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My Home Style Blog Hop: Christmas Tree Edition

A French Family Christmas Tree: Traditional, Bohemian, Sophistication

(Plus our tips for the best Christmas ever!)

We are thrilled to be part of this special My Home Style Blog Hop. We hope you have enjoyed the previous posts and are filled with Christmas spirit! If you are new to the Hop make sure to check out the previous stop with Iris Nacole. A complete schedule of the tour can be found at the bottom of our post. Enjoy!

It may just be our imagination, but we can already hear those sleigh bells ringing, and sugar plums are dancing through our heads every night. Christmas is our family’s favorite time of year, and in the French household we start getting ready as soon as Halloween is over!

That means over the last couple of weeks we’ve already started thinking about what we’re going to do for the holidays. We have our traditions, of course, but we start to figure out who is visiting this year and get our holiday schedule together.

potpourri ingredients on table

For us, Christmas is a real time for centering: spending time with family and just being together. This, of course, means that we need to prepare ahead of time so that we can enjoy our holidays to the fullest.

I want to share a little bit about our Christmas with you and how we get ready for the holiday season, in hopes that some of our tips and tricks will make your own Christmas even more organized and beautiful! I’ve even thrown in a few free downloads that you can print off for inspiration and safe-keeping.

Our traditions

Our family kicks off our Christmas season each year by gathering my mom, brother and his family, some homemade hot chocolate in a thermos and going to the Pecos National Forest to cut down our very own Christmas tree. And, as you can see in the pictures, it always has to be a very ‘Charlie Brown Christmas tree’ – one that’s not full at all and, in fact, very sparse.

This tradition started when I was a little kid. For as long as I can remember, my family and I would go to Colorado for Christmas, where we’d cut down our own Christmas tree. We would always look for the fullest tree, but once we got it home, much to my and my brothers disappointment, we would realize it was totally sparse and empty.  It became a running joke as a kid, so, we eventually switched things around and started looking for the sparsest tree in the forest, determined to make it beautiful once we got it home. I love that this tradition has made its way into my own family.

Christmas items spread on table

We also always cut down our tree with a special saw that Matt made on the fly out of things he found in his truck, after we accidentally forgot the electric saw one year!  Now it comes with us every year and is the only thing we’ll use to cut down our tree.

When we bring our tree home, it’s always way too tall for the house. But, that means I get extra greenery to play with so I can make wreaths and garland. Isla and I always put it to good use!

The sights and smells of a French Family Christmas

Because our house is the place where a lot of our family lands for the holidays, Matt and I love to keep it feeling extra cozy. We see Christmas as a time to really embrace your space and these moments with your family, to focus on keeping things grounded instead of keeping your house neat and tidy for your guests!  

We have a wood burning stove in our house, and around Christmas time we bring in some of the lavender we grow around our property and throw it in to get some really lovely scents going and quickly start the fire. We also add in some sage and, because we live in Santa Fe, we also get to enjoy the strong, gorgeous, incense-like smells of piñon and juniper burning. It’s a smell that always reminds me of winter.

In the kitchen, you’ll usually find me making a spiced cider for the kids, and there’s constantly things baking in the oven. We’re so lucky that both my brother and brother-in-law are chefs, so our food is always pretty phenomenal.

I also love to have some potpourri simmering on the stove, which makes our house smell so great and keeps things feeling nice and cozy. My favorite recipe uses cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg and citrus. I’ve included it below so you can recreate it in your own home this Christmas!

French and French potpourri recipe

On decorating, and not reinventing the wheel

I absolutely love decorating for Christmas, and I’ve learned a lot about decorating in general from this time of year. Our aesthetic is eclectic traditional, with a touch of bohemian, sophistication.  I love the way that our house feels so warm, cozy and full during the holidays, and I think that’s influenced my design style overall.

clean dining room with orange and white color scheme and wreath on wall

Our house feels cozy for a lot of different reasons, but one of the most important is that I bring in a lot of greenery. We have a lot of outside plants, like ferns, that won’t survive outside during a Santa Fe winter, so I bring them inside. I also decorate with red chile wreaths to bring in that New Mexican feeling I love so much.

alternate view of living room

The key for us when decorating for the holidays is that we don’t reinvent the wheel. We decorate in pretty much the same way every year, and we love the traditions that come with that. Matt and I have had the same Christmas decorations for years, and we look forward to bringing them out of their boxes each year. We also love that Isla has grown with these traditions, and it gives us the chance to make new memories every year.

The importance of centering, grounding & slowing down

Because we don’t reinvent the wheel and take time to think of new ways to decorate our home or come up with new activities, Christmas always has a coming-together and cozy feel. We focus mostly on experiences, and it’s a time of year that’s all about centering and grounding as a family.

There was a time when Christmas wasn’t like that at all. We’ve experienced a great deal of loss as a family, and facing those losses has led us to step back and look at what is really important. And at the end of the day for us, what’s important is experiences and memories.

house and mailboxes ready for Christmas

Around that same time of reflection, we started to have a lot of family come to Santa Fe to experience Christmas here. And I can’t blame them for making it an annual thing: in my opinion, Santa Fe is one of the best places to spend the holidays. There’s always so much going on here, and the city really gets into the spirit of the season.

Christmas is our chance to host a lot of family, and we’re always cooking a lot. We’ve got our traditional meals and cookies that we make every year. My Mom and I get together to make biscotti, and I’ve made the same Grits Casserole on Christmas morning for years. It’s the only time of year we eat it, so our whole family really looks forward to it.

christmas cookies

We’re not doing anything unfamiliar or trying too hard. We’re doing things we’ve done a million times over, and so the biggest part of this season is that it’s really familiar and full of wonderful traditions we all love.

How we stay organized – and you can too!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some degree of preparation that comes with hosting an entire family for Christmas. We end up with a really full house this time of year, between our relatives here in Santa Fe and extended family who flies in from around the country we need a way to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows when to be where!

Like a lot of families, we saw the need for a way to all communicate about what’s going on. So, Matt and I spend a lot of time (sometimes months in advance) planning and thinking about all the traditional things we’re going to do, as well as what things are happening in Santa Fe that we might want to show our extended family.

We put together a schedule of events, so that any of our family who’s in Santa Fe can join in. Even if they decide to opt-out and choose to do their own things, at least everyone is on the same page and knows when and where they can be with the rest of the family.

I know that a lot of families can benefit from a similar system, and so I’m really excited to share some downloads with you in the coming weeks.

Here is our own family calendar, which you can use to come up with ideas and figure out what type of activities to look for in your hometown or home state.

Want to make your own schedule? Sign up for our mailing list, we will send the blank schedule straight to your inbox—so you can fill it in with your own activities and pass it out to your family.

Make Your Own Christmas Schedule!

I truly hope you find these resources useful, and they help you get all the prep work done beforehand so you can slow down and enjoy time with your family this Christmas.

Whatever your Christmas looks like this year – whether it’s big or small, slow or crazy busy – I hope it’s a great one.

The My Home Style Blog Hop is just beginning! For more Christmas inspiration check out the next stop with Domicile 37 (available on 11/13) and the rest of the stops listed below.



my home style christmas tree

Casa Watkins Living // Up To Date Interiors // Monica Wants It // Iris Nacole // French and French Interiors


Domicile 37 // Thou Swell // Designs by Tamara Lee // The Homes I Create // Not Just A Housewife


Designer Trapped In A Lawyer’s Body // Lovely Etc. // Delineate Your Dwelling // Persia Lou // Taryn Whiteaker Designs


House Homemade // Two Twenty One // Tag and Tibby // Jeweled Interiors // My Sweet Savannah


PMQ For Two // Made In A Day // Club Crafted // Daly Digs // Jennifer Perkins

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    Join the discussion 12 Comments

    • Kathy says:

      I so enjoyed reading about your family traditions. Sante Fe sounds like a dream for the holidays! Love the Christmas tree and that you use family ornaments every year. Especially love all of the greenery and the red garland on the tree!

    • Iris Nacole says:

      Christmas sounds like such a lovely time around your home! I love the story of how your tree tradition began. We’ve never had a real tree for Christmas, but it looks lovely, and the work behind it seems so magical too.

    • This is so beautiful and unexpected while still having traditional touches. I love your approach and unique flair to holiday decor traditions.

    • Tasha says:

      I love your sparse Christmas tree! So unique and refreshing!

    • I loved this whole post. It brought back fond memories of my childhood. We had those same vintage ornaments and my mom made potpourri too. What lovely traditions you and your family have 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Linda says:

      Heather, what a wonderful family tradition to go together and cut the tree with a special saw and all. The’res something about the “Charlie Brown” tree that just makes the ornaments look so special. And your holiday itinerary is so interesting to me. I have a very small family and we don’t live close to each other, but having a big family gathering like this for the holiday is something that I dream off. I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday!

    • I love your simple tree and your home is so gorgeous… then I started reading and realized you are a fellow NM! I live in Albuquerque… so fun to find you via our tree hop!

    • Jewel says:

      We use to cut down our own tree when I was a kid. Such a fun (cold 🙂 fun family memory!

    • So cute! I love that you incorporate a tradition too.

    • What a great post! Thank you for letting us in on your family traditions. I am a little jealous of your schedule. It sounds like it is going to be a great week with the family. I love your tree! I love that it is Charlie Brown but fresh!

    • Oh my goodness Heather, this is too cute! I love all those ideas and traditions. Beautiful!

    • Jessica says:

      I always love seeing your home decked out for the holidays. You do orange in ways I can’t even imagine. I love it!

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