This year, why not reimagine your tree, blending old traditions with new ideas, to make it a fresh tribute to your family and home. Here are tips to get you started. Mary Carol Garrity, Scripps Howard News Service
I swore off traditional Christmas tree stands the year my tree toppled over onto my dining room table, right in the middle of a dinner party. With the way I decorate trees, I needed a stand that could handle the weight of a million ornaments with grace and beauty. So now I always place my tree in a sturdy iron garden urn.
Get creative and look around your home for unusual containers that will display your tree in style. How about a large and lovely blue and white Asian cachepot? A friend placed her tabletop tree in a bright red metal ice bucket emblazoned with an old English family crest. I love how the splash of red popped in the navy room where the tree was displayed.
For a truly unusual presentation, get an evergreen tree sapling, take it out of the pot and rinse the soil off the roots. Then insert the tiny tree in a large glass vase, displaying it much as you would fresh flowers.
If you opt for a traditional tree stand, try covering it with something besides a tree skirt. Tablecloths are a wonderful option because they are easy to launder and they frame the tree in soft, luxurious folds of fabric.
Before you hang one ball on your tree, start with great lighting. Plan to use 100 lights for each foot of your tree's height and make sure the strands of lights are evenly distributed top to bottom. Then, pick a color scheme for the tree, limiting yourself to three key hues so the decorated tree won't be visually chaotic.
If you'd love an opulent look, jazz up your tree with gold, silver and crystal ornaments. Hang the majority of your large, showy ornaments in the center of the tree — the focal point of this masterpiece. But don't fail to use the whole tree when you decorate. Hang ornaments back in the branches and on the branches' outer tips.
You can also create a tree that's dramatic for its sheer simplicity. Pick one special ornament style or color and use it exclusively on your tree. A friend created a stunning look simply by hanging small plate ornaments, which feature vintage drawings of evergreens, all over her tree.
You can also let your tree be a tribute to your family or heritage. Another friend spiced up her Christmas tree with sprigs of broomcorn harvested from her grandparents' farm. She and her children picked the corn, dried it, misted it with spray paint and tucked it in the branches of her tree.
I love to use natural elements in my decorating, so last year I didn't use a single ornament on my tree. Instead, I covered it with huge, gold-glitzed sugar pinecones. Similarly, a friend dressed her tree only with hydrangea blossoms.