A while ago, one of my friends took me to an event where we got to look at different types of Christmas trees, and they panicked because they had no idea how to describe the Christmas tree we saw. They looked at me very nervously, and asked what words they should use to describe a beautiful Christmas tree. I was more than happy to help them, and greatly appreciated that they asked me directly what information would be the most helpful. Here are my tips on how to describe a Christmas tree with adjectives to someone who is vision impaired, inclusive of low vision and blindness.
First, understand how mental models and visual references work
It can be hard to find words to describe a beautiful Christmas tree. However, don’t be afraid of using words describing a Christmas tree that describe visual things, like colors or shapes. Almost every person you meet with blindness or low vision has a strong mental model or visual reference for several common objects. I don’t need someone to explain to me what a color looks like or other obvious information, unless it is greatly different or unique.
For example, I have never been able to distinguish details on a leaf, but I know what a leaf looks like and that they are attached to trees. I have a mental model for several types of leaves, including the maple leaf, a frond on a fern, and many more. For that reason, I don’t need someone to explain to me what a leaf looks like, since I already have a reference in my mind of what it looks like.
Start with the foundation- the tree
How do you describe the beautiful Christmas tree you saw in a mall? Start your Christmas tree description by describing the tree in a sentence or two. I like to know the following information about a Christmas tree:
- How tall it is
- How wide it is
- Its location in relation to me
- Whether it appears to be real or artificial
- What color it is (artificial trees come in many colors)
- The top of the tree
There’s a lush green tree about ten feet from us that’s seven feet tall that seems to be rather slender. At the top, there’s a gold star that extends towards the ceiling.
Next, describe the lights
Since I have a photosensitive migraine condition, I often keep my eyes down and ask one of my friends or family members if a tree has blinking lights. Once I get the go-ahead that it doesn’t, I feel more comfortable looking towards the tree as they describe the lights. Here is how to describe the lights on the Christmas tree:
- Light size
- Light color(s)
- Any visual effects
- Any additional decorations that are on the entire tree, like a garland
There are small, twinkling lights on the tree in shades of red, green, and blue that rest on a white garland that wraps around the tree
Let’s talk about ornaments
The Christmas tree that my friend and I saw featured ornaments from all over the world that greatly varied in appearance. My friend asked how to describe a decorated Christmas tree, and I was happy to help. Instead of describing every ornament on the tree, give a general description and then ask the person if they want specific descriptions. Some trees have ornaments that all look the same, so use a more generalized description there. Here is how to describe the ornaments on a Christmas tree:
- Amount of ornaments
- If they have a particular theme
- Common color scheme
- If there are several different ornaments, pick 2 or 3 and describe those
- Talk about the shape, size, color, and any other interesting details.
The entire tree features ornaments from all around the world that focus on different animals. Canada has a beaver ornament, Australia has a kangaroo ornament that has a joey inside the pocket, and China has a panda ornament that is holding the Chinese flag.
What’s underneath the tree
A different friend and I were walking around near another Christmas tree that had a train going in circles around the bottom. I was really confused where a choo-choo noise was coming from, until my friend told me that there was a train underneath the tree with other things as well. Here is how to describe what’s underneath the tree without spoiling any surprises for Christmas morning:
- Color and pattern of the tree skirt
- Any interesting visual details or added decorations
- Size and colors of the boxes below
There’s a royal blue tree skirt with a snowflake pattern on the ground. An old-fashioned train moves across the peripheral of the tree skirt. There’s medium-sized square boxes wrapped in gold wrapping paper behind the train.
How do you describe a Christmas tree?
While it may seem like it takes a long time to gather information, the final description should only be a minute long. Here is how my example descriptions all look stitched together:
There’s a lush green tree about ten feet from us that’s seven feet tall that seems to be rather slender. At the top, there’s a gold star that extends towards the ceiling. There are small, twinkling lights on the tree in shades of red, green, and blue that rest on a white garland that wraps around the tree. The entire tree features ornaments from all around the world that focus on different animals. Canada has a beaver ornament, Australia has a kangaroo ornament that has a joey inside the pocket, and China has a panda ornament that is holding the Chinese flag. There’s a royal blue tree skirt with a snowflake pattern on the ground. An old-fashioned train moves across the peripheral of the tree skirt. There’s medium-sized square boxes wrapped in gold wrapping paper behind the train. Do you want to know any more details?
So many people with blindness and low vision are prone to isolation because they miss out on visual experiences and traditions. I appreciate that my friends and family are always willing to describe things for me and have shown me so many different and interesting things. I hope that this post helps you learn how to describe a Christmas tree to someone who is vision impaired and helps to brighten their Christmas spirit!