Know your bauble ratio: the optimum way to decorate a Christmas tree
Wired magazine has shared the “science of decorating the perfect Christmas tree”, including the ideal bauble ratio: about 6.2 baubles to each foot (30.4cm) of tree. Smaller trees will need fewer. About 100 fairy lights to one foot of tree is said to be “a very standard rule in the Christmas tree industry”.
When I was a kid we had candles on the tree, because my dad was a bit German and a pyromaniac. What became Christmas trees originated from those German-speaking lands of Europe where it was a medieval tradition to celebrate the feast of Adam and Eve (24 December). Paradise Plays “recreated the story of Genesis”, says Judith Flanders, author of Christmas: A Biography. A Garden of Eden requires a Tree of Knowledge, but apple trees have no leaves or fruit in winter so they used firs and hung on them simulated fruit.
“When these plays went out of fashion, the decorated trees hung around,” explains Flanders. In the early 17th century, they came indoors, got in on Christmas.By the 1780s, they had spread to England with migrant German communities. Little baskets and paper cones filled with sweets were hung from the branches, the candles went on, many houses burned down.
What about decorating Christmas trees now, though – what’s hot? “There’s a move this year towards more pastel colours – teal, and raspberry, plum and pale pink,” says Helene Webb, who offers a bespoke luxury Christmas decorating service; she also mentions peacock feathers. But most people still choose red, gold and silver, with warm white lights. (She’s talking about ones you plug in, not light with a match.)
“Make that tree your own,” Webb says. “Most people put all their children’s rubbish on the trees, homemade decorations.” A thicker, bushier tree can take more, she says. “ Don’t worry about the design; it’s all about getting the family involved.” I’m feeling better about ours: red, silver, gold, children’s rubbish, white lights, though possibly not enough of them.
Flanders says there is no right way to decorate a tree in 2018. “If you look at the history of Christmas, it’s whatever we want it and need it to be at the time. There are no grand old traditions; they mutate and change, endlessly and always. So if you want to put up decorations in the shape of Strictly Come Dancing contestants, go for it.”
Yes! I knew there was something missing from ours. The cardboard star is coming down from the top, to be replaced by a real 21st-century angel: Stacey Dooley.