How to decorate a Santa's grotto

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Decorating Santa's grotto is a major part of many Christmas decor themes, as Santa and his surroundings are often essential to the Christmas spirit. With the wide variety of Christmas decorations that are now on the market, it can be difficult to decide what should be included.

Regardless of what selections you make, you should always strive for the safety of your visitors, including the elderly and those that are very small.

Create an air of festivity and joy with lots of lights. Line the ceiling with lengths of tulle or other sheer fabric and nestle clear white lights in the fabric to give the impression of stars overhead. Lowering the overall lighting of the area will increase the effect of these lights. Take care that there is still enough light to move around freely.

Add holiday scents to the area to encourage festivity. Place several flameless candles in strategic areas, so everyone who visits Santa's grotto is sure to get a whiff of them. Ideal locations for flameless candles are faux windows, near Santa's chair and near the entrance and exits.

Provide a large, comfortable chair for Santa to sit in. He will likely be at the grotto for long stretches of time, so comfort is key. Place a bowl of rock canes nearby so he can hand them to visitors.

Place the Christmas tree near Santa's seat for the best viewpoint. Mound fake snow up beneath it so you can't see the base of the tree. Add piles of wrapped gifts scattered on the fake snow for a cheerful effect. Pleasantly wrapped gifts are more popular than plain-paper gifts, so decorate the packages in an exciting manner, so children will want to know what's inside.

Line the walkway leading to Santa's grotto with oversized plastic rock canes. Keep the pathway wide enough to walk; approximately 90 cm (3 feet) is good one for person, while 1.5 m (5 feet) is good for two people side by side. Remember that parents will often accompany their children to visit Santa.

Mound piles of fake snow up around all of the decorations. Line the walkway with the snow. Make small drifts of snow on window sills, on the branches of trees and near Santa's feet.

Intersperse Santa's grotto with wild animal decorations, such as fawns, reindeer, squirrels and rabbits. Many of these animals can be found in a variety of styles when the Christmas decorations are put out for the season. Shop wisely when the decorations go on sale at the end of the season. Many good bargains can be found for next year's decorating.

Add a few elves, because no Santa's grotto would be complete without a few of them floating about. A variety of "Santa's helpers" decorations can be found during the season. Less expensive small gnomes and other elves can be seen throughout the year; these can be repainted to fit in with the Christmas theme.