December 22, 2015

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Happy holidays! This month’s column is about a Christmas tradition from Laurel’s childhood that she’s shared with her coworkers for nearly twenty years. This year she decided a DIY/Goodwill twist was in order, and here’s how it went.

I grew up in Germany, where one of my favorite days of Christmastime was St. Nikolaus Tag (Saint Nicholas Day), celebrated December 6th in honor of a third century saint known for giving secret gifts. The night before the 6th, German children put a boot (polished, to show you’ve been good, and just one, to show you’re not greedy) outside their door, for St. Nikolaus to fill with treats in the night.

I’m fortunate to work with a lot of fun, creative people who I thought might appreciate that tradition, so every year on December 5th, our hallways look like this:

shoes1

Our resident St. Nik (that’d be me… don’t tell anyone) gives mostly edible treats from Germany and other parts of Europe, but also a small ornament. Usually they’re cute-but-generic, but this blog inspired me to find an alternative to mass-produced ornaments this year. So I hit my local Goodwill.

Jackpot.

Doesn't look like much, but go with me.

Doesn’t look like much, but go with me.

I found three baggies of miscellaneous ornaments, two for 75 cents each and one for $1.75 (I really wanted those little angels). But as I was walking to the car, rummaging through my finds…

Oh, the humanity...

Oh, the humanity…

Fortunately, since I wasn’t sure the baggies would have enough usable ornaments, I had also grabbed this box of plain balls for $1.75, reasoning that although they were mass-produced, at least I wasn’t buying them new.

martha before

Standing in line to check out, I noticed this box on the shelf next to me.

playset box

Obviously, these are not ornaments. But see those snowflake-looking pieces? And the star pieces? For a buck seventy-five it was worth a shot.

Back home, I took stock. Some pieces were eliminated because they were overtly religious or otherwise not quite what I needed. The rest got a quick bath (it’s always a good idea to wash any thrift store finds before use), corralled by one of the colanders that survived our kitchen purge.

colander

I had decided to hit the ornaments with some metallic silver spray paint, so as recommended on the paint can, I also doused them with some rubbing alcohol, then dried thoroughly.

Some of the ornaments didn’t have hangers, but there was enough material from the unused bits in the baggies to repurpose. For the ones that didn’t have a loop for a hanger, I used a little superglue to wrap the cord around a convenient spot.

Untitled design (9)

Finally, it was time to paint! The hubs, being the resourceful guy he is, set up this rig to facilitate the spray painting.

(wire coat hanger, straightened, spanning a cardboard box)

(wire coat hanger, straightened, spanning a cardboard box)

The plain balls needed a little something, so we balanced the stars from the playset (which I couldn’t quite figure out how to use otherwise) on the balls and sprayed over them, basically using each one as a stencil.

balls sprayed

So, how’d everything turn out?

finished products

Not bad! A few didn’t take the paint well (like the metal carousel horse), but most looked surprisingly nice, especially compared with how I found them. I liked the angels in particular.

angels beforeangels after

The stenciled star on the balls was more subtle than I’d hoped…

stenciled ball

… but they still looked nice, and it’s an easy way to jazz up plain ornaments. If I were doing it again, I’d be more liberal with the paint, use a larger item as a stencil, and preferably have more of a contrast between the ornament color and the paint color.

Goodie bags assembled, it was time to play St. Nik:

Yes, that is a man’s shoe with a jingle bell elf toe. I may have mentioned: these are fun people.

Yes, that is a man’s shoe with a jingle bell elf toe. I may have mentioned: these are fun people.

Although the ornaments were a little more work than I anticipated, I was really happy to find a creative way to give my coworkers something a little different this year, and reduce my retail consumption in the process. (Plus there were leftover gummi bears, so… win/win.)

So from our St. Nikolaus boots to yours… Fröhliche Weihnachten!

One Comment

  1. My sister gave me a plastic nativity scene she scored for a buck and it was hilariously badly painted. The angel looked like a zombie and Mary looked totally depressed. I did the same thing and painted them with silver paint and they are pretty enough to stay out all year.