Are you getting bored with the same old Christmas decorations? Would you like a break from the traditional kinds of decorating that involve lugging home large trees that will begin shedding immediately? Are you disinclined to pull down all the many boxes of decor from your attic, unpack them, set them out, only to pack them up again in a few weeks? Do you have access to strong young adult bodies that have nothing better to do than create a Christmas miracle? If you’ve answered ‘YES!’ to these and other questions I could ask later, have I got a project for you!
Many years ago, wanting to think decidedly ‘outside’ the box, the kids came up with our family version of Christmas ‘decor’: the Christmas Cave. Now before you go “Huh? How is a cave even remotely related to Christmas?” let’s just think for a moment about why we celebrate this holiday. Get ready to think symbolically. You know how I roll.
Regardless of religious belief most people have at least a passing understanding of the Christmas story. You know, Mary on the donkey, filled with the wonder of the impending birth of a gift to humanity, her body the cozy space Jesus slept until awakened by the rudeness of birth. Her womb, the existential ‘feminine’, was filled with the gift that would emerge on what would be known as Christmas Day. Do you see the connection now? The cave is the sacred feminine principle, as represented in the story by Mary’s pregnant self. The gifts we give on Christmas are symbolic of the gift of Jesus and what he tried to teach.
I could go on, but I figure you want to know how the cave is done so here you go. The size of the cave is completely up to you and which resources you have laying around your yard.
You will need:
Cloth for the floor
Sturdy wire fencing, the heavy kind
Long, thin rebar
Line for tying
zip ties in green or other dark color, medium and small
twinkly lights – we used 300
boughs of cedar, or branches of fir from the most recent wind storm, but cedar is better because it lays flat.
clippers for cutting the boughs
hooks for ornaments
presents, nicely wrapped!
Begin by making a framework using the wire fencing as shown in the photo. Basically, it’s just an arch that is then cut and folded at the back for extra support. I’d have photographed how to do this part, but it was made years ago and we store it in a hidden place in the yard, ready to use.
Lightly weave a long, thin piece of rebar across the center top, sticking out some in the back. Use zip ties to secure it along its length. Lightly weave another long, thin piece of rebar along the bottom back.
Lightly weave long thin rebar at the bottom of each side. Just tuck it in behind the wire on each end. Use zip ties to secure it in a couple of places.
Now tie all of these pieces together with your long line. There should be just enough tension to hold it all in shape.
The back and sides are now supported. Time to do the front. Take two pieces of the long thin rebar and curve them gently. Andrew demonstrates a good way to do this.
Now tie these to the framework in the front, using zip ties. Tuck each end behind a piece of the wire frame for extra support. You are now ready to begin tying on the lights.
We used 300 lights on our cave, which is 50″ wide x 40 deep”x 36″ tall. Cover the thing with lights and then you are ready for the boughs, the final step in the cave structure itself. Cedar works best because it drapes beautifully and makes a pretty solid looking covering with few gaps. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you have ready access to cedar because your neighbor’s trees probably hang large shadowy branches over the fence, creating shade in your yard. These branches need to be cut.
Drape the boughs over the cave and use zip ties to secure. Many hands make light work. Overlap the boughs to give solid coverage. This is where the extra young adults come in handy. Now your cave is complete and the fun begins.
We choose to use only glass ornaments in our cave because they are extra sparkly under the lights. Using fishing line, attach a loop of line to each ornament so that it will hang several inches down from the top. Making them all just a little different adds variety and texture to the arrangement.
Arrange the ornaments to your liking. We find it looks best with the bigger ornaments toward the backs and sides. Also if you make the ornaments toward the back hang a little bit lower, you’ll be able to see them better. If your framework shows up too much, you can add cedar boughs to the inside of the cave as well. Just add more wherever you need them. We used fir boughs to ‘anchor’ the cave around the bottom and disguise the rebar framework. Just lay them in place. No need to secure them unless you have a cat.
Shiny wrapping paper and glittery ribbons add even more sparkle to the whole thing. You just can’t have enough sparkle and shine at Christmas.
I’m thinking in advance how I’m going to be able to create a boat version of this when we are sailing. I have my miniature ornaments. Maybe I can make a collapsible cave?