An Alternate Christmas Tree

I shot my blogging time buying goodies for our upcoming cookie party and building our Christmas tree. So, let’s look at the tree.

Photo of a cone-shaped string of Christmas lights running from floor to ceiling, aglow.Step 1. Have the folks at the hardware store cut you a 3′x3′ board. I chose inexpensive particle board because I anticipated project failure. My wife is Annie from Field of Dreams, so without a voice of reason I’ve learned to plan for my escapades to turn out not so well.

Step 2. Screw a hook into the center of the board. Tie a string to the hook and to a pencil. Draw a large circle.

Step 3. Screw in hooks around the circle, I had 16 evenly spaced. The light cord will be going around the hooks, so buy decent size hooks. I used 7/8 inch Brass Cup Hooks from Ace Hardware (they are costlier online).

Step 4. Locate a stud in your ceiling and screw in a ceiling hook. You know, the thing your mom hung macrame planters from when you were a kid.

Step 5. Hang a large metal ring (with at least a 3-inch diameter) on the ceiling hook. Your light cord will be strung through the ring multiple times, so you need a decent size ring. You might as well buy a brass ring that looks suitable fancy. I used my wife’s embroidery hoop, again, expecting failure.

Step 6. Plug in your Christmas lights, then string them around the first hook on the floor, then up to the ceiling and down again. You stand on a ladder while your easy-going spouse lifts up sections of the cord for you to string through the ceiling loop. Your spouse threads the cord from one floor hook to the next and then hands the whole mess up to you and so forth.

I used energy-saving LED lights that let you connect multiple strings, for a total of four 33′ strings, 400 lights. The downside is that Christmas light cords contain lead, so we wash our hands after touching them. I also wiped the cords with a damp cloth to pick up as much lead dust as possible — oh yes, lead dust.

That’s version 1 of the tree. In version 2 I’ll make some improvements:

  1. Get a solid wood board and convince a friend with a jigsaw to cut it into a circle. Then paint it.
  2. Buy a nicer ceiling hoop. Alternately: use a bicycle hook, the type used for hanging a bike from a ceiling. Stringing the lights is easier if you don’t have to stuff the whole strand through a closed loop.
  3. Hang ornaments from the light cords.
  4. Place Christmas gifts inside the tree.

So, why build this funky tree? Well, I thought about a lot of other tree ideas.

  1. Dead tree from a tree lot. Nah, they’re infused with insecticides.
  2. Dead tree cut with a permit from public lands. Nah, don’t want to tie it to my sedan like a dead buck.
  3. Artificial tree. Nah, they’re loaded with PVC and a lot of other nasty stuff.
  4. Metal tree. Nah, everyone other than me thinks they are ugly.
  5. Felt tree. Yeah, 7 feet of green felt attached to the wall somehow, and adorned with handmade felt ornaments. I have the felt. I don’t have the logistics worked out.
  6. Tomato cage tree. Nah, too weird.
  7. Frankenstein tree screwed together from dead tree limbs reclaimed from my backyard. Nah, no way to store it come January.
  8. Coat hanger tree. I tried, oh how I tried to make this work as a 3-D sculpture. I know the type of hanger I need, but haven’t found it in local stores.
  9. Live tree. Oh, totally doable. Except I’m not planting my tree until next spring and it will take a few years to get up to speed.
  10. Live potted tree from a nursery. Hey, that’s cheating.

Alrighty, maybe you thought I was quirky cool when I made a doughman and held snail races, but now you understand just how mentally disturbed I really am.

Photo close-up showing the loop attaching to the ceiling hook.

Photo of the particle board square with Christmas lights attached.

Close-up photo of my daughter standing in the middle of the Christmas light tree.


8 Responses to “An Alternate Christmas Tree”

  1. Hope says:

    I love it!
    I dont have a tree this year, because the thought of ornaments with a one and two year old made me shudder, but plan on getting one next year.
    When I was a kid, we always bought live trees, about 3 feet tall, from the nursery. They stayed inside all winter and we planted them in the spring, in a crazy uneven line. The trees are all still there on my parents farm.
    Not sure how well this would work in the city…

    December 17th, 2008 at 4:33 am

  2. PAUL says:

    Cool! Reminds me of those drawings we used to make connecting lines on an X and Y axis and then coloring in the funky checkerboard shapes – any chance the missus would let you screw a second hook into the wall and maybe a third into another wall, allowing you to experiment with a myriad of creative shapes?

    December 17th, 2008 at 5:50 am

  3. PsychMamma says:

    I love it! And thanks for the heads up about lead in lights. I had no idea.

    December 17th, 2008 at 7:40 am

  4. Julian Devlin says:

    Looks good – except for the base. How about a hula-hoop for the base, a little less obtrusive. Or maybe a wreath, so you would have just a hint of greens…

    December 17th, 2008 at 10:51 am

  5. Diana (Ladybug Limited) says:

    Awesome– and fairly baby proof in terms of no precious heirloom ornaments…

    I’m glad we’re lucky enough to have an insecticide-free tree farm close by :)

    December 17th, 2008 at 10:53 am

  6. AJ says:

    Thanks everyone for the plaudits.

    Julian, I did originally want to use a large, heavy metal ring for the base… except where do you find one?

    A friend did suggest a Hula Hoop. I’ll quote him verbatim…

    “Maybe just buy a Hula Hoop – I suspect that’s around the diameter you’re looking for? Or make one with thicker plastic irrigation tubing and fill it with sand, if you’re concerned about it needing to have more weight. If you didn’t glue it up you could take it apart again and empty it out for more convenient storage. I actually found a site that tells you how to make your own Hula Hoops.”

    I could go with a sand-filled hoop (it does need to be weighted so the light cords remain taut). It would sully one neat aspect of storage though… I theoretically can unhook the ceiling hoop, lay everything on the board, slide it under a bed, then open it up ready-to-go next year.

    December 17th, 2008 at 11:23 am

  7. Jody says:

    We do something similar every year. So far, we have decorated: our ladder, a wheelbarrow, a large patio umbrella (folded up to resemble a tree), etc. Our neighbors grow bamboo…so this year, our Christmas tree is a decorated tee-pee made out of dried bamboo. My 3-year old son helped with the construction (zip-ties) and decoration. He camps out in the middle with the Christmas lights on and checks out the ornaments.

    December 19th, 2008 at 8:11 am

  8. Keith says:

    A bit late finding this for this year, but will use it next Christmas. We went treeless this year due to the urban sprawl of the wife’s miniature Christmas city.

    If you cut the base round and set it on a table while you strung the lights you could remove the table to create a hanger that would tighten the strings of wire. This would give clearance for presents under the tree. I would suggest screwing the hooks horizontally into the base edge to gain strength. One could even coarsely serrate the base edge to add some depth to the lights by attaching them at both points and valleys..

    December 28th, 2008 at 11:54 am

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