Previously Published Silver Sage Magazine, May 29, 2019
Seasonal decorating is a source of much good-natured banter in our household. My partner does not understand my desire to change the door wreaths or to erect any number of attendant gee-gaws (my partner’s word, not mine) that festively (my word) celebrate the seasons. In an attempt to mollify my partner’s various objections and for the sake of domestic peace, I have radically simplified my seasonal decorating in two ways: (1) all seasonal items are stored in clear bins that can be easily accessed and made available without gymnastics; and (2) most aspects of decorating items can be found in one container, with one wreath per season only. The wreaths themselves hang on large hooks and are therefore also easily available without athletic contortion. I can now manage the switching of my festive decorations without assistance, and have thereby managed to minimize the amount of ribbing I receive.
To celebrate spring, I hung a simple wreath of artificial tulips on the front door. The following morning, we discovered that a robin was busily building a nest in it. A discussion ensued—apparently, a spring wreath is always “an open invitation for birds looking to nest”—but we both agreed to stop using the front entrance for the rest of the nesting season in deference to mama robin’s endeavors. This temporary disruption of my decorating routine by our feathered friends nevertheless caused me to reflect on the change in seasons and why it is I bother with seasonal decorating at all.
The word gezelligheid (ge-zeh-leck-hite) in Dutch roughly translates to “a state of comfort and hospitality, coziness and conviviality.” I love that word because it describes how special it is to have family and friends visiting in our home. Whatever the season, making them feel gezellig (ge-zeh-leck) by enjoying a home-cooked meal together is a real source of pleasure for me. And I believe that seasonal decorating is a part of gezelligheid. I think that it helps to set an atmosphere in which visitors feel welcome and cared for.
Having said all that (and despite my partner’s interpretation of my inclinations), I don’t think seasonal decorating has to be a crazy affair. Decorating gurus and stylists often write blogs that fill me with anxiety and guilt rather than inspiration. We are encouraged to “curate” every room in the home, from the living room mantel to above the kitchen cabinets, and to purchase endless throw pillows while tossing either seashells or pine cones liberally around, all the while tying bows on things that clearly don’t need bows. I am not advocating that sort of effort—although feel free to do so if you have time or inclination. Instead, I think seasonal decorating can be managed more simply with three basic things:
Door decorations: A wreath on your front door is a welcoming gesture. A potted urn with seasonal greens or flowers is another easy way to add curb appeal to your home without breaking the bank or killing yourself.
Fresh flowers: Vases of fresh flowers can be easily and inexpensively arranged. Place them strategically in the house so your guests can enjoy them. I like to keep some in the kitchen, the dining room, and the living room. If we have overnight guests, I also put a vase in the guest room while avoiding arrangements that are heavily scented or might be allergy inducing. I also like to keep in mind that, when flowers are used as a table center for a dinner party, the arrangements should be kept short so that you can make eye contact across the table with your guests.
Table: I like to change the color of the dining room table linens to match the season. I will often hang a garland or a special decoration from the dining room light fixture. I enjoy using fresh flowers or greenery in the table center. Depending upon the season, I may add festive party crackers or small treats to the place settings (i.e., candy canes, chocolates).
And that’s it, really. None of these things has to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive. Anything that is seasonal but also re-usable (i.e., garlands, strings of lights) can easily be stowed in boxes or bins.
So despite my partner’s grousing, I will continue to decorate for the change in seasons because I believe that it greatly adds to the welcoming nature of our home—even if that means that sometimes we can’t use the front door because robins are nesting.