How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree in a Hurry

Decorate your Christmas tree in a flash with these ideas.
Decorate your Christmas tree in a flash with these ideas. / svetikd/iStock via Getty Images

It's the most wonderful time of the year again—unless surprise guests come over or relatives unexpectedly pop into town. That’s when you need to throw some holiday cheer together in a hurry.

For a look that screams "Merry Christmas!" with minimal effort, follow these ideas for decorating your tree at the last minute.

1. Decorate with a pre-lit Christmas tree.

If time is short, cut to the chase. Get a pre-lit tree. You can still personalize it with your own favorite decorations if you have them.

Artificial pre-lit trees are realistic-looking and come already strung with either clear, white, or multicolored lights. There are snow-flocked varieties for a frosty, wintertime look. Just fluff up the branches a little, plug it in, and voila! Instant Christmas. Shop for a pre-lit tree at most big box stores, home improvement centers, or Amazon.

2. Go minimalist with your Christmas tree decorating.

Less is often more, and a minimalist Christmas tree is just that. Nothing gives a room a more chic and elegant holiday glow than a uniform, neutral color scheme on a tree. A monochromatic string of lights can be enough, but feel free to adorn your tree with bulb ornaments. Metallic hues like gold and silver make a stylish statement.

Another decorating option is to hang some treasured mementos on the tree. Anything tied with a ribbon can become ornamental: grandpa’s old pipe, a special greeting card, a toy soldier, or printed-out pictures of your cat. When you’re using fewer decorations and ornaments, you have to make each one count.

3. Make your own Christmas tree ornaments.

What can you do if you’re out of time? Have guests make their own ornaments for the Christmas tree. Creating handmade Christmas ornaments is not only a fun activity, but also a way to share quality time with friends or relatives who want to pitch in.

It can be as simple as cutting out shapes from magazines or construction paper. For more permanent decorations, salt dough ornaments and gingerbread cookie ornaments are easy to make with basic pantry staples. If you’re the crafty sort, try your hand at fashioning ornaments from twine, clay, or natural materials such as pinecones and twigs. Paper snowflakes couldn’t be simpler: just fold, cut, unfold, and hang on your tree.

4. Try tiny Christmas trees on for size.

Try out this speedy DIY Christmas idea. Miniature trees—let’s call them fun-size—add holiday magic to your surroundings. You can use sisal bottle brushes or the triangular brushes meant for cleaning cake decorating tips. Dip the brushes in green water-based paint or blast them with spray paint. When dry, poke the stems into a white base, such as plastic foam, which hints at snow. You can even glue on sequins or pom-poms if you happen to have them in your craft box.

5. Decorate an alternative Christmas tree.

If your Christmas tree supplier is out of stock, seek out a Christmas tree alternative. Look around and use whatever you have. Open up a ladder and string it with colored, blinking lights. Or, project an image of a tree on a blank wall. Stack books into a pyramid shape and decorate it like a Christmas tree. Make a tower of empty green beer bottles and adorn your recyclable tree with ornaments from a dollar store. Once your visitors start drinking your homemade eggnog, they won’t notice anyway.