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ISSUE 120 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 12/1/2006

Inventive holiday decorating

By Ginna Baker
Contributing Writers

Friday, December 1, 2006

It's that time of year again - time to pull out the winter coats, sip hot chocolate and enjoy yet another fantastic Christmas Festival on the Hill. The first week of December is also a great time to add some sparkle to those lackluster spaces we call home - our dorm rooms. Even if you don't have money set aside for this purpose (and really, who does have extra money?), decorations can be managed on a small budget. A few changes here and there can transform your room into a bastion of Christmas festivity - not to mention a fun place to come home to after a grueling day of exams.

After hanging the requisite Christmas lights and garlands, take a discerning look around to see what could be most easily changed. Start by replacing the pictures around your room with some photos from Christmases past; maybe you want to include one from last Christmas or the 1989 picture of you as a two-year-old smearing cranberry sauce into your brother's hair.

Create a makeshift coffee table to offer hot cocoa and snacks to your friends, or make a platform for a small fake Christmas tree. The easiest thing to use for this is a trunk, which can be draped with a sheet or tablecloth. If you don't have a trunk, try cardboard boxes - a big box or two small ones duct-taped together. Even some types of plastic storage tubs would fit the bill. Just make sure any flimsy boxes or tubs are tightly packed with clothes or sheets so they won't cave in when you set your coffee down.

Don't forget the futon. If you have a fairly large sheet, drape your futon for the holiday season. You'll be amazed at how much a change like this transforms the look of a room.

Disappointed that you can't freshen up your room with scented candles? Try some fun alternatives, like Pine Sol or a scented plug-in. Oranges are excellent for improving scent; when peeled, they add a tangy citrus smell to the air. For a warm, inviting smell, brew aromatic teas like Good Earth Original, cinnamon or Christmas tea.

Consider re-doing some of your wall space with Christmas art. A Christmas collage, for example, is cheap and easy to make. As for what to include, have your mom send you last year's Christmas cards. Beautiful and free (at least for you), Christmas cards make lovely collages and remind you of friends from home. If you don't have enough for a collage, string the Christmas cards together and hang them from the doorframe or a lofted bed.

If you're feeling creative, make your own wall decorations with colored paper. Start by tracing the obvious ones: brown-trunked Christmas trees, Santa hats trimmed in white, white angels blowing yellow trumpets. You could make a whole Christmas village - red houses, green chimneys, Santa on a sleigh loaded with presents. Be sure to put light in the windows! Or try creating your own cut-out nativity scene. For the best result, glue the cut-outs to a bulletin board-sized background of black or dark green paper to make the colors look more vibrant. Candy canes, wavy scissors, puff paint and glitter add to the effect of your ornate paper decorations.

My roommate and I have a yearly tradition of making snowflakes to hang on our windows and door. Head to the do-it-yourself website for detailed, simple-to-follow instructions. Making snowflakes isn't just fun - it's addictive. Unfolding each snowflake comes with enormous suspense. How will this one turn out? Will the innovative cuts I made create the most hideous snowflake in the history of snowflake making, or the most original? When I see the finished product, even if it's my best snowflake yet, I see something I want to do better, and start the folding process all over again. I've frittered away many a pre-exam evening snipping away at paper triangles. Paper snowflakes represent procrastination at its finest.

Decorations can make your room a much happier, more enjoyable place and provide great stress relief from studying. Who knows - maybe you will like your Christmas decorations enough to leave them up all year! Or at least through interim break.

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