Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…

Christmas Tree Adorned with Lighted Candles

Since I was a child, one of my favorite holiday activities has been to decorate the Christmas Tree.  The days leading up to Christmas, I would take my sleeping bag and curl up in front of its protective branches, completely mesmerized by the twinkling lights and shiny ornaments until I drifted off to sleep.  As an adult, I don’t really do this so much, but the aesthetic beauty of Christmas Trees continues to enchant me.   For centuries, people have decorated their homes with healthy branches that remained green throughout winter.  To celebrate the Winter Solstice, the pagans in early Europe would decorate  their homes with boughs of fir, spruce and pine.  Druid priests in Celtic England would decorate their houses and temples with evergreen as a symbol of eternal life.  (Only branches were used, though, and never the whole tree, as that would have been too destructive for their tastes.)  The citizens of ancient Egypt would fill their homes with palm fronds to commemorate resurrection and rebirth.  But it was the Greeks and Romans who thought to decorate these branches, adorning them with bits of metal and religious icons.

Victorian Christmas Tree and NativityThe Germans were the ones responsible for bringing the whole tree inside the house, using fruit and candles as the main decorations.  There were many objections to the use of the Christmas Tree as part of the holiday celebration.  Many religious leaders and pious followers felt the symbol of the tree was far too pagan and unholy to use in Christian-based religions.  Despite these objections, Queen Victoria and her husband, German born Prince Albert, loved Christmas Trees.  They began to gain popularity, and by the late Victorian Era, they could be seen everywhere.  The Europeans preferred their trees to be three to four feet tall, whereas Americas liked theirs to reach floor to ceiling.

From a feng shui standpoint, there are many reasons why people are attracted to the beauty of The Christmas Tree.  For one, all five of the elements are represented.  Wood is represented by the tree itself.  Fire is symbolized by the glowing lights.  Metal and earth comprise most of the ornaments.  As for water, if one’s tree is living, then there is usually a water source at the base.  However, if the three is faux, then shades of blue can be symbolic of the water element.  Indeed, the use of color can work for all the elements here.   Another alluring aspect of the tree is the shape.  In feng shui, triangles are representative of fire, which humans are drawn to.  Most Christmas trees are triangle in shape.  The lights are also another fire aspect of the tree that beguile the beholder.  Not to mention the various kind of ornaments that adorn the branches – of which there is there is an endless variety.

Peacock Tree 08

Above are some photos of my Christmas Tree this year.  I went with a Victorian Peacock theme (I like peacocks).  One thing I use in decorating my Christmas Tree every year is fruit.   I have a collection of faux red apple ornaments (not pictured), as well as faux pears (which can be seen on the tree).  Faux fruit works far better than the real thing, as they tend to be heavy on the branches, and can become rotten, causing all kinds of issues.  Other examples of faux fruit I’ve seen have been glass strawberries, wax fruit and berries of all kinds, and red beads (these look like cranberries from a distance)  But if you want something edible on the tree, the fastest and easiest thing to add would be candy canes.  I do advise keeping them in their wrapping, however, to keep them fresh.  And then, there are some trees that are completely edible in of themselves.

Christmas Tree Crudite

Chef, author and spokesperson Jeanne Benedict created this amazing Christmas Tree Crudite  for LIVE with Regis and Kelly in 2009.  In addition to all of the colorful, edible vegetables, the base is made out of two cabbages.  The complete directions on how to make this stunning tree are located here:  http://www.jeannebenedict.com/recipes/christmas-tree-crudite/

Christmas Tree Rolls

Taste of Home has a tantalizing tree made from cinnamon buns.  I would play with colored frosting and tinted sugars to enhance the display.   Direction available here:  http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Christmas-Tree-Rolls

Christmas Tree Cake BC

Betty Crocker, than name we know and love, has several Christmas Tree inspired treats.  My favorite is the Christmas Tree Cake.  Although I would tint the batter green.  The complete recipe and cutting instructions are located here:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/christmas-tree-cake/6a22dadd-3b92-40b5-a5a9-df209ff3ef68

Lemon Basil Tree

Ms. Crocker also has a delicious looking Lemon Basil Tree I want to experiment with.  Although I’d add a couple of black olives and diced tomatoes for color.   Here’s the recipe:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/lemon-basil-tree/5fe297f9-df00-432e-8079-e7a8f1fc8a31

Cookie Jigsaw

Delish.com and Good Housekeeping have revived a mid-century favorite:  The Cookie Jigsaw.   Originally published in the December 1965 edition of Good Housekeeping, this nouveau take on the classic sugar cookie has each cookie as a puzzle piece for the celebratory Christmas Tree and a starry night sky.   I’d like to try this recipe for Easter as well, perhaps with the image of a giant Easter Egg.  The complete recipe is here:  http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/cookie-jigsaw-1658

As for the location of the Christmas Tree in the home, there are many options.  Each ideal location for the tree is different with each environment.  The main tree should be put in the living room or parlor, or a large room where the home’s loved ones and guests can congregate easily.   Unless you’re on a higher floor, avoid putting the tree directly in front of a window, as this can sometimes lure thieves to break into the home.  The best areas for the tree are the East, Southeast and South.  East is the area of each room that symbolizes family.  The associated element here is wood, and its associated color green, making it perfect for any plant, especially the Christmas Tree.  Southeast, being the area of prosperity and abundance, and south, being the area of fame, are also good options.  However, the southwest could also work, being the area symbolic of love, if your tree happens to be predominantly red, pink, or white.  As for choosing real or faux trees, they both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Real trees offer a stronger wood element to the environment, and give off a purely festive aroma of nature.  The water element is also present here to sustain the tree.  Faux options, however, last much longer than real trees, and some have bendable branches, creating a perfect display for ornaments.  I inherited my family’s old Christmas Tree years ago, which was originally bought back in 1992, and it still looks just as good as when it was first purchased.   I also advise that one keeps a close eye on their pets (and the occasional willful child).  Sometimes the branches and ornaments prove too much of a temptation to play with.

I realize that these recipes and tips are far too late in the season to be currently applied, but every morsel of information can be put towards next years Christmas celebration.  It was my goal to get this article finished weeks ago (and not on Christmas Day), but I got distracted by many a holiday party.  I would like to wish everyone reading this a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Festive and Joyous New Year!

New Year's Cherub in Lily Pond

How to Choose a Dining Table

Once upon a time, in an age before the term TV Dinner was coined, people actually had most of their meals in a room devoted to dining:  The Dining Room.   Can you imagine that?  All kidding aside, due to our fast-paced modern world, most of us rarely have time to sit down with our loved ones around a large table and catch up over food at home.  The Dining Room in feng shui is one of the most important rooms in the home that often gets overlooked.  For example, most condos and apartments do not have a separate dining room, but a dining area or breakfast nook.  Not having a separate dining area is neither good or bad, it’s what one does with the dining space that is important.

There are many aspects to the dining room that need attention, but the one we’re going to look at today is the star attraction of any dining room – the dining table.  A round or oval table is considered to be the best by feng shui guidelines, as the smooth flow of the curves can be relaxing to the diner.  Square and rectangular are tables are not as good; the harsh corners can affect how people interact within the space negatively.  Also, children (and some adults) can bump into the sharp corners, causing pain.   Two ways to fix the “harsh corners” would be to select a table with softened or rounded edges.  The other way is to put a tablecloth on the table.

In feng shui, we generally like  some open space in the middle of each room or area.  One of the few exceptions to this is in the dining room.  The table should be placed within the direct center of the room (or close to it) with enough space for each guest to move from seating to standing position around the table and not bump into anything.  If you have more of an open floor plan with a dining area rather than a separate room, try looking for a light source – such as a chandelier or ceiling light.  The table would then be placed underneath it, with the light over the center of the table.  Enclosed dining rooms should have a light source as well; this can help in finding the best location for the table.

Below are some examples of the best tables I could find currently for purchase, and all of them are under $250.00 (shipping and taxes excluded).

The Svalbo table from Ikea is an excellent choice.  Although it is more rectangular in shape, the corners have been completely rounded, making it more harmonious for any room.  Also, it comes in unfinished pine, which can be left as is, or finished to one’s desire.  Four sturdy legs support the table top, and an extra leaf is included, so the table may accommodate four to six people.

Another Ikea option is the Liatorp.  Curves abound in this charming white table that can easily blend into most environments.   A pedestal base acts as support, with an extra leaf for additional table space, altering the circle to more of an oval.  Both of the pieces above are available at Ikea.com.

Amazon Tables 01

Amazon.com also has a few choice selections.  From International Concepts comes their Dual Drop Leaf Table (left).  Ideal for apartments, this little table has two leaves that fold down, as well as softened edges all around.  The item also comes unfinished.   The Light Oak Dining Table (right) from Winsome Wood is also a great piece.  In addition to the two drop leaves, the legs fold inward, making it perfect to store away if need be.

Another example is the Brannan Pedestal Dining Table by Coaster.  The elegant curves and ideal size make this a classic table for any home.  Available in Cappuccino (pictured) or Dark Oak.

And for those who are in need of extra storage space, the Cottage Drop Leaf Table by TMS comes with two large square shelves in the support base of this round table.   The shelving here would be an ideal storage space for table linens or pottery.  All four of the above mentioned tables can be found at Amazon.com

Home and Living.com is an excellent online source for furniture, and they offer free shipping for most of their items.  The Rich Cappuccino Table is an excellent choice if one is looking for a more oval table with a contemporary feel.  And, for those who want a more rectangular table, The Cappuccino Finish Dining Table (below) is another prime selection, with its softened corners and beautiful finish.

I have perhaps neglected the most important thing when selecting a good dining table.  It’s important that you like your selection.  If you purchase a dining table that you’re not thrilled about, chances are you will rarely use the table.  Stay on the lookout for my article on how to select the best dining chair, which will be posted shortly.