A man's guide to holiday season decorating don'ts

December 10, 2005|By ROB KASPER

There are a lot of dumb holiday decorating ideas out there. I am acquainted with many of them and have tried a few.

Anyone looking for expert advice on the correct way to decorate the house for the holidays should check out the tree decorating article on this page. What I'm offering here is a list of 10 "Decorating Don'ts" for dumb guys. Yes, it is mostly we guys who do stupid things with lights and shrubbery. Here it goes.

1. Don't hang the Christmas tree upside down. This seemed like a no-brainer until I read a report this week saying that the latest holiday trend is buying an artificial tree that looks like an upside-down evergreen. It has broad branches at its top, and the tapered end at its bottom, and supporting shaft or trunk in its middle. In addition to being trendy, the upside-down tree is expensive. It runs from $300 to $500. Supposedly there is more room for presents at the bottom of the tree. An upside-down tree could be one of those three-beer bright ideas that guys fall for. However, when you take away the beers, the concept looks dimmer and dumber.

2. Don't give your Christmas tree an aspirin. There is a theory out there in shrubbery land that if you pulverize an aspirin and put it in the tree water, the tree will be slow to drop its needles. It has something to do with the salvific powers of salicylic acid. A dumb guy might think a happy tree is one that doesn't have a headache. But a smart guy, the chairman of the biology department at the University of Southern Indiana, has looked into this aspirin business and says, in effect, nope. In a message posted on the MadSci network, Henri Maurice notes two studies that fed aspirin to Fraser firs. One found that aspirin actually increased the needle drop, and the other found that no treatment was better than plain water. Never argue botany with a guy named Henri.

3. Do not build a lighted arch made with PVC over your driveway. Despite the fact that constructing it is "easier than it might look," according to a posting I read on the Web (search for HGTV Driveway Arch), the arch is ugly. In the daylight it looks like a plumber's revenge for an unpaid bill. Moreover, you would build it to accommodate your low-slung sedan and your crazy brother-in-law would wheel in his high-riding pickup, sending your holiday arch flying.

4. Do not put up strings of white outdoor lights. In addition to looking girly, they are out of style this year. That is pretty much what Susie Coelho says. Susie is no fashion slouch; she has her own decorating show on television, Outer Spaces, and is also a "lifestyle consultant" to the National Candle Association. Moreover, she has, according to a candle association news release, "been taking close notes on current holiday lighting trends" and predicts "you will see more people going back to the retro look of colored lights." I hope those folks who replaced the colored lights draping Baltimore's Washington Monument with out-of-vogue white lights are paying attention. White lights are so over. Susie says so.

5. Don't put lighted holiday candles near anything that could burn down your house. This tip also comes from Susie, although not quite in those words. I must confess that Susie did not actually talk with me. We don't travel in the same decorating circles. But I did read her press release on what to do with candles this holiday season. I must also confess that I ignore her advice when it comes to candles and Christmas trees.

Every December I go to a neighbor's house where a bunch of us sing "Oh Christmas Tree" as the host lights strategically placed candles placed on a big evergreen. The ritual is beautiful and very moving. Some of us move closer to the front door the minute that we hear the first notes of "Oh Christmas Tree." Others move closer to the bucket of water that sits on the living room floor, ready to douse any flaming needles.

6. Don't cut down a Christmas tree that has two trunks. Been there, done that. It is a holiday outing that ends with some nasty chainsaw moments.

7. Don't get a Christmas tree that is substantially wider than your doorways or taller than your ceilings. Measure doors and ceilings before you head to the tree lot. If you don't, you will once again be creating some nasty chainsaw memories.

8. Don't cheap out when buying a Christmas tree stand. The tree holder is your holiday support staff. You rely on it to keep things upright, even when eggnog overload has you flatter than a pancake. Your tree stand should have the same characteristics as a trusted bodyguard: big and strong, worth every dollar.

9. Don't try any gender-bender maneuvers when decorating the tree. Stick to the atavistic order of things. The man puts up the trees and strings the lights. The woman puts on the ornaments. If these throwback rules are broken, if, for example the woman surreptitiously adds an extra string of lights, nature will rebel. Fuses will blow both in the lights and in the relationship.

10. Don't be in a big hurry to carry the spent tree to the tree grinder set up in the high school parking lot. If a fella tosses the tree on the top of the car and heads off to the grinder before his mate has had a chance to scour the branches for any "hidden" ornaments, there will be big trouble. He will soon be scurrying back to the high school parking lot to see if there is a trace of the heirloom ornament, the costly one bought at a fine museum in a distant city, his wife's favorite, that somehow was left on the tree. The guy operating the grinder will shrug when asked if he has seen the ornament. In his world it is ashes to ashes, dust to dust, or as he puts it, everything, no matter how treasured, ends up as mulch.


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