Anyone who has heard the song knows we “deck the halls with boughs of holly” at Christmastime. But how did holly, pine and evergreens become intertwined with Christmas traditions?
Centuries ago, before people understood why the seasons changed, they feared the darkness of deep winter. Since evergreens did not die back in the cold like other plants, they became part of winter solstice traditions - evidence that spring would eventually return. Later, as Christianity spread, evergreen branches came to symbolize renewed life.
While humans no longer fear the winter solstice, we have continued to incorporate a few ancient traditions into our modern winter celebrations.
One beautiful tradition involves hanging greenery and decorative garland in and outside our homes.
Fresh or Artificial Garland?
People with artificial Christmas trees sometimes buy fresh garland to bring the scent of pine into their homes during the holidays. However, florists recommend that garland made from fresh greenery be misted regularly. Otherwise, natural garland will soon turn brittle, create a mess and start to look shabby. And who needs extra work during the holidays?
Artificial garlands are an attractive alternative that won’t shed, thin or dry out and will provide years of enjoyment.
A Variety of Garland Styles
The style of garland you purchase depends on your personal taste, home decor and where you choose to hang it. Artificial garland is a broad category that includes everything from colorful tinsel garland and beaded garland for your Christmas tree to lush and ornate lengths that cascade dramatically over entryways and banisters.
There are artificial garlands strung with shatterproof ornaments, as well as frosted or flocked garland, each with their own unique look and style.
Types of foliage also vary. Juniper or cedar garland mixed with other seasonal evergreens blend well with traditional styles. Eucalyptus garland is a beautiful alternative with a smoky gray-green color that complements modern decor. Berries, fruit, pinecones and other decorations add texture and color to faux garland.
Unlit vs. Lighted Garland
An important style choice is whether to purchase unlit or pre-lit Christmas garland. Unlit garland offers a natural-looking simplicity, while lighted garland adds a warm, festive glow to your home. Because winter days can be gloomy and nights are long, pre-lit garland is an elegant way to brighten up your holiday decor.
Some lighted Christmas garland is battery operated – great for areas without a plug nearby.
If you intend to hang Christmas garland with lights outdoors, check the package or product description and choose a style rated for outdoor use.
Where Can You Hang Artificial Garlands?
Garland is a versatile Christmas decoration that can be hung throughout the home. Decorative possibilities include:
Door Frames - Garland draped around the frame of your entry door provides a warm welcome for holiday guests. However, garland adds dramatic impact indoors, as well. For instance, garland can beautifully frame the doorway into your dining room.
Banisters/Stairways/Balconies - After guests enter beneath a festively framed entryway, wow them with swaths of greenery up the staircase. Hanging garland along the banister is one of the most traditional uses for decorative garland.
Fireplace Mantels - Use garland to frame the wreath above your fireplace. Or lay it along your mantel, interspersed with candles and other holiday decorations.
Ceilings/Overhangs - Create a bower of greenery by hanging garland near the ceiling and elegantly draping it all the way around the room.
Consoles/Dining Tables - Lay a length of garland along the console table in your entrance hall or living room. Or run it down the center of your holiday dining table.
Use your imagination! Garland is a versatile decoration that can be strung with magical effect on trellises, twined on pillars and even strung along the top of your kitchen cabinets.
How Much Garland Do You Need?
Once you decide where you want to hang your garland, it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need. Garland is sold by the foot. Artificial Christmas garland frequently can be found in lengths of six, nine or 12 feet, although some are longer. Shorter lengths can be combined to cover larger areas.
You’ll also want to consider the width of the garland, as a full garland may require additional support to hang.
Framing a Door - For a doorway, measure the top and both sides of the door frame. Don’t forget to add a few inches if you intend for your garland to hang well outside the door frame, or if you want extra length. You might find it helpful to drape string around the door, adjusting until you get the look you want to achieve. Then, just measure the string.
Wound Around a Post or Pillar - Love the look of garland spiraled gracefully up a column or pillar? Measure the height of the column and double it to determine how much garland you’ll need.
Fireplace Mantel - Garland for a fireplace mantel or table should drape gracefully off the edge. Measure your mantel and add four feet. This allows about two feet of garland to hang from each end.
Framing - Use garland to frame a wreath or another decorative feature on walls and over fireplaces. As you did when you measured your doorway, measure the height and width on the top and both sides, tacking on extra length to allow for draping.
Stair Banisters - You’ll need one-and-a-half to double the amount of garland to achieve the magazine-ready look of garland swathed up the staircase. Again, use string to visualize how deeply you want to drape your garland, which will help determine its length. Allow extra for garland to hang gracefully from the newel post.
How to Use Artificial Christmas Swags
Crafted from the same broad variety of materials as artificial garland, a Christmas swag beautifully complements your garland and other holiday decorations. Some artificial swags are diamond, triangular or teardrop shaped; others look like crescents or arches.
You can use a pine or floral swag in place of a wreath on doors and windows, as a more understated option to garland over a doorway or as a wall accent. Finish off the garland on your banister by hanging a swag from the newel post. Swags also can be used singly or in pairs to create a festive holiday table centerpiece.
Outdoors, show your holiday spirit by hanging Christmas swags on a gate or fence, above your windows or draped over your mailbox.
How to Fluff Your New Garland
Your new garland is tightly packed for shipping and will need some attention before hanging. “Fluffing” your garland is the most important step in creating a full, lush appearance.
Unpack your garland and lay it straight out on a flat surface. If you purchased a lighted garland, plug it in and check that it lights completely.
Starting from one end, take each branch and bend it up and outwards, to the center, left and right. You may prefer to shape your garland while it is lit, to gauge the full effect. Work down the entire length of the garland.
Readjust foliage after hanging.
Artificial Christmas garlands and swags are an excellent way to add natural-looking elements to your holiday decorating without the fuss and mess of fresh greenery. These versatile creations can be used outdoors and throughout the home, enhancing your festive decor for years to come.
Check out our Christmas Decorating Resources for more on wreaths, garland and other indoor Christmas decorations.