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Easy Minimalist Outdoor Holiday Decorating: A How to Guide

Today, you can easily spend a huge amount of money on holiday decorations: Halloween decor that becomes an eyesore on November 1, Thanksgiving decorations that become unseasonal 3 weeks later, and Christmas decor which is appropriate for 5 weeks at best.

Rejecting this holiday-specific marketing, a few years ago I resolved to create a rhythm for seasonal, not holiday, decor. At the same time, I decided to forgo factory produced decorations and instead make my own. (For example, passing on a $70 wreath with miniature ice skates in favor of a large plain wreath and a flea-marketed pair of vintage skates for a total cost under $40.)

GOAL: More homemade, less big-box decorations.

GOAL: Seasonal, not holiday decorations.

How to create a capsule wardrobe of holiday decor that makes holiday decoration cheap, easy, and in season for longer periods

“Seasonal” decorations on my deciduous trees meant I could leave the decorations up much longer than “holiday” decorations. Simply having “winter” “summer” and “fall” decor is much easier, cheaper, and requires less off-season storage than trying to decorate for each holiday.

decorating a deciduous tree for christmas
Unlike “Christmas decorations” that look unsightly if left out into January, seasonal non-holiday decor gracefully transitions into late winter.

Many older homes have stately elms, maples, or oaks regally placed in a front yard or stately lining a driveway. My property in Missouri was one such property. 5 century-oaks stood on the property when I purchased it (one of which we recently lost but repurposed the hardwood into a mushroom garden). Each of these trees, along with Hawk Hill’s three porches, was a canvas for seasonal decor.

Low maintenance winter decorations instead of Christmas-specific decor can be left out from October to March without looking out of season

Two of our century oaks stood within spitting distance of my driveway, and over the years that I lived and loved my farm, I had a lot of fun playing with alternate ways to decorate these trees seasonally.

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Some of my favorite seasonal outdoor decorations:

Flag Pole Tree

A well-placed tree makes a good location for a bracket for an American flag. A stately oak gracing a driveway can be a classic location for a flag. (Be sure the tree you choose is not one that will drop sap, however!)

flag mounted on tree


Functional and classic summer decor, a mature tree with strong limbs can support a rope swing or even a porch swing.


Ice Skates

The flag bracket does double duty: in the winter functioning as a hook to hold a sprig of artificial greenery and a real pair of white vintage ice skates (get a pair just link mine here). These skates usually stayed up all winter- from post-thanksgiving into March- requiring no maintenance other than cleaning and conditioning the leather once a year before storing for the summer.

decorating a deciduous tree for christmas



Purchased for $25-$50 depending on quality, vintage sleds leaned against a trunk can make a great decoration for a deciduous tree. (If you are in an urban area you may want to use a bike lock and cord to secure your sleds around the trunk, through the runners) Sleds can stay up from Thanksgiving through early spring. Using real sleds rather than cheap reproductions looks so much better- but does require just a bit of maintenance. About every two years, before storing my sleds for the winter I condition the wood with a beeswax-based conditioner and rub oil on the runners to protect against rust. Sleds can be found by hunting antique malls or just check out these listings on Etsy.

decorating a deciduous tree for christmas
decorating a deciduous tree for christmas

Seasonal Wreaths

Here’s another example of using a deciduous tree to display vintage sporting goods in a seasonal/holiday display. In this photo, I used what I had to create a wreath (even though I’m not really into tennis!). Two vintage tennis rackets are wired into an X shape and then wired to a mid-range, plain wreath.

decorating a deciduous tree for christmas ice skates