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Create your own unique Yule looks
Tips help you follow the lead of local governments with special decorations
Main Street Gainesville's poultry Christmas tree keeping with Gainesville's reputation as Poultry Capital of the World.

Whether you're doing a little shopping, paying a traffic ticket or grabbing lunch, Christmas trees are just about everywhere you turn.

And that even includes local government offices, such as the city of Gainesville's.

"For the last several years, we have put up a tree in the police department," said Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly.

"This year, to celebrate the season and our move to the new (Gainesville Public Safety Complex) we decided to get a new, bigger one. It's about 12 feet tall. We went with a blue and white theme to represent law enforcement."

Another agency, Main Street Gainesville, has put up a themed-tree with a distinct local flavor.

"It's a chicken tree," said Angela Thompson, program manager. "It has feathers, little chickens in cages and even a chicken on top (instead of a star). It's pretty fabulous.

If you aren't feeling up to decorating your own tree in such an ambitious fashion, here are a few nontraditional ideas.

Variations on a traditional tree

Hang Christmas cards in a pyramid arrangement on the wall.

Hang vertical strands of Christmas lights on the wall, fan out and attach to the floor to make a pyramid tree shape.

Roll out butcher paper and get your kids to create a giant tree poster for your wall, decorated as they see fit.

Buy an inexpensive ornament tree or look for a vintage bottle-drying rack to hang with ornaments or lights.

Deck the shelves

If you have built-ins or bookshelves, a little greenery, a few favorite (or just shiny) ornaments and a bunch of battery-operated votives can help you create the subtle suggestion of a tree.

Cut branches to size: Real or faux, trim greenery to fit your shelves so the bottom shelf is completely lined, then reduce the length of the branches as you move up the shelves, centering shorter and shorter branches on each shelf. (Exact lengths will depend on the width of your shelves.)

Lay greenery at front edge of each shelf, attaching if necessary with tape and/or poster putty. On the top shelf, cross two branches, allowing them to hang down and create a rough triangle shape. Tuck branch ends behind a vase or whatever object you have on shelves. Secure with tape if necessary.

Decorate: Edit the things you normally have on the shelves, if necessary, to create room for an ornament here or there. Don't overdo; one to three per shelf should do it, especially for smaller shelves.

Add battery-operated votive candle lights in translucent holders. Clear glass holders don't work well with battery-operated candles, which are a necessity for this project for safety reasons.
Use as many lights as will fit on shelves, tucking them around objects or books. Finish with ribbon casually looped through greenery.

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services contributed to this article.