January 17, 2023

What Does An Ox-Goad Have To Do With Decorating For Christmas?


This week I want to show you how to creatively decorate your house for Christmas with what you already have in order to save money while making something truly beautiful.

Well today? Everything!

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc but there have also been blessings. For many, re-discovering home and family has been a huge one. But on the flip side, finances have been stretched. This week I want to show you how to creatively decorate your house for Christmas with what you already have in order to save money while making something truly beautiful. But first, some context.

Have you ever heard of Shamgar?  He’s a character in the Bible whose story is told in one verse, Judges 3:31:

31 “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed 600 of the Philistines with an ox-goad, and he also saved Israel.”

I heard a sermon by Rev. Al Patterson on Shamgar that has stuck with me throughout my life. Though we are not planning on saving a nation or killing anyone with an ox-goad, I believe the lessons learned in his story will, among other things, encourage you how to make the most of what you have this Christmas. The lessons are:

  • Start where you are

  • Use what you have

  • Do what you can


Start Where You Are

You don’t have to live in a house that’s ready for an HGTV special. When the hubs and  I met, we lived in Ukraine. Even then we were all about entertaining so we had a Christmas party at my tiny apartment. But, instead of a tree, there was a plant. So, we decorated it. It was very reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s, but festive.

When we moved to America, our only outdoor decoration was a lit wreath on the front door and we excused it by saying it was tasteful (and it was). If a wreath is what you have, don’t feel like you need to be the Griswalds. Be who YOU are.

Use What You Have

You may already have a stash of decorations. But if things are looking a little slim or you just want a change, try these ideas.

Go Outside

  • Cut branches from evergreens of all types. Buy oasis, which is a floral foam for live plants. This will keep your greens fresh!
  • Magnolia leaves, though not typical for Christmas up north, last a really long time. You can even spray paint them!
  • Make a winter wonderland using painted twigs in a pot. Add some white lights for a magical effect.
  • Collect pinecones.
Pinecones painted silver


Dig Through The Garbage (You heard me!)

  • Wrap discarded boxes like gifts and put them in the tree or stack large ones around the house in towers.
wrapped boxes as decorations
  • Make a garland out of plastic lids. (This is one of our favorite decorations.) Get some colored string and a drill. Bore holes on opposite sides of each lid then feed the string through, making the garland.
Garland made from recycling
  • Wrap empty ribbon spools, TP,  and paper towel tubes like candy. Cover them first with white tissue paper then colorful cellophane.
Candy decorations made from cardboard, tissue paper, and cellophane
  • Make characters from empty paper rolls
Santa made from a paper towel roll



Sift Through the Toy Box

  • Reimagine the tree topper. On our kids’ trees we have used light sabers, magic wands, and a fire fighter’s helmet with paper flames, to name a few.
  • Wire train or race car tracks into a tree. We did that with a Thomas the Tank Engine set.
Train tracks in Christmas Tree
  • Use stuffed animals. We still have a ridiculous number of Chick-fil-A cows that we rest on boughs. Notice the Pez dispenser too.
Chick-fil-A merchandise as Christmas decorations


Empty The Cupboards

  • For a cute food themed tree, raid the cabinets for kitchen tools like  cookie cutters to fill in the branches. The shapes aren’t important, just the colors.
cookie cutters
  • Fill piping bags  with batting or cotton balls to look like frosting then rest  them in a centerpiece or tree, filling bald spots.
Piping bag filled with batting


Use Perishables

  • Gingerbread men smell amazing and look so cute!
  • Thread popcorn and cranberries into garlands. I remember doing that for hours with my sister.
  • Put shellac on pretzels to preserve them. Add a bow and hang them on the tree.
  • Traditional candy canes are super cheap and festive. This centerpieces uses plastic and real.
candy cane centerpiece


Get Sentimental

  • Use photos as decorations. When the kids were in elementary school we always went to “Cookies with Santa Night” where they got their photos taken with the big guy and they made picture frames from craft foam. We still have all of them on trees. A bonus is that they take up space!
foam frame on Santa photo
  • Use sentimental items. I lived in Korea as a child. A few years ago my mom sent me a box of stuff from there that she had saved for years. Now everything from nut cups, to wall decorations adorn my “Travel Tree”.
Korean wall hanging


Do What You Can

Now that you know you can use what is around you, it’s time to get busy decorating. But you may still need to get your hands dirty.


Get Crafty

  • Peruse Pinterest. There are THOUSANDS of ideas. But if that is too overwhelming or intimidating, check out these old-school classics.
  • Make ornaments or decor from wrapping paper and poster board. One year my mom set my big brother and me up in the basement to make dozens of these. They were shaped like angels with red wrapping paper on them. Our job was to embellish them with bric-a-brac. Why they were red, I couldn’t tell you.
  • Cut out cardboard or foam board into festive words and cover them with glitter.
  • Make garland from loops of cheap ribbon. My little brother spent hours making one of these colorful chains. Mom kept that for years.
  • Make salt dough ornaments. They need to make a come-back!
  • Remember noodle art? You know when you took a paper plate or poster board and glued macaroni on it in the shape of an ornament, bell, or wreath then spray painted it? You may be surprised how pretty that could look!
Noodle art
  • If you sew, break out your machine. As an adult living in South Africa, we didn’t have the same access to Christmas decorations, so I made some hearts from fabric, painted string, and batting. 
puffy heart cloth ornament


Part of “doing what you can” includes shopping when necessary. But here is the way to do it on a dime.

Embrace Second Hand

Every year, thrift stores and yard sales are filled with discarded decorations. With a little love, they can find new life while making your home super festive. If you find garlands and wreaths, don’t be afraid to dismantle them and start from scratch. I have purchased ornaments that way too.

Shop Smart

I have gotten TONS of ornaments at Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and Walmart. I buy multiples of everything so they make for a big show.

For my “Travel Tree”, I made a bunch of these from cheap,  fillable ornaments in which I inserted plastic flags (leftover from something else).

clear ornament with flag

I picked up these globes for a song somewhere a long time ago and they also adorn the “Travel Tree”. 

Plastic globes

A pretty bow is essential to tying even the most hodgepodge tree together. So when I need some good ribbon (or other things), I usually head to Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or Joann’s and take advantage of their massive sales or 40% off coupons. 

Just Remember

No matter where you are or what your resources, you can have a beautiful home this season if you:

  1. Start where you are
  2. Use what you have
  3. Do what you can

Show me your most creative or resourceful decorating idea on Facebook.