What’s On Your Tree?

Christmas trees come in all sizes and styles. So do decorations. From homemade to vintage glass ornaments, to simple colored balls hanging from the branches, everyone has their own theme of decoration.

Mine is a beach theme and I want to share with you some tips to how to make this kind of themed Christmas tree work for you.

We started out with white starfish, little white lights and gold balls. Wrapped gracefully with a gold 2-inch ribbon, the tree was very elegant in our home in Surfside Beach SC.

This was a favorite for years…simple, elegant and easy to set up. The kids had their own little tree of “toy” decorations that they could play with, so this tree became the family tree year after year.

Starfish tree 2012

Starfish tree 2012

Now we have a small tree in our small home and since the starfish are really too large for the tree, we have decorated it with other items.

Glass Balls:

You can purchase clear glass or plastic ornament balls from craft stores or online. Simply draw out, first on paper, a great sea life design and remake it on the ball, in the round, using glass paints from the craft store. Attach a narrow, decorative ribbon around the top.

My friend Susan made this.

My friend Susan made this.

There are some plastic balls that come apart in the middle. You can put things into the ball and glue it closed. You’ll have a seam, but it’s the best ornament for larger items like larger seashells, beachcombing treasures etc.

Memory Ball Ornaments:

We keep clear, decorative bottles around the house with sand in them from our favorite beaches. For a Christmas tree decoration, I have put some of the sand in glass or plastic ornament balls from craft stores. There are plenty of tutorials online about how to do this but I have read one yet warning not to overload the ornament. Sand can be heavy and too much inside the ball will be to heavy for the tree limb to hold it. Additionally, know your sand. Most is very grainy, some is very powdery. If you add small shells, they may sink into the sand, not to be seen. If you store the ball from one year to the next, a simple jostling may cause the powdery sand to coat the inside of the ball making it difficult to see what is inside. Experiment with each kind of sand you have and you may want to shake it to see what happens to the shells you add. Some of my ornaments need a re-do. Some I’ve filled with just sand. But all of them I’ve labeled somehow. You can take a glass paint pen and write the name of the beach on the ball or attach a decorative tag at the top alongside the hanger. If you are confident the ornament is what you want, run some glue along the top before capping it. Attach a ribbon to hang it with.

Sand from one of our favorite beaches. The sand was heavy so I didn't put much into it. I labeled it with a glass paint pen.

Sand from one of our favorite beaches. The sand was heavy so I didn’t put much into it. I labeled it with a glass paint pen.

Commercially made ornaments:

There are a lot out there; some tacky, some classy. I was collecting Santas a few years back and combined this collection with the beach theme. I’ve picked a hula Santa and a flamingo-riding Santa for my tree.

Hula Santa

Hula Santa

I have also found glass sea critter ornaments to add to my tree.

Glass Seahorse ornament

Glass Seahorse ornament

Sea Shells:

Clams, Oysters and Sand dollars are common shells for painting on. Turn an oyster shell into a Santa head. Paint a landscape, portrait or other design inside a clam or oyster shell. Decorate a sand dollar with a fun design or glitter. Sometimes a simple red or green ribbon and the date and place written with a paint pen or Sharpie pen on a shell or sand dollar is a perfect Christmas tree decoration. Don’t forget the small starfish. Attach a loop of ribbon with glue so you can hang it. You can also use the starfish as a tree topper.

Painting on a clam shell

Painting on a clam shell. A gift from my friend Catherine.

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Turn an oyster shell into a Santa. My son, Austin, made this in first grade.

One year, hundreds of urchins washed up on shore where I lived. They were dead: empty of life and mostly missing their spines. So I grabbed what I could carry, cleaned them and used some for decoration. Three different sized urchins stacked and glued together can become a snowman. Simply paint it white and add a face. Or, paint it green and add dots of colors to look like lights and decorations.

I’ve taken a single urchin test and turned it into a jelly fish ornament. Here’s how: Once cleaned out take a very thin ribbon and thread it into a bead larger than the hole in the top of the test. Cut 3 or 4 very thin ribbon pieces 6 inches long. Fold the ribbons onto the ribbon with the bead. Pull both ends of the beaded ribbon up through the bottom of the urchin and through the top. You now have tentacles hanging from the bottom. Thread a bead or two through the top ribbons to hold it in place above the urchin. This will also protect the hole from damaging and getting larger. Tie a knot at the end of the ribbons and hang on your tree.

Sea urchin test jellyfish

Sea urchin test jellyfish

Whatever your theme, there are ways to take these ideas and adapt them. Happy crafting and Merry Christmas.