In the spirit of the holiday: gifts, giving and games. (How many words can you get from “poinsettia”?)

December 25, 2011

Whatever your traditions and beliefs, this is a time of year devoted to gifts and giving. A gift, however, can be seen from many perspectives. Whether it is Christmas morning, the eight nights of Chanukah or other traditions, this is a season when we give to others.

What to give? Well, on Christmas Eve, this is not your typical “gift guide.”

Many of us remember the rituals around the holidays, the activities, the times with family – whether relaxed or riotous. Very few of us remember what presents we received.

I am an interior designer, so, for example, while I love the idea of setting up a ritual to phone loved ones who are far away over a breakfast with family, I also love the idea of objects that will carry their stories from year to year. 

In our family, we made a Christmas decoration each year that was kept in a box and put on the tree every year thereafter. I started this with my son this year. If you are not “crafty” then make a special trip to buy an ornament each year. The stories around each one will become part of the charm of your tree.

Decorate your tree with hand made ornaments. Photo © Catherine Holliss

Art is big in our home. As a broke grad student I worked in a photo gallery and asked to be paid in photographs rather than cash. I still have those photos on my walls. The small indulgences I might have purchased are long forgotten.

Consider starting a tradition to make, commission or purchase a piece of art. If you start on this with time to spare, it can be as elaborate or simple as you wish. One year I worked with an artist friend to design a steel pedestal – dramatic but inexpensive ‑- to hold a simple digital picture frame that was filled with photos of family and friends. We still have it and enjoy watching the images flicker past.

Art installation. Photo © Catherine Holliss

If you can make moments to remember and have something in your home as a reminder of that moment then your space becomes even more of an extension of your family rituals. A house that is designed for ritual becomes something that is less a collage of objects than a space designed for humans, for activities, for living.

My favorite memory of Christmas with my mother and new husband was poring over a paper tablecloth in a diner seeing how many words we could get from “poinsettia.” My husband roared with laughter when he hit 100. I have never lost that memory. It’s a moment to treasure now my mother is no longer with us. The poinsettia will always carry a special meaning for me.

I love to fill the house with them.

May you and yours have a wonderful holiday. Please share your favorite holiday rituals – and the objects around them. I’d love to hear from you.



Written by Catherine Holliss

Interior Design Blog Writer,, LLC

Director of Interior Design, Sander Architects LLC.  


Photographs © Catherine Holliss unless otherwise noted. 

Blog Post © KOUBOO LLC. All rights reserved