Rainbow trees and Christmas Eve boxes: this year’s Yuletide trends

Christmas 2018 will probably be very different from those of your childhood

The cheap, gaudy decorations of the past have gone in favour of more tasteful, understated touches.

The cheap, gaudy decorations of the past have gone in favour of more tasteful, understated touches.


In a world changing at a dizzying pace, it’s comforting to know at least Christmas will stay the same. The tree, the decorations, the cake, the turkey: Christmas is preserved in aspic, impervious to fads.

Or is it? Christmas may be a traditional feast, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t evolve. The Christmas you’ll have this year is probably very different from the one you experienced as a child. Remember those cheap, puffed-out paper decorations festooning the walls, creating instant, gaudily coloured fire hazards? They’re gone in favour of more tasteful touches.

Or remember when our Christmas trees were lit up like, er, Christmas trees, with enough multicoloured lights to power a small country, flashing and blinking so fast they’d give you a hangover before you’d even opened the first festive bottle of Blue Nun? Now we usually go for a small string of tasteful white lights, and we usually skip the strobe effect.

Every year new ideas are absorbed into the collective Christmas psyche, until soon it feels as if they have been there forever. I don’t know when Kris Kindle, aka Secret Santa, came into play in our family, but it certainly wasn’t there when I was a kid. You bought presents for the whole clan in those days, so a tenner had to go around all the siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-aunts. No one thought of the one-recipient-per-person idea, so everyone ended up with either a Biro or a sock.

So what new or newish trends have taken hold in recent times? Let’s have a rummage through the Christmas trunk and see what’s there.

Rainbow Christmas tree: create a striking effect by layering colours to create a spectacular seasonal spectrum
Rainbow Christmas tree: layer colours to create a spectacular seasonal spectrum

Rainbow Christmas tree

John Lewis, the British department store that now practically owns Christmas thanks to its iconic seasonal adverts, reckons the biggest trend for Christmas 2018 will be the rainbow tree. What, you ask, is a rainbow Christmas tree, and will Santa leave a pot of gold at the end of it?

It’s a simple idea. Instead of choosing just one or two key colours for your Christmas-tree baubles you layer colours to create a spectacular seasonal spectrum. So you’ll start with a bunch of red baubles at the top of the tree, followed by a layer of orange baubles, followed by yellow, green and blue, and then finishing with layers of indigo and violet on the bottom.

The transition from bright, vibrant colours on the top of the tree to softer colours in the middle to deep colours on the bottom creates a very festive vibe.

According to Scott Bartle, junior Christmas buyer at John Lewis (sounds like a great job!), the trend began on social-media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, where the more colourful the post, the more likes you got.

Now you’re going to see the rainbow look on Christmas trees everywhere you go, but why stop at rainbows? Decorate your tree in your favourite football team’s colours, or do a fruit-salad Christmas tree – oranges and lemons on top, apples and pears in the middle, and blueberries and plums on the bottom. Okay, it was just a suggestion.

Christmas Eve box: fill one with festive goodies to act as a kind of taster for the big presents to come
Christmas Eve box: fill one with festive goodies to act as a kind of taster for the big presents to come

Christmas Eve box

’Tis the night before Christmas, and all over the house, everybody is wide awake, hopped up on selection boxes, giddy with excitement about the impending arrival of Santa, and eager to start opening presents. How are you going to get the kids to settle down and go to sleep so Santa won’t ride his sleigh straight past the house?

Answer: the Christmas Eve box. This is a basically a box filled with festive goodies that you give to the kids on December 24th, to act as a kind of taster for the big presents to come. You put an assortment of items in it – games, puzzles, PJs, books, a DVD – anything that might temporarily satisfy their Christmas cravings, and give them something to play with before no-mouse-stirring time.

Okay, you’re probably thinking this is yet another thing on your already long to-do list, but Christmas Eve is usually a hectic time, with frantic, last-minute preparations the order of the day, so the Christmas Eve box could be a fun way to bring the day to a close and bring the family together around the Christmas tree.

You can make your own Christmas box, or buy a Christmas box and fill it with goodies you’ve picked out. If you’re really feeling lazy, you can buy Christmas boxes pre-packed with goodies, but wouldn’t it be more fun to fill the box with things you know will mean a lot to the kids – a Beanie-Boo they’ll love, or a favourite Lego figure? If you’re getting me a Christmas Box, I’ll have that Pink Floyd box set. goodtoknow.co.uk shows you how to make a Christmas box.

Toile: you can get the patterns on everything from linens to tablecloths to giftwrap to bags to Christmas-tree skirts
Toile: you can get the patterns on everything from linens to tablecloths to giftwrap to bags to Christmas-tree skirts

Toile and no trouble

Many new Christmas ideas are simply recycled old ones – something from Christmas long ago that’s been rebooted and reconfigured to add a little more nostalgia to the season. Toile is making a big splash at Christmas this year, according to the cardmaker Hallmark.

What is toile when it’s at home, I hear myself ask. It was traditionally a fabric with a printed scene that repeated itself like a pattern, but now you can get toile patterns on everything from linens to tablecloths to giftwrap to bags to Christmas-tree skirts. The pattern usually conjures up visions of an old-fashioned idyllic festive celebration – deer leaping through an infinite fir-tree forest, children skating on a never-ending ice-covered lake, or birds perching on a vast maze of holly branches.

For many people, toile amply expresses their longing for that illusory Christmas perfection, and their wish for Christmas to never end. (Me, I can’t wait for Christmas to end – by January 1st I’m sick of Christmas cake, pine needles and Michael Bublé.) This Christmas, expect to see everything covered in never-ending vistas of toile.

Christmas themes

Christmas preparations used to be so simple: dig the deccies out of the attic, blow off the dust and stick them up in the usual spots. But Christmas decorating is no longer a matter of putting up random baubles: you have to have a “theme” that ties the whole house together and creates a unique festive atmosphere.

But how do you keep up with the changes and make sure your Christmas theme is on-trend? Easy: Christmasworld, the world’s largest festive trade fair, held every year in Frankfurt, has all the bases covered with its new themes for Christmas 2018.

They’ve identified four distinct styles that will drive people’s decorating choices this season, “a mix of turbulence, tranquillity, elegance and humour”.

The first is called “vivid heritage”, which features patterns inspired by folklore, in bright reds, yellows and petrol blues, bringing a lively, naturalistic look to your Christmas scenario.

The second is “balanced sobriety” (something you don’t usually associate with the festivities). This is dominated by soft whites, with minimalist shapes and porcelain textures, to create a calm, meditative atmosphere to counterbalance the madness of Christmas shopping and general rushing about.

Then there’s “eclectic gathering”, which looks like a mad melange of candy-store colours – lemon, pink, mandarin, azure and rose – topped up with golds and underscored by black. Flamingos, orchids and macaroons are all part of the look, but if you don’t maintain a balanced sobriety over Christmas, these sugary-sweet colours will exacerbate your hangover.

Finally, there’s “splendid history”, which according to Christmasworld proved the most popular theme among delegates. This theme is typified by rich, opulent blues and greens inspired by the sea and by precious stones, set on a silvery winter-wonderland background. Metallic effects run through this look, with rusted coatings, bronze edging and gold filigrees.

What ties all the themes together is a focus on the natural world, with every sort of animal represented, and not just reindeer. Decorations take their cues from nature, too, with an abundance of flowers, branches, berries, leaves and pine cones turning your house into a nature wonderland. Sounds like we’re all having Christmas at Peter Rabbit’s house.