achieve the look. This is the perfect space-saver and still has the pleasing effect of a real pine tree. You also don’t have to stick to any one kind or color of garland; decorate accordingly as you see fit! Garland alone is already so incredibly, immediately festive and bets are you’ll have some for decorating anyway. Now you can have the sense of a pine tree—without the pesky pine!

1. Flowers

This is a really scenic and beautiful sight to behold. You could decorate a traditional Christmas tree with flowers of your choosing (for example a wedding or for a florist shop,) or, create a tree entirely of flowers. Ruby-red poinsettias are predominately associated with the season and holiday, but you can easily use other foliage such as fall leaves, holly boughs, other red, green, and white flowers, mistletoe, and pine cones. Real flowers are fun for an event, but fake provide so many more available choices, are done so well these days, and will last, so in the long run these are worth the investment. Create a flower tree for your home, a lover of flowers, or as a bouquet for a loved one. Who says flowers are just for spring?

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