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Christmas Tree Skirts - Origins And Traditions

By Edited Mar 15, 2016 1 2

Christmas Tree Skirt (32664)

Before the advent of electric light bulbs, candles were used to light Christmas trees. Before Christmas tree skirts came into being, simple mats were used beneath the tree to catch the dripping wax. Had he been around in those days, surely Sparky the Fire Dog would not have approved!

Eventually Christmas tree skirts replaced mats, as a more attractive wax collector. The skirt also had another purpose, to protect floors from dropping needles and sap.

Tree skirts have evolved dramatically over time. When I was a little girl, my dad would bring home a tree that he and my uncle had cut down in the woods. And along with it he would bring us a plastic bag filled with a tissue-thin sheet of cotton. After decorating the tree we would drape the cotton over the tree stand. At times when we didn't have the cotton, we'd use a simple length of fabric or a sheet.

Purchased And Handcrafted Christmas Tree Skirts

Today Christmas tree skirts found in stores can be quite elaborate. Even my own hand-crafted skirt is a far cry from the thin sheet of cotton used in my childhood. Today we see many variations in skirt designs and materials. Velvet, quilted fabric, fur, satin and felt are just some of the materials used to make Christmas tree skirts. You'll find them decorated with paint, appliqués, laces, and design work that denotes the season. Images like Christmas trees, reindeer, and ironically, candles might be painted on, embroidered, or embossed. The majority of skirts are two half circles seamed together. The curved edge can be plain or ruffled. You'll also find Christmas tree skirts gored, with each section creating an overall scallop design, or gored sections with pointy edges that form a poinsettia-like tree skirt.

Reversible skirts offer the option of changing the look or color of the skirt from year to year. Some have closures like Velcro, ribbon ties, buttons, or hooks to hold the skirt ends together and keep it from shifting when you place presents on top.

Online you'll find a simply decorated white Christmas tree skirt for $10, an illuminated Thomas Kinkade skirt for $120, or an ornate Palazzo skirt for $200! Whether you buy your skirt or make your own, there's one to suit every taste and every price range.

If you want to make your own Christmas tree skirt it can cost as little as $6 depending on the type of fabric used and the decorations you plan to add. If you make your own skirt, wash all the fabric and trim before cutting. This will give you the advantage of being able to wash and dry it each year. Many purchased skirts are dry clean only. Patterns for Christmas tree skirts are available from Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick, Burda and most other pattern makers.

Start A Family Tradition

Often when you find one creative person in a family you will find others. If you're lucky enough to have that kind of family, a Christmas tree skirt exchange would be a wonderful tradition. Each person creates their own skirt, decorating it with their imagination and a theme of their choice. This shouldn't be a competition but more a way to express the meaning of Christmas for each individual.

As you would for a recipe exchange, make a list of the people in the family who are participating. The skirt belonging to the first person on the list will go to the second person. The second person's skirt will go to the third, etc. The last name on the list will forward their skirt to the first name on the list. Each year the skirts move down the list giving each person a different skirt under the tree each year. If like many families, you have members scattered all over the world, this tradition would be a wonderful way to feel connected to family during the holidays. What better way to show and share the holiday spirit than with something hand-crafted.

If your Christmas tree skirt is washable, try WD40 or Goo Gone to remove sap from the fabric.

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Nov 16, 2010 6:37pm
I love the beautiful quilted Christmas Tree skirt that has graced the bottom of our Christmas trees for years! Great article. I never thought about WHY we use a skirt!
Nov 16, 2010 7:35pm
Very interesting and informative.
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