One of the best things about the holiday season, to me, is seeing how people choose to decorate their homes. I really believe that, when you show me how you decorate, you tell me who you are.*
Do you buy new ornaments every year and switch up your color theme? Do you have a white tinsel tree that channels the 1970s? Are your most-treasured ornaments those that your children made of pipe cleaners and marshmallows?
Christmas trees, and holiday decorations, in general, seem autobiographical to me, as if our personalities are imprinted in our choices. And, I expect, a lack of holiday frippery sends a message about our priorities, too.
It probably will come as no surprise that at home, here at Love Those Hands at Home, we tend toward the vintage, the handmade, the natural. I am in no way suggesting that our choices are the best or the prettiest or to be emulated—just that they are highly predictable, when you know the people who live here.
The handmade ornaments will have to wait for another year to have their story told—I had not world enough or time to fit them in this year, alongside the candy and other priorities.
But the red and white vintage linens have made their annual appearance, and they tell a large part of the story of who I am at the holidays.
I value traditional, old-school, quality. All the holiday linens in my permanent collection are red and white. It’s the classic color combination of the winter holidays for me, evoking peppermint sticks and holly berries against the snow. It hints at Santa, an ideal of generosity and giving we can embrace, even if we don’t share points of view about miracle births in mangers.
I love this long, long piece of fabric.
It is heavy and sturdy, of fine quality. It was probably originally sold as yard goods–the pattern repeats regularly and, if cut and hemmed, each piece would be the size of a dishtowel. In its length and understated elegance, it serves as a mantel cloth here every year.
I love this hand-embroidered runner, with dark red and pink pinecones.
It was made by hand, not by a family member of mine, but by someone’s mother or grandmother. The careful work seems symbolic of all handwork done to add color and vivacity to plain cloth.
And I love this exquisite show towel.
It is ostentatious and would’ve been purchased and displayed, never used to dry hands, to make a statement about the wealth and superior taste of the owner. It’s not those characteristics of the towel that appeal to me, though. It is, simply, the quality and beauty.
This towel is finest-quality linen, almost crispy, with a glorious sheen on the natural-colored fibers. The bands of red add interest and depth. The fringe is as showy and untangled as the day the towel was made. The intricate weaving shows wildlife, both in the red bands and, more subtly, in the tone-on-tone field of natural linen. Sheer vintage linen perfection.
These linens come out every year, as reliably as the Christmas stocking my husband stitched for me and the wreath on the lighthouse outside.
When they have been ironed and placed where they show to advantage, I feel my house reflects my taste and my values.
Are there holiday decorations that communicate about your closely-held values?
* This is to borrow liberally from Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who observed, “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.” I believe that is true, too!