Have Yourself a Merry Country Christmas

There's something especially magical about the understated beauty of December in the countryside. From brown paper packages to simple place settings, here are 35 ways to have yourself a beautifully merry (and blessedly unharried) holiday. 'Tis a gift to be simple!


By Laura Kostelny, Caroline Collins McKenzie, and Laurren Welch
Produced by Charlyne Mattox and Page Mullins

1 to 4:

CREATE A FESTIVE WELCOME

Nothing says joy to the world—okay, neighborhood—like a house embellished with barn red and evergreen.

Light Things Up: Add a touch of green year-round. Carson L-Arm Fixture, from $199; rejuvenation.com

Add Leaves to the Eaves: Outfit a drape of greenery with lights, ornaments, or berries. (Check out frontgate.com for outdoor-friendly options.)

Hang an All-Weather Wreath: Why stop at the door? Upgrade a halo of Scotch pine and fir with LED lights and hardy ornaments.

Use What You've Got: Stash plain planters, pots, and pails with birch logs and tiny pine trees bedecked with pinecones.

5

String Your Own Garland

Tired of popcorn? Thread marshmallows with red-and-white baker's twine for a sweet update.

6 to 9

HANG A COUNTRY STOCKING

From gingham to grain sack, a mix of down-home stockings makes for a very merry mantel display.

Grain Sack: It's just waiting to be filled with delicious dry goods. $25; jenniferhelenehome.etsy.com

Gingham: Santa will know precisely where to check in. $48; serenaandlily.com

Ticking Stripe: The candy cane-like edging bodes well for sweets. $18; acottagesmall.etsy.com

Seed Sack: Plant this pick on a mantel to add a graphic touch. $75; catnapcottage.etsy.com

10

ATTEND A SMALL-TOWN PARADE

Move over, Macy's! We love the pomp and circumstance of the big-city pageantry but, to us, nothing signals the start of the season—or shows off the heart of a small town—quite like a quaint Christmas parade. The excitement is everywhere, from the moment the homemade floats find their places. Folks happily take a break from the hustle and bustle the season brings. They slow down. They gather. They bid one another well. Year after year, along the never-changing route, Boy Scouts wave and toss out candy while little ones scramble to scoop up a treat or five. The local marching band cheerfully bears the cold, performing for friends and families huddled together. This year, don your mittens and scarves and hit Main Street to welcome the season the small-town America way.

11

Build a Better Fire

These moose-shaped fire starters—formed from a mix of sawdust, wax, and tar—are a simple way to get a holiday glow. $24 for six; shopterrain.com

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ADD Rustic Charm TO A CARD DISPLAY

Show off the influx of season's greetings on a vintage tobacco basket by tucking well wishes into the overlapping strips of reed. (For old baskets, try eBay, Etsy, or CL Fair vendor Great Stuff By Paul; greatstuffbypaul.com.) And if you want your good tidings to stand out from the pack, try one of these customizable options.

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Bespoke Pup Portrait: Give your best friend the starring role. $99 for 50 custom cards; mdbweddings.etsy.com

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Custom Gouache: Kristen Rosas draws inspiration from family photos. $50 for portrait and $2.50 per card; luxandtrip.etsy.com

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Stick People Still Life: Commemorate the work of your budding artist. $2 each; minted.com

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Fetching Greeting: Paper & Parcel turns snaps of pets into howl-arious cards. ("Feliz Navidog" also available.) $2 each; minted.com

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SET A FESTIVE (NOT FUSSY) TABLE

Feast your eyes on these essentials for a warm and welcoming spread.

Simple Greenery: Look no further than your backyard for the makings of a pretty table runner. Wood slices add a rough-hewn touch and can also log time as chargers or makeshift cake stands.

A Pop of Plaid: A classic tartan tablecloth dresses up a space in a polished (but not at all pretentious) way. Batali in Coral; fabricut.com

Something New… Hey, it's the holidays, so splurge on just one or two special touches for the table, whether it's double old-fashioned glasses ($26 each; juliska.com), gray-blue salad plates ($18 each; canvashomestore.com) or cozy cable-knit dinner plates ($17 each; mud-pie.com).

…And Something Old: For a whimsical place setting, slide good old handwritten namecards into the slots of vintage sleigh bells (we found these on eBay) and give new meaning to "be there with bells on."

A Rosy Glow: Candles in oversize mason jars (from $20 each; pier1.com) and frosted bulb lights add instant ambience. Rose gold flatware, a striking alternative to silver, reinforces the warm, magical vibe ($150/place setting; simonpearce.com).

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HEAD TO THE TREE FARM

Say what you will about the convenience of an artificial tree, but there's nothing like holiday decorating from the ground up. So pile into the station wagon (or your family's equivalent) and go on a hot cider-fueled pursuit of this year's specimen. As is true for most family outings, good-natured arguments will ensue (That one's too wide! Why, why are we walking so far? Mom, put down the axe!), but all will be forgiven by the time that one-of-a-kind fir finds its way home. And after Dad hauls down the ornaments from the attic and you go to hang that clay handprint from 1972, you'll be reminded that family, like the "too-wide" tree and its humble homemade trimmings, is perfect in its imperfection. Take that, plastic.

23

STACK A Mason Jar CHRISTMAS TREE

This idea's perfect for a mantel or entry table: Fill six like-sized canning jars with ornaments, tinsel, greenery, you name it. Assemble the jars in a pyramid, then wrap it with a shiny garland and top with a star. Done!

24 to 31

SPRUCE UP YOUR FRONT DOOR

Round out your holiday decor with one of these festive new twists on the classic display.

Pinecone: A woodsy favorite, finished in a swath of metallic paint. 20-inch Gold Wreath, $60; michaels.com

Wood: Laser-cut birch in an elegant laurel wreath design. 20-inch Laser-Cut Leaf Wreath, $22; aihconcepts.etsy.com

Pom-Pom & Bells: A happy cluster of woolen balls and bells. 13-inch Jingle Bell Wreath by Roost, $75; thelightshop.com

Paper: Winter-white sprigs of holly and bay leaves. 15-inch White Wreath Kit, $25; papersource.com

Wagon Wheel: We whipped up this one ourselves with juniper greenery woven around a 15.5-inch vintage wagon wheel. Juniper Garland, $25/4.5 feet; gardensoftheblueridge.com

Star: Preserved cedar is a true showstopper. 20-inch Star Wreath, $68; shopterrain.com

Rope: Hand-woven with burlap and manila roping. 21-inch Hampton Wreath (bow not included), $99; thefestivehome.com

Bow: A red metal accent that's hard to top. 19-inch Bow, $30; homedepot.com

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Top the Tree With Punched Tin

From ornaments to garlands, punched-tin pieces are galvanizing to become this season's hottest holiday trend. Made of antiqued sheet metal, this nearly 10-inch star scores tons of style points. $11; apothicaire-zochester.com

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Dress Up Brown Paper Packages

Our new favorite thing? This fluffy twisted wool string. Available in 12 colors, it's the perfect, happily humble finish to kraft paper-wrapped presents. $12/10 yards; knotandbow.etsy.com

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COOK UP A Warm Glow

Yet another reason to spring for the next dough bowl you run across at the antiques store: It makes for a beautiful centerpiece (or menorah). Fill the wooden bowl with floral foam, insert candles (we love the simplicity of plain old white), and nestle seasonal greenery in between the tapers.

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PREPARE A CHRISTMAS DAY BREAKFAST

Blame it on the hurried pace of our hyper-connected world, but the sit-down breakfast, it seems, has fallen out of favor. Let's change that. This year, on Christmas morning, after the gifts are unwrapped and the shiny new bikes make their inaugural trips down the driveway, assemble your family around the table to revive the lost art of a leisurely country breakfast. Just promise us this: Between bites of sugar-cured bacon, pause, for a second, to sop up this delicious moment, when the humans you hold most dear are gathered, together, around the table, breaking flaky, buttery bread. This, this sunny-side-up moment is what matters. The rest—the tree, the gifts, the bikes—is just gravy.