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Posted on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 6:48 a.m.

Christmas tree alternatives: Thinking outside the boxwood

By Judy DiForte


photo by Ovation Photography

Lots of folks are caught up in the annual debate over which is greener -- or at least less ungreen: a real Christmas tree or an artificial one?

That’s what my last blog was about. But what about other options? Can it still feel like Christmas without a tree at all?

My boss, Sharon McRill, owner of the Betty Brigade, saved a banana plant from a home clear-out a few months back, but the plant was so large, she had no room for a Christmas tree this year.

Her solution? A banana Christmas tree. You may not be able to tell, but there are lights on it -- and a few gifts already tucked beneath it.

One of my fellow Betties, Josh, has developed a tree-free Christmas tradition of his own, in the form of a decorated lamp.

bachelor tree1.JPG

photo by Josh Kamradt

“My ornaments consist of bulbs and memories. If you look closely, you can see my combat patch from the 1st Infantry Division, a balloon dog ornament, an egg from Russia, and two ornaments given to me by family. The beer is Tree Fort Beer from Arbor Brewing Company.”

We interpret these options as tree alternatives because they serve the purpose of a tree. They are something to gather ‘round. They’re the thing you put the gifts under. Here are some other tree-free alternatives:

* Find an interesting fallen branch in your yard or in the woods, stand it in a container, or lean it against a wall and decorate it!

* Create a “tree” out of things around the house. Open up a tripod, or use a ladder, and have fun decorating them with garlands, lights and ornaments. Kids love getting involved in projects like this.

* Hang Christmas lights on a ceiling hook and bring them down and outward, creating a tent shape. Or suspend ornaments from the ceiling at different heights over the pile of gifts.

* Affix old Christmas cards to a wall in the shape of a tree, and place your gifts on the floor beneath.

Whether you choose a real tree, an artificial one, a potted plant or completely non-organic alternative... whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannuka, Kwanza, Ramadan, winter solstice or none of the above... may your days be merry and bright!

Judy DiForte is a professional organizer for the Betty Brigade, an Ann Arbor-based concierge company specializing in moving coordination, organizing and event planning. Please leave comments here, or email



Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

I have two Festivus poles in my basement. I tried to move them upstairs but my brother the Contractor told me they hold the house up or something.

Judy DiForte

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Who says you have to celebrate Festivus upstairs? At my house, therestofus congregate in the basement all the time...


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

Totally rediculous. I guess those are great if you have to be different and have everyone ask you what in the world that thing is in your living room. Prefect for those who crave attention.

Judy DiForte

Fri, Dec 23, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

I think this is more a matter of doing something fun and whimsical than craving attention. It would be a dull world if we all did things the same way...


Thu, Dec 22, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

What about an undecorated aluminum pole? It's a Festivus for the rest of us!!!!!