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New Year's resolution: a new look for your next Christmastree

Add some pizazz to the tree in 2001. Let imagination reign, and select colors and ornaments a bit less reminiscent of the designs of your Christmas trees past.

Have you spent this holiday season staring at that same old Christmas tree and having that been-there, done-that feeling?

Why not make this the last Christmas season you fall into the same old decorating habits? Instead, let's begin to think of ways to do better next season.

Everyone, of course, has a favorite way of making a Christmas tree special. Usually that means imitating the way Mom used to do it. If you wish, keep some of that, but find ways to add ideas of your own to create an innovative tree that next year will give you the best of both worlds.

As you visit friends' homes or view the trees in store windows and malls, make note of ideas worth replicating or adapting for your tree next year: a color scheme, a style of ornaments or lights, an unusual trim. Spotted this year on a Mexican-themed tree: big bright-colored paper flowers, red miniature lights and raffia woven through the branches.

Here are some festive ideas:

A simple yet very effective design is to make a large bow as a crown on the top of the tree. The bow may be gold or it may be red with gold sparkles in it. Then have ribbon of the same color stream down all around the tree, dropping from the crowning bow down to the bottom.

If space, children and animals permit, the ribbons may puddle on the floor, meaning they are longer than the height of the tree so the ends curl on the floor at the foot of the tree. On the tree under the streamers, hundreds of little twinkling lights _ maybe the same ones that remind you of Christmases past _ should grace all the branches with some of the branch tops sprayed with snow. Add to that a few crystal or glass snowflake ornaments, and this tree should sparkle.

For an old-fashioned tree, many, many ornaments of all different shapes and sizes could be used. Big lights, instead of the small ones you've used for the last few years, are new, yet reminiscent of Christmas seasons long past.

To make the tree new, make your own garland for the traditional tree instead of continuing to use that store-bought garland again next year. Get the whole family involved to make this garland extra special.

Cut green and red construction paper into strips 2 inches wide by 5 inches long. Cut enough for each person to have at least 6 strips. Everyone is to write his or her personal highlights of the past year, one on each strip of construction paper.

Sign or initial each strip and put the year on at least one of them.

Take the strips and interlock them by making a ring and stapling or taping the first one, then lacing the next on onto the first and stapling or taping that one and so on. Alternate the colors as you go.

Make a new tradition of this. Do it for several years in a row and the memories will be displayed for years into the future each Christmas.

White and gold make beautiful Christmas music, especially if accompanied by a choir of angels. Next year try hundreds of tiny white twinkle lights, coupled with decorations of white and gold angels of all shapes and sizes. Drape gold and pearl garland all around and crown it all with a large Christmas star atop the tree.

Sometimes less is more. Simplicity has a way of standing out. How about abandoning this year's tree for a tree next year made up of nothing but white lights and holly? Or white lights and red-and-white candy canes? Or perhaps red lights and white popcorn garland?

A very effective tree I once saw consisted of nothing more than white gardenias all around it.

If you are to make a break with past habits, now is the best time to start with the new. After-Christmas sales of decorations often allow you to find your way down a new path at half, or less, of the cost when compared to starting just before Christmas next year . . . when the temptation is to hurriedly go back to the same old patterns.

St. Petersburg Times homes editor Judy Stark

contributed to this report.