Allergy-Friendly Christmas Tree Alternatives

I’ve been noticing a lot of Christmas tree allergy questions coming up on social media in the last few weeks. For people with chemical allergies, the winter holidays aren’t just a time of celebration – they’re also a time of avoiding cinnamon-scented products, scented candles, holiday shopping crowds, and even Christmas trees. I found myself thinking about that a lot this year, and I felt prompted to write a new post. Don’t get too excited just yet – I’m not yet ready to come back full-time, but I wanted to try to help any of you struggling with the same issues we are.

Pine Trees, source of colophony

My family recently got rid of our synthetic Christmas tree. Every year we set it up I would notice a strange residue on my hands afterward. We’ve worked so hard to get rid of excess synthetics in our home that I really didn’t want to subject the house to more unknown plastic dusts and residues. You can guess how well that went over with my daughter. The problem is, I also have an allergy to colophony, and in my little tree-starved area of the world I didn’t want to search out a real Christmas tree only to find out that I was allergic to it. What to do?

I asked around and received a number of great suggestions that I’d love to share with all of you here. Depending on your specific allergies, some may work better than others, but everyone should be able to find something that works for them.

  1. Buy a nature, tree, or Christmas scene tapestry. Cotton tapestries are hard to find (all the ones with the nicest pictures are polyester/microfibre), so if you need more options, try searching for photo backdrops instead!
  2. Along the same lines, in 2014 IKEA came out with a simple Christmas tree in a pot on a cotton wall hanging. You can use ornament hooks to decorate it with all your ornaments. These can still be found new on EBay, and were a part of the “Vinter” line.
  3. Make a tree out of felt and decorate it with felt ornaments. This site has a great free tutorial. Bonus: You won’t mind if your kids rearrange the ornaments.
  4. Decorating “alternative” trees

    Consider a metal tree decoration that hangs on the wall. If its branches stick out enough, you can even put a few ornaments on it. This one is really pretty, though there are also mass-produced ones available at major retailers.
  5. Decorate a potted plant or faux potted plant that you have around the house year-round. I wish I had a picture of the one my roommates and I decorated in university to show you. Imagine a faux plant 4 feet tall with long, spreading branches and heart-shaped leaves, covered in Christmas balls, lights, and garland.
  6. Use one of the birch-style lit trees as a Christmas tree. Hang ornaments on the branches. This is kind of the same thing as above, but requires searching out a season-specific decoration and deciding where you’re going to store it the rest of the year, which could be dangerously close to an artificial Christmas tree in function.
  7. Make a tree shape out of an arrangement of shelves and decorate the shelves with a combination of hanging and standing ornaments. You could do something simple like this, or if you’re feeling really crafty, something more creative, like this or this. There are so many free plans and tutorials out there!

    Creative use of shelving

  8. Knit or crochet a tree and hang the ornament hooks in it. There are a couple of crochet options here and here (feel free to add ornaments instead of mittens) and a couple of knit options here (though perhaps you might want to create it on a much larger scale) and here. You could even weave one but you’d probably want to get yourself a significantly larger loom.
  9. Buy or make a pallet-wood tree like these. Drill holes on any solid design to add lights from the back. If you choose to use paint, make sure it is free of your allergens.
  10. Use a service like Collage.com to put your chosen picture of a tree or winter scene on a blanket or duvet cover (dual purpose!). Shutterfly is another option, but please note that I couldn’t find any textiles at Shutterfly that were 100% natural fibre, if that matters to you. 
  11. Go to a copy shop and ask them to print out a large-scale print of your favourite tree or holiday scene. Ensure that you’re using your own picture or a royalty-free one such as from Pixabay or Shutterstock, as copy shops may refuse to print copyrighted images.
  12. Decorate an outdoor tree with edible ornaments and garlands for the birds and other animals to enjoy. This is my ultimate goal, but we aren’t able to do it quite yet.

BONUS: for extra-artistic folks: If there is a safe art supply you can use, create your own tree on a large sheet of paper or fabric and decorate as desired. 

If you are unable to make your own, many retailers and Etsy sellers sell versions of many of these ideas premade.

What did we do? In keeping with our desire to bring more nature into our house, we bought a cotton photo backdrop with an outdoor nature scene. Hanging it on the wall transports us visually to an icy winter wonderland. Happy holidays, everyone!

 

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