5 Nerdy (and Affordable) Decoration Ideas for the Holidays

Clockwise from left: Gingerbread Tardis, Pokémon ornament, and Star Wars wrapping paper.
Clockwise from left: Gingerbread Tardis, Pokémon ornament, and Star Wars wrapping paper.
Screenshot: The Happy Foodie, GandaKris, Image: Hallmark

The holiday season is a time of giving and sharing—and making sure your home looks good. But so many festive decorations come across as old-fashioned, ridiculous, or frankly way overpriced for what you’re getting (and how long you’re going to actually use them). That’s why we’re sharing some of our tips for geeking out your home for the holidays without breaking the bank.

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Some fun Star Wars-themed holiday wrapping paper from Hallmark.
Some fun Star Wars-themed holiday wrapping paper from Hallmark.
Image: Hallmark

Wrap Picture Frames With Nerdy Wrapping Paper

This is a DIY holiday decorating trick my family and I have been doing for a couple of decades now, which we first learned when we stayed at a Sheraton Inn during a childhood Disneyland trip. It’s easy, cheap, and very effective: Simply wrap your picture frames to look like presents. All it takes is wrapping paper (just enough to cover the front and sides), some ribbon, a couple of bows, and a bit of patience when you try to rehang the picture on the wall so it’s not crooked. Here’s a handy how-to video, for folks wanting to give it a try.

Over the past few years, my husband I have sometimes taken it one step further by splurging on nerdy wrapping paper so our home looks festive and festively geeky. There’s plenty of wrapping paper for Star Wars, Lego, Nintendo, and other movies, shows, and video game franchises. Sometimes you can luck out and find the perfect paper at Target or other local stores (make sure to look in the sections with kid-focused holiday packaging), otherwise, Etsy is a great spot. Just keep in mind that Etsy’s selection is a tad more expensive than normal wrapping paper rolls, and might take longer to arrive.

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Lego’s holiday wreath.
Lego’s holiday wreath.
Image: Lego

Make (or Build) Your Own Wreath

Holiday wreaths are one of those things that are always more expensive than you anticipate. Plus, the store-bought ones either look totally fake or, if they’re made from real pine branches, don’t last past the season. So it seems like a smarter choice to simply make your own—and if you’re going that route, why not make one that stands out? Our Nerd Home has an excellent (and economical) tutorial for making a custom nerdy wreath at home, using some foam core, a shapable holiday garland, and some glue. The crafty bloggers made one for the Batman logo, but it can be modified to be for just about anything.

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If that still seems like too little instruction for your taste, you can take out the guesswork and build a Lego wreath! Lego has a build-your-own holiday wreath that doubles as a clever centerpiece. Supplies might be limited this close to the holiday season, but it’s always good to check—if not for this year, at least for holiday 2021!

A peek at the Doctor Who Gingerbread TARDIS.
A peek at the Doctor Who Gingerbread TARDIS.
Screenshot: The Happy Foodie
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Gingerbread TARDIS

Gingerbread houses are one of those annual traditions that seems like fun but so often end up being kinda blah. After all, you’re just making...a house. Luckily, there are plenty of nerdy alternatives to the classic gingerbread building. For example, The Happy Foodie’s Joanna Farrow has this step-by-step guide to making a Gingerbread TARDIS, from her Doctor Who cookbook. I’ve also found a gingerbread “house” recipe for the Millennium Falcon, as well as a kit for a Super Mario Gingerbread Castle (though it doesn’t have great reviews, you can probably improvise). These recipes might take a bit more time and effort, but there’s nothing better than a gingerbread house that’s bigger on the inside.

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One of the Pokémon ornaments from GandaKris’ YouTube tutorial.
One of the Pokémon ornaments from GandaKris’ YouTube tutorial.
Screenshot: GandaKris
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Pikachu ‘I Choose You!’ Ornaments

It’s baffling how expensive ornaments can be sometimes, especially when you want ones that cater to your geeky interests. Luckily, there are ways to make some gorgeous (and fun) ones yourself, and usually for a lot cheaper! For example, YouTuber GandaKris has this handy tutorial for making a bunch of Pokémon ornaments to “collect them all” on your tree. If glitter isn’t your thing (don’t forget, it’s incredibly dangerous for the environment), I found some guides (here, here, and here!) on how to paint some ball ornaments instead. Pokémon isn’t the only toy you can add to your tree–here’s a list of other geek ornaments you can create for your own collection. I’m thinking of making Pac-Man and some ghosts myself.

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The official Star Wars Galactic Village Tatooine house.
The official Star Wars Galactic Village Tatooine house.
Image: Bradford Exchange

Make a Christmas Village With Your Action Figures

There are some specialty Christmas Villages you can buy online, like this one from the Star Wars Galactic Village collection. But why buy it when you can create it? A good old-fashioned Christmas Village—with its fake snow, turn-of-the-century buildings, and random people doing random holiday stuff—is just begging for a nerdy makeover. Simply bring your action figures and collectibles into the fold! Or, if you’re like my coworker, James Whitbrook, you could slowly collect actual holiday-themed action figures to display this time of year (though few are as dedicated as he).

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If you’re just using what you’ve got on hand though, you can still make it the ultimate holiday crossover, with your village’s hot ski instructor hanging out with the Mandalorian, a Leela Funko Pop, or Paul Atreides. If you want to amp things up a notch, maybe put Darth Vader in a festive scarf (made from an old t-shirt scrap) or give Wall-E and Eve a new string of tiny lights to play with.

Here’s one more trick: If you live with someone who already has a Christmas Village on display, maybe add the changes a bit more subtly and see how long it takes them to respond. Start with a BB-8 in the corner, maybe throw in the Doctor skating on the outdoor pond. Before you know it, you’ve got a village full of nerdy treats and references—and it’s quite possible your roommate, parent, or significant other will never realize it.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

DISCUSSION

yourmotherisaclassylady

I’m definitely going to make a rebel alliance symbol wreath now :D