You’re flummoxed, or gob-smacked, as the English say. Everyone
around you is being swept along by the nouveau sincerity-especially vis-à-vis
holiday preparations-leaving you high and dry. Having turned your back on
Yuletide sentimentality right about the time movie-star trannie Divine pushed
the Christmas tree on top of her mother in the 1975 John Waters movie Female Trouble , you are understandably
at a loss. The last time you decked the halls with boughs of holly-or
challah-Margaret Trudeau was a well-recognized name. Over the years, you’ve
celebrated the holidays, but only with your girlfriends Tio Pepe, Kahlúa and
Drambuie. Now, spurred on by the shifting, increasingly warm and fuzzy Zeitgeist , you are trying desperately to
get in touch with your inner Martha, but it’s simply not working.
Don’t panic. Holiday szhoosh ( szhoosh , as I’ve told you before, is the
window dresser’s vernacular meaning “embellishment”) is not such a big deal.
Here are 10 shortcuts aimed at first-timers. Follow my simple instructions and
you will get the hang of things. At no stage of the proceedings are you allowed
to ask the question “Why am I doing this?” Promise!
1. Vintage Christmas-tree ornaments are kooky and classy,
especially if gorgeously tarnished. I’m talking about those family tree ornaments-circa
1960-which your more sentimental siblings snagged from the attic years ago,
while you were hunched over a bong at college. It’s not too late: run to the 26th
Street flea market, where vintage ornaments
abound. A box of six medium-sized balls will set you back about $30. Don’t
polish them! (This is one of those rare occasions when I actually advocate the
dreaded shabby chic!) Place your vintage orbs delicately into a large fruit
bowl, and use as a combination centerpiece and conversation piece.
Alternatively, place two small, ball-filled, glass dessert dishes on either end
of your mantle.
2. Wreaths are nice … for funerals. For your foyer or mantel, try
the following: take that old Styrofoam wig-head, or vintage millinery head, and
double-stick a lustrous drugstore wig to it ($15 wigs, $3 wig-heads at Lacey
Costume Wig, 505 Eighth Avenue,
695-1996). If you have a plain white wig-head and basic drawing skills, then
magic-marker a Modigliani-esque or Twiggy-ish face upon same. Take your
leftover vintage balls and embellish the coiffure in an aesthetically pleasing
manner. Don’t forget to add extra-long dangly earrings and give her a name.
Mine’s called Pam. (See photo.)
3. A Christmas tree covered in holiday greeting cards is known as
a “friendship tree”-which is all very heart-warming, but irrelevant in your
case, because you’re not on anyone’s card list. A lack of card-sending chums
is, however, to your advantage, because you get to art-direct your own
friendship tree. Run to MoMA and buy 40 of your fave art postcards ($14.95 for
a box of 20). No landscapes, please: Portraits work better, and Warhol works
best. Stop off at the hardware store and buy 40 alligator clips (you doubtless
know them better as “roach clips”). Simply clip the cards to a small
(three-foot) tree and, voilà , a
Warholenbaum. (See photo.)
4. Overblown, over-creative gift wrap upstages most gifts. Simply
wrap yours in metallic gold-foil paper ($4.30 for a 19-by-27 sheet at Kate’s
Paperie, 561 Broadway, 941-9816) and tie them up with yarn. Yes, colored
yarn-the kind deployed on Cindy Brady’s coiffure. It’s cheap, it’s chic and
it’s back! The fatter, the better. Tie it in simple cartoony knots. The best
yarn selection can be found at Gotta Knit (498 Sixth
Avenue, 989-3030)-for $13, you get a 60-yard ball.
5. Did you get laid off? Do
you have time on your hands? Do you crave something therapeutically
labor-intensive, something far more insanely time-consuming than even Martha
Stewart can come up with? (Remember when she wanted us to hand-block our own
gift-wrapping paper?) Why not build yourself a replica of the Kremlin using
cookies and bonbons? I have neither the patience nor the space to tell you
exactly how to execute this monumental project. I can, however, tell you where
to look: You will find a picture of a cookie-Kremlin-along with pages of
detailed instructions-on page 32 of the December 1970 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal . Gallagher’s Paper
Collectible at 126 East 12th Street (473-2404) sells copies of vintage LHJ ‘s-including this one-for $25.
6. Looking for patriotica? You won’t find Stars and Stripes balls
at the flea market. Call Bronner’s (800-361-6736) and ask about their
five-and-a-half-inch American Eagle for $8.49 and the Stars and Stripes freedom
bell for $11.99.
7. Re Martha Stewart: The great one is purveying this season’s
most perverse little tree. It’s restrained, it’s white and it’s made from
zillions of tiny, obsessively wired white goose feathers ($375 at Martha by
Mail, 800-950-7130).Dangle your solitary American Eagle from it for a
hauntingly patriotic effect.
8. Buy a kooky glass vintage
or Barbara Hepworth–ish menorah online or pop into my husband’s shop (Jonathan
Adler,465BroomeStreet,941-8950) and grab one of his ceramic baby-blue-and-navy
Brancusi-esque wedge menorahs ($98). While you’re there, pick up a chic
stoneware piggy bank ($85) for your Chanukah Geld.
9. Loosen your minimalist girdle a tad and buy yourself a set of
Swarovski-crystal-encrusted Chanukah candles by Kaos ($45 for a set of 15 at
Barneys). They’re great on a menorah or in a gentile receptacle.
10. Did you know that pickles were part of the whole traditional Tannenbaum situation? Back in
19th-century Deutschland, the gherkin was traditionally the last ornament to go
on the tree. On Christmas morning, the first brat to find the gherkin was
rewarded with a little extra quelque
chose from Saint Nick. The Bronner’s catalog has pickle ornaments for $5.49
each. They won’t show up against greenery, therefore buy two nine-inch Bronner
ornament stands ($2.99 each). You are now free to dangle your pickles in