Year of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree

Posted12/31/2017 6:00 AM
  • A shortage of Christmas trees will last for the next year or two.

    A shortage of Christmas trees will last for the next year or two. Courtesy of Nine Kopfer

If ever there were a year for the scrawny Christmas tree, this year was it! Even though we were almost a week from Christmas Day when I shopped for a tree, I was shocked at the slim pickings at the tree lot I visited.

You may have already learned that the U.S. faced a significant tree shortage this year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Prices were higher, and the selection rather dismal. The culprit seems to be the Great Recession of a decade ago. Tree farmers were limiting their crops to save money during that period of less demand, but we felt the results this year.

And because it can take a tree about 10 years to reach an optimum height of 7 to 8 feet, this is a problem that will hang around for a while. Therefore, you are presented with underperforming fir trees. In fact, a large tree in the Rhode Island State House foyer was removed because it was dried up and dropping needles. You likely saw a lot of Charlie Brown trees this year.

For the next year or two, you will have to get creative with alternative decor. I offered to prune some of the branches of my huge pine tree for a friend who couldn't find a small tree. We sank the limbs in a tall clear glass vase that we wrapped in shimmery gold fabric and hung mini ornaments on the limbs.

Now that battery-powered twinkle lights are readily available, you could actually light up such an arrangement and position it in the middle of a table or on a hearth. If someone in your neighborhood has pine trees, it cannot hurt to ask if you can have some branches.

In a tiny house there isn't room for a big volume of seasonal decor anyway. But if you miss the aroma of fir trees, start with a fresh wreath on your porch or entryway. You can actually hang a wreath anywhere in your home: in the dining room, over the mantel, at the end of the hall or, if your ceilings are high, over a door.

If you have a staircase, wrap the banister with artificial pine garlands. Fresh are lovely, but they leave a mess as the days of winter holidays pass. The only inconvenience with artificial greenery is you must straighten the individual sprigs by hand, as they have been stored away for a year.

If you don't celebrate Christmas but plan on entertaining around the new year, there are tons of simple decorations out there, from filling a clear glass bowl with shiny ornaments and a few sprigs of greenery, to adding as many white lights to your environment as you can gather. You can even use fresh rosemary or pittosporum if evergreens are scarce. String lights on top of a china cabinet, across the top of a buffet or along the mantel, or wrap them around the handrail of your stairs.

While candles are the ultimate romantic winter decoration, they present the danger of causing a fire. I suggest that you instead consider votives with battery-operated tea candles. They flicker well enough and protect you from any possibility of an accidental fire. Pick a color that can endure through the first of the year like teal or red, or stick to clear glass if you prefer to keep your theme simple. Use gold and silver ribbons for accents that will work well for New Year's celebrations, too.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

2017, Creators Syndicate

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