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Deck the Hearth

Some simple ideas for holiday decorating

By Fran Sigurdsson
Published: October 1, 2005
Photo by Roger Wade
Lighting the yule log at the cabin this year? A mantel dressed in holiday garb sets the mood for festive fireside gatherings. All it takes is some glitter and greenery. Keep it low-key with sprigs of holly tucked between the everyday display. Or add all the (sleigh) bells and whistles you like.  

On long winter nights, mantels take on an extra glow with candles, old camp lanterns and glass oil lamps. For a rustic retreat, use birch bark candleholders. Or try cluster pillars and woodsy shapes like bears, pinecones and Christmas trees. Look for vintage-style Father Christmas candles made in antique molds. A strand of battery-powered miniature lights will make a mantel sparkle.

Nature’s Bounty
Drape the mantel with a garland of fresh, fragrant greens. (For safety’s sake, don’t let it overhang the shelf.) White pine, Fraser fir and cedar are all traditional for a north woods cabin. Juniper with blue berries is a Rocky Mountain Christmas classic. Magnolia and boxwood are perfect for the southern getaway.
Fill a basket or fishing creel with evergreen boughs, berry branches, nuts and seed pods. Or hang an oversized wreath above the mantel.
Craft fairs usually are good sources for air-dried or glycerine-preserved wreaths and swags.
Bedeck a coastal cottage mantel with starfish and sand dollars tucked amongst greenery, then sit back and watch those ships come sailing in on Christmas Day.  

Nestle small treasures amidst the greenery and lights. Carved Santas are popular, as are carved bears, eagles and shore birds. Metal reindeer, tiny sleds and S’mores snowmen – what could be more apropos for a cabin? Include a winter family photo or two. Hang a sleigh bell strap beside the fire to ring out the old, ring in the new.
No Christmas mantel is complete without stockings, of course. Thick Nordic ski socks provide a fresh take on the traditional red felt.
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