Traditional Christmas decorating ideas for a timeless festive scheme

Embrace the classics this year by opting for evocative and comforting traditional seasonal decor

Green dining room with table decorated for Christmas with crackers and red and green candles
(Image credit: Future PLC)

There's a reason why classic design survives so long - it's just that hard to beat. Traditional Christmas decorating ideas will instantly transport you back to festive days of your past and fill your home with the warmest magical memories.

Trends come and go, but this traditional style means your home will look just as good when you look back at pictures in years to come. Plus, any decorations you buy for creating any of these Christmas ideas won't go out of style, meaning you can use them for years to come. Stylish and eco-conscious, what's not to love?

Traditional Christmas decorating ideas

Go for timeless style this festive season, but give it a contemporary twist. Read on to discover how to decorate your home with traditional appeal but without losing modern style.

1. Revive classic colours

Burgundy living room with fireplace and Christmas tree

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Revive the classic red and green Christmas scheme but reinventing it in shades of rich mulbery and elegant sage.

Touches of amethyst, amber and gold add jewel-like colour to the plum-pudding palette.

2. Make a focal point of Christmas cards

Fireplace mantlepiece with Christmas cards in frame

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Christmas cards are one of the traditions which most people still indulge in every year. In fact, the British send almost a billion Christmas cards a year, more per person than any other nation.

Make a ceremony of loving cards you're sent this year by presenting them in pride of place in your Christmas mantel decor. Use fabric to line a vintage frame, then criss-cross with ribbon fixed with tacks to create a Christmas card display.

3. Mix and match retro favourites

Green dining room with table decorated for Christmas with crackers and red and green candles

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Traditional Christmas dining tables have a wealth of inspiration which we can use today. You can't go wrong with a centrepiece composed of candles running down the middle of the table.

Combine tradition and modernity by sticking to classic style by using red and green candles, but choosing barley twist shapes over simple tapered styles. Use a variety of candleholders to create a contemporary arrangement.

4. Use future heirlooms

Christmas place setting with cracker

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Since traditional Christmas decorations can be used for years to make, make sure you choose items which can easily be reused. Fabric crackers can be filled with a new gift year after year and can be used as a simple but striking place setting by attaching a name tag.

Combining well-loved decorations with new finds blends nostalgia with a love of the here and now.

5. Spruce up a traditional table setting

Dining room with fireplace and Christmas decorations

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Use fir and fresh foliage and herbs to create a rustic centrepiece for your table, dotting a few pots of greenery throughout.

Pop a couple of votives or tea lights in the mix too, and finish with linen-tied napkins topped with a sprig.

6. Hang knitted stockings above the fire

Christmas stockings above a fire

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Embrace the Nordic look with patterned woollen stockings hung above a wood-burning stove. Carry the patterns across to your wrapping paper and tree decorations for a true folk feel.

7. Go for gold

Christmas Living Room gold

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Cast a glam festive glow with your Christmas living room decor by using a shimmering gold and cream colour scheme.

Starting with your sofa, add extra glitz with a couple of embellished or sequinned cushions to perk up your seats. Add gold baubles and sparkling fairy lights.

8. Wrap in style

Christmas Decoration

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Show your loved ones just how much they mean to you this Christmas by wrapping their presents with love and care. Start with simple brown paper and use string to tie a sprig of greenery and a candy cane to the front.

9. Keep it understated

Scandinavian Christmas Living Room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you prefer muted tones to bright and bold, this living room is sure to inspire you. Decorate your sofa with a few neutral cushions with festive patterns, choose a traditional wooden village scene to adorn your mantelpiece, and hang white wooden snowflakes on the wall.

Baubles in natural shades of white and wood complement the look.

10. Decorate the bannister

Decorated bannister

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

They don't say Deck the Halls for nothing! Decorate your bannister with a pine garland intertwined with fairy lights.

For a traditionally inspired but alternative advent calendar, hang little rust-effect buckets, numbered from one to 24, from striped ribbon and hang alongside the garland. Fill them with little treats like chocolates and traditional candy canes to celebrate the countdown to Christmas.

11. Get glitzy with accessories

Baubles on Christmas tree

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Go for all-out glitz and glamour when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. Choose baubles in shades of gold and bronze, covered in sparkling glitter and shimmering sequins.

Wrap with the best Christmas lights for the ultimate warm and festive finish.

12. Dream of a white Christmas

White Christmas Place Setting

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

Make it a white Christmas this year with a sparkly white and silver theme in your dining room. Dress the dining table with a white linen cloth and a snowflake-embossed runner. Layer up silver-trimmed tableware, gleaming cutlery and frosted glassware. Add twinkling tea lights in a star-shaped holder, and suspend white paper star bunting above for a finishing touch.

13. Make an entrance

Christmas wreath on front door

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Bolton)

Hang a  beautiful Christmas wreath on your front door to greet guests and give the warmest of welcomes. This large wreath features festive greenery, pine cones and cinnamon sticks, with pretty pink roses for a touch of added colour. This won't only look wonderful, it will smell incredible too.

Take the look further by continuing it to create striking Christmas hallway decor, so you'll get to appreciate the style even when the door is closed.

14. Go all out traditional

Christmas living room

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

Nothing says traditional Christmas like the classic combination of green and red. Start with gorgeous green foliage and add bursts of berry colours in candles, stocking, baubles, cushions and throws. A wooden sledge carrying presents wrapped in traditional brown paper complete the traditional look.

15. Create a floral centrepiece

Floral centre piece

(Image credit: TBC)

Red and green table decorations create a classic Christmas look in this dining room. A floral centrepiece surrounding a warm, flickering candle has been created using greenery, red berried and red roses. The table has been completed with elegant crystal glasses and a gold trimmed ice bucket and hurricane lantern.

What are the traditional Christmas decorations?

The most traditional Christmas decorations for trees, would be the star or angel topper. Baubles are the most classic way of decorating the rest of a tree. For other shapes, most traditionally used are snowflakes, stockings and gingerbread men. For the rest of the home, traditional decorations could include bells, reindeer, candy canes, garlands, and snow globes. A festive gingerbread house is also a typical classic addition to your decorating scheme.

Why are red and green traditional Christmas colours?

Green is a traditional Christmas colour as it represents the evergreen foliage and firs that can be found throughout the season, as well as representing new life, which is what the Pagans used this time of year to celebrate. As for red, it could be seen to represent the holly berries, or in a religious context, red is seen as representing the blood of Jesus when he died on the cross.

Thea Babington-Stitt is a Content Editor on Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for nearly 10 years. 

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.