Tricia Foley’s Holiday Checklists

Interior designer Tricia Foley shares her holiday to-do list with tips that make the season truly shine

I always make lists and put them on my calendar so I have a plan. The most important thing is to start with preparations early, so it is not overwhelming at the last minute. It is so easy to find bulbs and pot them in November and enjoy them growing throughout the house, to take time to create a holiday card one Sunday afternoon while watching old movies, and to stock up on drinks and provisions along the way. Having a set plan makes these annual rituals a pleasure, not a chore.

Foley’s five-acre property includes a river in her backyard and her own small island, accessed by rowboat. Photo by Jeff McNamara


November 1:

  • Clean and plant terra-cotta pots.
  • Plant amaryllis bulbs (4-6 weeks to bloom).
  • Get fresh moss.

November 15:

  • Plant paperwhites (3-4 weeks to bloom). See: How to Force Paperwhites
  • Check candle stock and fill in.
  • Order firewood for delivery.

November 30:

  • Clear fall/Thanksgiving plants and pumpkins.
  • Prepare fresh garlands for the outside door.
  • Buy ready-made wreaths and customize with berries and branches.

December 1–10:

  • Get tree stands ready.
  • Check lights and replace bulbs when needed.
  • Put up tree and keep watered.
  • Decorate the tree.
  • Arrange branches and flowers.
  • Enlist little ones to help bake cookies.
Evergreens foraged from the grounds accent the entry. Photo by Laura Resen


November 1-10:

  • Put dates on calendar for gatherings with friends and family.
  • Stock up on wine, cider, and Prosecco.
  • Buy nuts, crackers, and bottles of water along the way.

December 1–10:

  • Wash glasses, iron linens, and polish silver.
  • Host Sunday tea/drinks party for friends.

December 11–25:

  • Stock firewood and kindling at fireplaces.
  • Get large platters, bowls, and serving boards ready.
  • Set table and get buffet table staged.
  • Christmas Eve family gathering.
Foley keeps holiday decorations beautifully serene and simple, incorporating organic touches with what she calls her “50 shades of white.” She prefers single-flower arrangements, and white amaryllis are the stars of her floral show in winter. Photo by Marili Forastieri



  • Work on holiday card.
  • Buy holiday stamps or design them.
  • Go to local holiday markets for finds.
  • Start ordering gifts online.
  • Set up gift-wrapping station.
  • Start wrapping . . . make sure to put tags on gifts!

December 1–10:

  • Send out holiday cards.
  • Start putting gifts under tree.
  • Mail gifts to faraway friends and family.
  • Finish gift wrapping.
  • Put aside hostess gifts so they are ready to go: flavored salts, honey, jams, lemon vinegar.

December 11–31:

  • Enjoy the season!
A flannel stocking trimmed with vintage buttons. Photo by Jeff McNamara
“Taking time to sit by the fire with fir-scented candles and votives is the best way to get in the holiday spirit,” says Tricia Foley. Photo by Jeff McNamara