7 Festive Alternatives to Tinsel

With this creative alternatives, you won’t even miss tinsel.
With this creative alternatives, you won’t even miss tinsel. / FreshSplash/Getty Images

Tinsel: The main event of many a Christmas tree past and, like so many other items (re)popularized in the 1950s, a terrible scourge on the environment. Though the shiny stuff adds an indisputable wow factor to any tree, it’s far less pretty behind the scenes. Tinsel is made from PVC, a synthetic plastic that provides a one-two punch of being both toxic and hard to recycle. Let’s just say it doesn’t exactly capture the Christmas spirit.

Luckily, the fashion of the modern Christmas tree has left tinsel behind, and you can too. In fact, with these seven alternatives, we don’t think you’ll even miss it.

1. Ribbon and Beads

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Shining ribbons and glossy beads are great additions to any tree. They’ll bring a tinsel-esque shimmer and be reusable year after year.

2. Paper Chains

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With just a stapler, a pair of scissors, and some heavy paper (or your favorite rolls of wrapping paper!), you can adorn your tree in cheerful paper chains that add dimension and catch the light.

3. Popcorn and Cranberry Garlands

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Pop some kernels and leave the bowl you aren’t snacking on unbuttered. Thread the popcorn through with a sewing needle, alternating with bright red cranberries as you go, in whatever pattern your heart desires.

4. Paper or Metal Tinsel

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If you’re craving the frills of traditional tinsel, you can replace the plastic version with a more eco-friendly paper garland. Or, snag a package of icicle ornaments; they'll reflect your Christmas lights as they dangle off the tree’s branches.

5. Miniature LED Lights

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If it’s sparkle you’re after, consider adding additional light strands to the tree. Delicate fairy lights (powered by batteries) can be strung up like traditional strands or bunched into sparkling clumps that pack an extra punch.

6. Origami Garlands

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It’s a DIY art project and holiday decor! Whether you stick with a classic crane or embrace the holidays with the cute holiday stars, you’ll add a personal touch to your tree that store-bought tinsel could never achieve.

7. Dried Fruit

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It’s surprisingly easy to transform fruit from citrusy to Christmas-y. Sliced lemons and oranges dried in the oven and threaded with twine can be some of your tree’s most charming (and delicious-smelling) accents.