Tree-trimming trickery Direct Santa's little elves to decorate more than your Christmas tree

I've found that grandmas have a knack for controlling children without making them feel subordinate. Consequently, children respond with oblivious affection. Really keen grandmas use this social order to their benefit when the holidays roll around. Trust me, I've seen it happen.

trickery

Trickery tips

Planning to supply ornaments yourself? Jeanne Benedict, party expert at Celebrations.com and host of the DIY Network's "Weekend Entertaining," offers six festive and functional ideas:

1. Organize the ornaments: Set them out in flat boxes on a table for easy access.

2. Get the busy work out of the way: Tough jobs like putting the tree in its stand and stringing lights around it should be done before guests arrive.

3. Keep tradition alive: Decide whether to include your guest in any ornamental rituals or take care of them before their arrival. Also, Benedict suggests setting any special or expensive ornaments aside.

4. Set the atmosphere: Have the merry music blasting and offer drinks as guests enter.

5. Avoid finger foods: "You want a low-maintenance buffet, so you won't always be in the kitchen," Benedict says. Steer away from finger foods so ornaments don't become greasy. Benedict recommends pasta salad.

6. Smile now. Rearrange later: If guests, especially kids, are clumping ornaments together or just doing a horrid job at decorating your tree, wait until they leave to fix their area.

- CTW Features

When I was growing up on Chicago's South Side, the grandmother of one of my closest friends would invite the neighborhood kids over shortly after Thanksgiving Day each year for what she called a tree-trimming party. By the time all the children cleared her home, not only was her tree decorated - her halls were decked and windows lighted. Take a note from this grandma and a few experts and throw your own "tree-trimming party" this year.

If you're enticed by the idea of a little tree-trimming trickery, realize that it takes a lot more planning than your average holiday party. You'll have to "be the marshal of the party," says Jeanne Benedict, host of the DIY Network's "Weekend Entertaining" and party expert at Celebrations.com.

"Designate a person for each job," she advises. And "save the drinks for later." This will not only help ensure that tasks are completed; it will keep guests safe when covering more daring territory, like hanging lights outside.

There are two paths you can take in planning your actual tree-trimming session. You can ask guests to bring ornaments or supply them all yourself. Either way, "have the tree up and ready" and prepped with garland and lights before the guests arrive, suggests Lorraine Mariella, a Wayne, N.J.-based event planner with Celebrations Event & Meeting Management, LLC. Pick a theme and be sure to get your invitations out early if you're planning for your guests to bring ornaments. "You want to give the people ample time to do something creative," Mariella says. She advises listing ideas in the invitation for ornament designs. A theme will give your guests guidance and may prevent motley tree décor.

"If you have a designed tree, [gifted ornaments] stand out like a sore thumb," says James Monroe, special events professional of Dallas-based J Monroe Designs.

"Establish a theme that becomes a background for showing off the eclectic ornaments," he says. Pick a neutral base color for the tree garland and ribbons so ornaments from your guests stand out in a good way, Monroe says. Gold, silver and red work best.

Maybe you're not like the neighborhood grandma I knew growing up and are less than willing to invite tons of children into your home to decorate. But you can still get organized and call those you know to have a merry ol' time trimming your tree and - if you're smart - fashioning your whole home with holiday décor.

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