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Deck the boat with boughs of willow

The challenges of decorating a boat for Christmas

Home made needlework decorations for hanging on a boat

December already and it's not long before the big celebration. This year has disappeared so quickly, sadly most likely a symptom of my advancing years.

Christmas celebrations are a bright spot of colour and fun during the darkest part of the year. I just can't wait for the dark to be over and like to brighten up the boat with festive decorations. In the confined space of a narrowboat cabin you can't go too mad. A full-size Christmas tree, in my opinion, is rather over the top.

Christmas Tree or seasonal alternative?

We've never had a tree whilst I've lived on a boat and I do hanker after one, haunted by childhood memories of pine scent, the hanging of sparkling glass baubles and twinkling fairy lights. Sadly, we don't even have a spare shelf or table space for a mini tree so this year is going to be a compromise hanging up my sustainable willow and foraged foliage swags on the exterior of the boat from the rails. I am always somewhat envious of other boater's trees, proudly displayed atop gas lockers, cratches and tug decks, some even with lights! Maybe one day I will win over my partner and we will have a tree too.

Decorating the interior of the boat is done with economy bearing in mind limited storage space. We run a long line of ribbon from the galley bulkhead to the bow doors on which to hang our Christmas cards. I embellish the line of cards with home-made cross stitch & felt decorations hanging below the cards which gives the boat a very festive feel. After the holidays are over the decorations are small enough to live in my sock drawer.

Garlands and lights

We've tried in the past using the traditional holly, ivy and mistletoe but found they made closing the curtains tricky and they didn't last particularly well due to the heat from the solid fuel stove. This year I might try making garlands for the cabin by stringing up popcorn and cranberries for an extra festive look that's easy to recycle. I also can't resist fairy lights, the lighter the cabin is during December the better for me so I'm going to treat myself to some new LED lights that won't eat too much power.

If you want to see lots of illuminated and decorated boats and have some fun with the family you're in luck if you are within easy reach of Foxton. Otherwise there are many other festive events where you are likely to see decorated boats if that's your thing. I will be seeking sparkling inspiration for next year to see me through the bleak mid-winter.

Festive foliage garland on a narrowboat

Last Edited: 12 December 2016

photo of a location on the canals
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