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Tree Topper Tale

Tree Topper Tale

Whenever I make something and think to myself, well, someday I’ll replace this with something better someone should stop me.  So often, when someday arrives, what I’ve made for “temporary” purposes works out just fine.  This Christmas tree topper is a perfect example of a project I made because there was a need, we wanted to save our money and not spend it on something new, and what was for sale in the stores wasn’t all that appealing.

Homemade is better, heart-felt, and usually comes with a story.

Here’s the story…

Way back in 1990, when we celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple, aside from our home, we owned only a few basic items.  Of course we owned what all newly weds need most: a bed.  Next on our list of worldly possessions, an old trunk, 2 bed side tables, and a refrigerator.  (Side note: 21 years later, the trunk and tables still sit next to our bed.)  Aside from a few tools for renovating our 1890 row-house, that was it.  Busy re-building our home, paying off student loans, and living on one income by choice, we didn’t have much money left for anything else.

The next Christmas, we splurged and bought a tree.  I’m sure we overpaid on that Christmas tree because we lived in the city and went to our favorite neighborhood market, (Eastern Market, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.) and bought the tree.  Trust me, having grown-up in Oregon, I couldn’t believe how much money could be charged for a simple evergreen tree.  Every Christmas tree needs a topper and this is what I came up with for ours.

Tree Topper Tale
Christmas 1992

Warning: This site isn’t Go Martha Stewart. This is Go Gingham where projects are made without staff help, from items you have around your home, a recycling bin, or a trash pile. The projects here won’t cost you lots of money, they’ll look good when you’re done, and you won’t have any buyer’s remorse.

Here are the instructions…

Materials needed for a Christmas tree topper

  • Cardboard paper tube (toilet paper tube was used here)
  • Cardboard shape of cut-out star
  • Masking tape
  • Spray paint – gold or silver

Tree Topper Tale

How to assemble your Christmas tree topper

  1. Tape paper tube to back of cut out star with masking tape.
  2. Go to a well ventilated area, lay out a few newspapers or another drop cloth and spray tree topper.
  3. Let dry.
  4. Place on top of your tree.
  5. Stand back and admire your handiwork.
  6. Store your tree topper flat.  The cardboard wants to curl along the sides.

That’s it.  It’s so easy and very Go Gingham!

Tree Topper Tale

I traced the star shape from this star.  This star was in a trash pile at an abandoned building near our Capitol Hill home.  These stars are used while laying bricks when constructing a brick building, to keep the bricks in line.  These days, my stars are used for backyard decorating.

Tree Topper Tale
Christmas 2011

I made this topper in 1991 and it’s still in great shape.  This topper has proven it has staying power.  And, don’t worry.  I abandoned my plans to replace it long ago.  I think Dr. Seuss said it best, “Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more….”

What does your tree topper look like?  Did you make it yourself?  Is it a treasure you found somewhere?

Go Gingham related links:

Displaying holiday cards – don’t put them away, just leave them out to enjoy
Homemade Christmas gift tradition: family calendar
Quick and easy holiday decorating: very easy
Green holiday living: generate less waste this holiday season

12 thoughts on “Tree Topper Tale

  1. I like this idea very much. I get sick of the traditional gaudy angels I see topping most trees so I love the idea of making a simple and modern star all by myself. I agree that homemade is waaaay better anyway!


  2. Thanks for this story, Sara. I really enjoy those handmade ornaments that are made with a lot more love than almost anything. My 15 year old has now taken on the task of decorating the Christmas Tree in our house – I think to prevent some of the handmade ornaments that both she and her sister made when they were very small (her sister is now 35, so those are REALLY old ornaments). I especially enjoyed your comments about not having a staff to make things for you, or go out and purchase the items you need to make something home-made, ala Martha Stewart. Like you, I’ve found it’s amazing what you can do with a toilet paper tube, and a roll of duct or masking tape.


    1. It’s really true, Cathy, all you need are a few simple items. I love that your 15 yo is doing the tree. It’s great that she’s interested in doing it – no matter the reason. She’ll treasures those ornaments when she has her own home. I love the ornaments from my childhood and the kids love hearing the stories behind them. Thanks Cathy! Merry Christmas to you and your family.


  3. On a similar topic – there was a story on one of the local news station’s website this week about the idea of delaying Christmas. The gist of the story was that many families can’t afford Christmas in December, so they’re delaying gift exchanging until a time when they can afford to. What really struck me were readers comments — most indicated that we really have forgotten the reason for the holiday – whether religious or not – it’s a time of getting together with family and friends that we see both seldom and regularly, for sharing a meal and laughter – not of trying to outspend the neighbors. I truly felt sorry for one observer who wrote in that they couldn’t imagine delaying Christmas because of finances. The inference in the comments was “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!”Knowing the stress, worry, and strain that finances can put on a family, I can’t imagine having a huge Christmas with lots and lots of presents by ignoring finances!

    We’ve come up with a solution that’s proven to be more popular in our family than was expected. Last year, especially, we wanted (and needed) to get our teen-age daughter several items that were larger purchases. From us, she received “Good-Fers.” We had mapped out these purchases for her over a several month period, and she received (and opened) on Christmas Day a “coupon” good for one of those items. It had the item she would be receiving, and the month that she’d receive it. I think that at first, she thought this was really stupid, but when she redeemed her first certificate in January, and then the second one in February, she started really getting into it. She commented that most of her friends were done with their Christmas presents by the time they came back to school in January, but she was able to enjoy Christmas up until she got the last of her presents – our puppy, Harry, who came home in July.


    1. Cathy, this sounds like a very smart strategy. I’m amazed at the amount of money (and debt) families incur over the holiday season. You’re right, the reason for the season isn’t shopping. Thanks for sharing this. Your daughter will probably always remember those gifts.


  4. We have one that I purchased at a cheesy dollar store when I was in college, several years before I had a Christmas tree to decorate. It’s a classic 60s-style glass ball and spike finial that my husband refers to as the “Dr. Seuss Christmas tree topper”. It’s not his favorite, but I love it because it reminds me of the one on my grandma’s tree. Every year we renegotiate our compromise: I put white lights on the tree to suit his preference, and then I get to use my Dr. Seuss Christmas tree topper.


  5. That is a great story, Sara and a wonderful old photo of you and your groom. I have a bit of “treasured x-mas tree ornament collection”-envy being a nice Jewish girl who wouldn’t dare tempt the fates with a Christmas tree or ornaments. To address this problem I made the rounds yesterday, visiting my neighbors’ trees to get a hit of THEIR treasured tree ornaments. We are very Go Gingham around here with a 150-year old menorah brought from the old country on a ship by my great-grandma and several bedraggled chains of homemade Hanukkah decorations made by my boys. Of course I DO have Hanukkah-decoration envy of our friends who have shiny new flashing Hanukkah lights bought at the shop 🙂
    Happy Hanukkah and a Merry x-mas to you, Sara!


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