Why I Put Up a Thanksgiving Tree Every Year (+ a Simple DIY Tutorial)

This post: How this one tradition helps our family celebrate autumn in a delightfully meaningful way.

I grew up thinking decor for Thanksgiving and fall was perfectly normal. Because at my Grandma’s house, it was.

My childhood memories are rich with deeply warm feelings of this chilly-weather season:

A familiar porch wreathed in leaf garlands, flanked by rows of cheerful mums,  and the spicy fragrances of favorite baked goods beckoning us into her kitchen. 

Long before our family van pulled into the leaf-and-walnut-strewn driveway, MeMe was always at the door, wearing a huge smile on her face and a well-worn apron over her dress.

I was always the first one out of the van and into her arms.

Where the tradition started.

MeMe always smelled sweet, and her house always smelled of antique wood.  (I still adore that smell.)

The trip from my childhood home in south Texas to Meme’s home in the Ozark was long (thirteen hours).

The visits always seemed few and short, so we made them count.  Dozens of letters flew between the miles during the other fifty weeks of the year.

Largely due to MeMe’s influence on our family, I grew up cherishing my home + all the beautiful ways to fill it to the brim with goodness and festivities.  

Somehow, celebrating the things Meme celebrated- the foods, the seasons, the history of who we are– made her feel less far away.

How to Make a Thanksgiving Tree | Kristy's Cottage blog
My home sweet home.

So I have always decorated my home for fall. 

Every year, my grandma sent me a few dollars: “Buy something pretty for your home, Kristy.”

And every year I sent her pictures of our pretty rooms, once all the autumn glory had been flung into place.

A few years ago, I drug our Christmas tree out of the garage… in October… and decorated it with leaves, pumpkins and pine cones. 

That was the beginning of a new way to celebrate autumn. A new family tradition.

Making a Thanksgiving Tree. 

This autumn, I am celebrating the season as usual, but MeMe has gone away to Heaven.

The festivities leave an ache this time, but I cherish the memories.

She taught me how to embrace the seasons; love my home; and celebrate with the little people whose eyes shine with the awe of this beautiful time of year.

This week, the Thanksgiving tree went up again. Last night, I strung it with white lights and waited for my boys to discover it.

Sure enough, within minutes three sleeping bags were strewn across the cozy living room floor. Also a tradition.

This year, like every year, our Thanksgiving tree is wrapped in much love and gratitude. 

And a lifetime of memories.

How to make a Thanksgiving tree.

I’ve had lots of friends ask about our Thanksgiving tree when they visit our home, or see pictures I’ve shared on social media.

Here’s a really simple tutorial on how to create your own: 

This is what I used to create our Thanksgiving Tree: 

  • 3 six-foot leaf garlands
  • 2 spools of brown burlap “ribbon”
  • 1 package of faux blown-glass autumn vegetable “ornaments”
  • several (8 to 10) stems of autumn flowers and clusters of leaves
  • a pre-lit, 8-foot (“pearl” white) Christmas tree
  • a burlap tree skirt
  • pumpkins in various colors and sizes
  • a small wooden crate  
  • a box of children’s books (my kids and I adore these )

step-by-Step Tutorial

  • Jeremy hauled the 8-foot Christmas tree into the house from the garage.  The kids helped me shape the bent branches and knock the cob webs out of the boughs.  This made a huge mess, by the way!
  • Since ours is a pre-lit tree, all we have to do it snap it together and then plug it in.  If you don’t have a pre-lit tree, string as many strands of lights as you’d like on your Christmas tree.  The more, the merrier!
  • Next, I wrapped the leaf garlands around the tree, then tucked both the spools of burlap ribbon around and between the boughs.  The burlap garland I used is a really thick “ribbon,” not a skinny ribbon.  I found it in the sewing department at Hobby Lobby.
  • Next, I placed the long stems of autumn flowers and leaves between the tree branches.  I tend to poke them here-and-there until I get a mostly “balanced” look.  I fill in “bald” spots with pumpkins and ornaments in the next step!
How to Make a Thanksgiving Tree | Kristy's Cottage blog
I tip my hat to my creative daughter, Amy, who shot and edited the photos for this post when she was just 13-years old.

  • After we poked and repoked all our autumn flowers and leaves in place, I arranged the fall ornaments to more or less balance the overall look. I love these pretty ornaments!  They look very much like delicate, vintage blown-glass.
  • I drapped a burlap tree skirt around the stem of the tree to cover up the stand, then arranged a few pretty pumpkins and a collection of autumn pretties beneath the branches.  I found an old, wooden crate in our garage, so I filled it with soft, pastel pumpkins, colorful leaves, and a sweet collection of seasonal children’s books.  My younger kids enjoy looking at these picture books in the evenings.
  • And lastly, I vacuumed up the huge mess in my living room.  Sadly, beautiful, white, artificial Christmas trees do shed!

 

So That is How our Thanksgiving Tree Goes Up Every Year.   

The tree is the focal point of our living room at the holidays, and during the autumn months I string a few leaf garlands along the bookshelves and toss a few festive pillows on the leather couches. 

It’s a simple idea, really.  But it brings so much warmth and festivity to our home at this season!

A few candles glowing in the evening, and a tasty soup simmering in the Crock Pot add a welcoming touch to our home…

I think MeMe herself would be proud to sit down for a spell, as she would say, and enjoy a bite or two of her very own nearly-famous banana bread. 

How to Make a Thanksgiving Tree | Kristy's Cottage blog

Your turn.

How do you celebrate autumn? Have you ever put up a Thanksgiving tree?

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