Tips for making holiday decorating easy and merry

Evergreen wreaths are traditional holiday decorations that will welcome your guests into your home. Ashley Miller/Daily

Just in time for the holiday hosting season, Olivia Hilton, owner of Olivia Rose Event and Design in Front Royal, shares her tips and tricks for stress-free and merry décor and entertaining strategies.

“The magic of Christmas was instilled in me from a young age,” Hilton said. “My mom would make the house so cozy, warm and magical during my childhood and we were always the hub for our family’s festivities.”

For Hilton, holiday entertaining is all about making time for family and friends because after all, it’s something that comes around once a year, which she said, makes it super special. She’s also guilty of wearing Christmas earrings every day and driving a car with reindeer antlers and Rudolph’s nose. As she says, she just loves Christmas.

“I’m a traditionalist when it comes to décor,” she said. “Reds, greens, real garland and bringing in pieces of nature. The smell of Christmas is one of my favorite parts – cloves, cinnamon, ever green, nutmeg and hot coco. The combination of these two aspects really makes it Christmas.”

Hilton isn’t one to follow décor trends. She’s a firm believer in “doing your own thing.”

Start decorating after Thanksgiving, from the outside in. Ashley Miller/Daily

“It is fun to add in new ideas when you see them – we can thank Pinterest for that – but decorate from the heart,” she said. “A trick I also use is stocking up on holiday décor and entertaining needs in early January, when you can find the best deals. We’ll always need more wrapping paper, non-edible stocking stuffers and even White Elephant gifts for the following year.”

When it comes to decorating for the holiday season, Hilton said she believes in taking advantage of things that you already have in your home or outside of it.

“Bring pine cones and cedar into your garland and centerpieces,” she said. “An easy trick is to take paintings off your walls and wrap them in Christmas wrapping before rehanging them.”

One of Hilton’s most cherished décor pieces are her family’s ornaments. They each tell a special story.

“There’s ornaments from loved ones we’ve lost, ornaments from places we’ve visited, and handmade ones from when my brother and I were little,” she explained. “My parents love bringing out ornaments from generations past and telling us stories about those we never knew and it’s going to be that much more special when those treasures are passed on to us and onto my children.”

As for decorating at a certain time, Hilton said she personally waits until Dec. 1 to start decorating.

“What keeps the holiday season special is that it only comes once a year,” she said. “I would suggest decorating after Thanksgiving. Even better if you have family visiting from out of town – ask them to help hang lights and décor in exchange for love and cocoa.”

As for entertaining, Hilton said not to feel pressured to host a perfect holiday party. Instead,  turn on some Christmas music, dim the lights, sing carols and have fun.

“Christmas is about the people around you,” she said. “And when people are fed and offered drinks, they’re merry!”

When it comes to holiday entertaining, people want finger foods and desserts, Hilton said. Finger foods such as cheese balls, shrimp platters, meatballs and teenie weenies are a big hit. Desserts such as sugar or gingerbread cookies, brownies, pecan pie, and yule logs are delicious and simple, she said. This is also the best time of year for mulled cider, cranberry punch, hot cocoa and seasonal beers.

“Holiday entertaining options can also be specific to save money and time,” she said.

Hilton suggested hosting a dessert party or soup and Santa party to focus on one type of food. Cookie exchanges are a fun way to get new recipes and share the snack load, or  invite friends over to wrap presents together.  There are a lot of holiday games online to offer at the party, she said, including Christmas bingo or word searches – buy a few scratch-off lottery tickets to give as prizes.

“Personally, as an event planner, the holiday parties are my favorite,” she said. “There’s a million different events in the area for families, from Santa breakfasts, Christmas plays, parades and cocktail parties and more. “

The opportunity to entertain lasts all month long.

“Maybe you host a holiday brunch before the Christmas play, or a hot cocoa bar before the parade,” she said. “You go to Santa breakfast as a big group and then have a cookie exchange after while the kids watch a Christmas classic and sample cookies. You have the chance to host something as little or as elaborate as you want. It’s all about family and friends coming together and celebrating holiday cheer.”


  • Get creative when wrapping gifts and use quirky boxes like cereal boxes, or empty paper towel rolls to throw them off.
  • Hilton said she has 24 mini stockings that line the entryway of the house and every day before Christmas there are little treats tucked inside. She said iIt builds the anticipation for Christmas and is a fun way to celebrate all month long.
  • The Hilton family hides gifts until Christmas Eve and overnight they put all of the gifts out so that Christmas morning it really feels like ‘Santa’ came.
  • Take advantage of Christmas plays in the area, whether it’s the local high schools or Selah Theatre, or Edinburg Theatre Hilton said it’s another lovely chance to dress up and enjoy a wholesome, tech-free, family evening. Her classic favorite is “A Christmas Carol.”
  • When giving gifts, Hilton suggests remembering the people who help you all year long, such as your janitor at work, your hairstylist, your babysitter, or the neighbor who gets your kids off of the bus. Just a little something goes a long way to show that you care, she said.