The Best Holiday Covers from 'Martha Stewart Living'

martha with presents on sled
Andrew Eccles

It is time to rejoice. Whether we are celebrating with the rituals of centuries or inventing new traditions for ourselves, this is the season to gather family and friends and give thanks, for the year just past and the year to come—and we take comfort in the uniqueness of our own traditions. But for Martha and her editorial staff, the planning of Christmas takes place months in advance.

"The holiday issue of our magazine is the most challenging to plan and execute," she wrote in her letter for the December 1992/January 1993 issue of Living. "We photograph the stories in August and September, when the prospect of lugging prickly spruce and holly, roasting geese, and baking bûche de Noël has little appeal. It's difficult to summon up ideas for wreaths or cookies when you want to be at the beach, but somehow, inspiration takes hold, and one day I find the entire staff making ornaments and gift boxes." Over the years, the Living editors have envisioned a countless number of wreaths, gift-wrapping ideas and handmade gifts, decorative Christmas tree themes, and holiday recipes. And in celebrating our 30th anniversary, it only seemed fitting to look back on some of our most memorable covers and share some of the behind-the-scenes magic that happens in the making of our founder's magazine.

"Just 'creating' a holiday made our diverse group into a family," Martha once wrote. "So from the Martha Stewart Living family to yours, season's greetings, and a happy, healthful, and fruitful new year."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2019 Cover
Pernille Loof

Last year, Martha transformed a small cottage on her Bedford farm into a winter wonderland: whirling cardinals, woodland animals, mushrooms and shelled nuts strung up in garlands, and charming bearded gnomes led the way to a Christmas tree bestowing kraft-paper packages. It was the perfect holiday scene for her grandchildren, Jude and Truman. All in all, "it looked like something out of a fairy tale," said Living's style editor at large Naomi deMañana. "It was begging to be transformed into a magical Christmas cottage."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2018 Cover
Ryan Liebe

In 2018, it was wreaths all around: These shortbread cookies were adorned with sugar-glazed rosemary and thyme—and, fittingly, served at a wreath-making party out on Long Island's Great South Bay. They weren't the only ethereal holiday confections found in this issue—try our Raspberry and Chocolate-Hazelnut Crepe Cake dusted with confectioners' sugar, our Pomegranate-Coconut Trifle in decadent layers, a slice of Coffee-Caramel Swiss Roll yuletide log, or even a pile of Chai Snowballs ready for tossing.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2017 Cover
Erin Kunkel

In 2017, a beautifully wild wreath made by local florist Mum's Flowers set the holiday scene in Kalispell, Montana. The cover story, "Big-Sky Bonfire" showcased a small family's tradition with big ambitious ideas—recipes, entertaining ideas, and décor. "One of the many things I have always loved about this magazine is what makes it different," said editor-in-chief Elizabeth Graves in her editor's letter. "While we may not publish a Hollywood issue, we most definitely have a holiday issue—and this year the volume in your hands shines especially bright, thanks to Martha and the talented editors at Living."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2016 Cover
Christopher Testani

In 2016, a charming mix of vintage and new bottlebrush trees made a sweet wintry scene. This was one of many striking displays of fresh flowers, cut greens, and moss envisioned by Michael and Darroch Putnam, the wildly talented duo behind the New York City floral-design firm Putnam & Putnam. "There's a romance and an unkemptness to what we do," Michael said of their unique style. And in Darroch's words, they strive for "elegance made with unexpected elements." In the cover story, they shared some of their secrets. "We used materials that are easily available in projects that are attainable," said Michael.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2015 Cover
Will Cotton / Courtesy of the artist and Mary Boone Gallery

In 2015, Martha and the Living staff celebrated 25 years of the magazine and, on the cover, our founder was a sight to behold. When Martha and artist Will Cotton embarked on what she called "a painterly journey" to a confectionary fantasyland, the partnership yielded an exquisite portrait—and inspired a collection of dreamy holiday desserts—gingerbread houses, sugar cookies, angel food cake, and pralines. "He tampers with high fashion in a most unusual way," said Martha, referring to her Valentino linen dress, which Cotton encrusted with beautiful, intricate piping. (He used an inedible material that looks like royal icing but won't break when bent.) "You might think that it looks easy," she added. "But there's nothing easy about it. It's art."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2014 Cover
Marcus Nilsson

In 2014, this cover was the definition of scene-stealer: Vintage cardboard houses and bottlebrush trees, nestled into an artificial wreath to create a captivating snowy village. It was designed by crafts executive director Hannah Milman who annually visits Christmasworld, the holiday-theme trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. On a recent trip, Milman was particularly charmed by a wreath she saw; it was decorated with miniature porcelain buildings by Luville Collectables. The image stayed with her, so she decided to create her own wreath—the one featured here—using vintage cardboard buildings known as putz houses.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2013 Cover
Anna Williams

In 2013, sugar cookies inspired by "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" are decorated with royal icing and sparkling sugars. "For this month's cover, our team was inspired by the nostalgic, old-fashioned imagery of Christmastime and "visions of sugarplums"—we actually leafed through beloved editions of A Visit From Saint Nicholas saved from our childhoods," recalled former editor-in-chief Eric Pike in his editor's letter. "Food editor Jennifer Aaronson and crafts director Marcie McGoldrick worked to create cookie templates and decided on the color palette, and then Jen started decorating."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2012 Cover
Sang An

In 2012, the cover focused on these sweet stockings Martha made for her grandchildren. For Jude's first Christmas, an 1880s saltbox on Martha's property was decorated with her, and her brother Truman, in mind. "It was so warm and cozy and fun and whimsical," said Martha of the decor. "The whole house became a fairyland for Jude. And she absolutely loved it. She was just so happy looking at everything." That wide-eyed wonder continues to inspire Martha and her holiday plans (and decorations) for years to come. "Christmas is all about the children now," she added. "I just want to indulge them. And I always will."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2011 Cover
Dana Gallagher

In 2011, lights on a tree shined like stars against the night sky. The star is one of the holiday's most meaningful symbols and, in this issue's cover story, "Star Power," it was reinvented in projects to bring shimmer and style to every corner of the season—glittered decorations, glowing luminaries, ornaments and wreaths, and one-of-a-kind light displays. For the look pictured here, try using strands of lights with different-size bulbs, and don't worry about distributing them evenly—clusters of brightness here and there resemble constellations. Hang larger Moravian stars for more drama.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2010 Cover
Wolfgang Ludes

In 2010, we kicked off our 20th anniversary year with Martha showcasing this jewel-toned tinsel wreath. In celebration, Martha shared a leisurely Christmas brunch—and an impromptu snowball fight—with longtime colleagues. "For this party, I wanted to include a special tribute and thank-you to my longtime editors (and their families) for the superb job they've done over the past 20 years in the creation of Martha Stewart Living magazine," she wrote in her column. "And since it was the time of year for gift giving, I gave each guest a handmade bread board cut to resemble a slice of bread, plus a jar of homemade preserves wrapped in a festive kitchen towel. They were very well-liked gifts, I think."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2009 Cover
Andrew Eccles

In 2009, we were celebrating the holidays with a triple cover featuring some of our favorite things: Martha's croquembouche, a classic French dessert, adorned with a constellation of star cookies; a glittered pair of bells; and, pictured here, Martha delivering gifts on a sleigh and introducing our special section "Holiday Ideas from A to Z." The idea was to create a special holiday issue packed with a project on every page—angel food cake, bells and bows, Christmas cookies, and everything else that's needed to deck the halls.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2008 Cover
Con Poulos

In 2008, an enticing treat box full of homemade cookies and candies were featured on the cover and throughout the issue. "This year, inspired by our wonderful and inventive Cookies book ($14.54,, I decided to perfect a few more cookie recipes delicious enough to be included in a sequel, if we ever decide to publish one," Martha wrote in her column. "Of all the welcome gifts one can make, cookies are perhaps the simplest to prepare in quantity and the easiest to package in festive wrappings."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2007 Cover
Wolfgang Ludes

In 2007, Martha showcased this cake that evoked a town square in Prague, surrounded by bead ornaments. Food editor Jennifer Aaronson had the task of transforming a cardboard mock-up, devised by the crafts department, into the extraordinary cake that graced our gingerbread story and the cover. "We had about ten thousand meetings about that cake," she said with a laugh in the editor's letter. Aaronson ended up making the cake six times in all, including the version she created for the cover shoot, which took place the summer prior. "We couldn't cut into the cake, of course," she said, "but fortunately there were enough trimmings that we all got to enjoy it."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2006 Cover
Victoria Pearson

In 2006, gleaming kugels—antique collectible ornaments—brightened the holiday. Old-fashioned glass kugels still sparkle, not only on trees but also as centerpieces and in eye-catching arrangements. This December, we doubled the sparkle by publishing two covers that month, both featuring kugels—one with ornaments suspended in a window display and a second in this rainbow arrangement. "Frankly, we had a hard time choosing which we liked best and narrowed it to two images," recalled editorial director Margaret Roach in her editor's letter, "one to mail to our subscribers and the other for the newsstand. We hope you find them as magical as we do."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2005 Cover
Sang An

In 2005, a wreath adorned with glittered birds was made to welcome holiday visitors. And in the issue's cover story "All That Glitters", the editors learned to make magic with glitter and tinsel by applying glue to silk flowers, faux birds, and cardboard snowflakes, then sprinkling on spoonfuls of the store-bought fairy dust in order to see them transformed.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2004 Cover
Dana Gallagher

In 2004, an array of homemade ribbon ornaments brightened this Christmas tree. In the cover story, "Bedecked in Bows," ribbon was shown to be tied in any number of styles: rosette, medallion, sash, layered loops, plus some ideal pairings with proportions—of loops to tails, for example—that feel just right. The editors conjured up ideas to decorate the whole house with ribbon garlands, napkin rings, and more. Which frill was most fanciful? It's a tie.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2003 Cover
Sang An

In 2003, a flurry of marshmallow snowflakes melted in mugs of hot cocoa. It was one of what Martha called a collection of "exquisite, delicious, and eminently doable holiday desserts" in her editor's letter. Inspired by the vision of an enchanted forest, Living editors crafted winter snowflakes that taste like candy, tree bark that smells like chocolate, and fallen logs as a confectioner's feast. "We thought of the ordinary things you find and made extraordinary desserts out of them—some inspired by French patisserie but with an American playfulness," said food editor Jennifer Aaronson. "We wanted to add whimsy to the dessert table while maintaining some sophistication."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2002 Cover
Gentl and Hyers

In 2002, a silvery wreath was hung with tiny packages and figurines that recalled ornaments of the Victorian era. Historically, the holiday season was a glittering cavalcade of color and tinsel—and these inspired a whole theme of projects in this issue: gift boxes topped with pleated crepe-paper medallions, Dresden ornaments, postcards, and centerpiece displays. This was also the year Martha launched her collection of holiday decorations at Kmart in the United States, as she mentioned in her editor's letter: "Now everyone can have 'vintage' ornaments, unusual tree lights, color-coordinated trees, fantastic wreaths and candles, and much more."

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Martha Stewart Living December 2001 Cover
Christopher Baker

In 2001, Martha's tabletop tree at Turkey Hill glittered with ornaments inspired by her Polish heritage. "When I was growing up, in a middle class family of eight in Nutley, New Jersey, Christmas was our most intensely celebrated holiday," she recalled in her Remembering column. "I started to pay closer attention to real collectibles, handling my mother's few possessions with respect. We had some vintage Christmas ornaments, large German glass orbs painted with beautiful flowers and sparkling with glass glitter." Like the very first Christmas trees, her creations used handmade ornaments to adorn small saplings, but we put new twists on the tradition—from gilded eggs to origami fans.

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Martha Stewart Living December 2000 Cover
Gentl and Hyers

At the turn of the millennium, a charming ice-cream snowman covered in coconut took the spotlight. His eyes, mouth, and buttons were licorice candies, his carrot nose marzipan, and his hat a toasted marshmallow atop a chocolate cookie. This December also marked a major anniversary for Living, our tenth. We published all of your favorite magazine recipes—1,200 of them, at the time—in The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook ($20,

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Martha Stewart Living December 1999 Cover
Gentl and Hyers

In 1999, this cover proved that, sometimes, you can enhance nature: Lustrous velvet was fashioned into birch leaves, oak leaves, maple leaves, and tiny acorns for a richly-decorated wreath. It was one of many velvet projects in this issue including an oak-leaf table runner with acorn trim, a trompe l'oeil garland adorning a mirror, and a pair of stockings with velvet leaves that were embossed using an ordinary iron and a rubber stamp—all for adding festive detail to your house.

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Martha Stewart Living December 1998 Cover
Gentl and Hyers

In 1998, Martha and her younger sister Laura hosted an intimate Christmas Eve gathering of just six people: Martha; Laura and her husband, Randy; their two sons, Charlie and Christopher; and Christopher's closest friend since kindergarten, Alison. At Martha's home in Maine, they enjoyed their favorite traditions: trimming the tree with handmade snowflake ornaments and pinecone garlands, hanging the stockings, cooking a lobster feast, and carrying in birchwood from the shed to build a roaring fire. Here, in his snuggly flannel pajamas, Charlie fell asleep while waiting for Santa.

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Martha Stewart Living December 1997 Cover
Christopher Baker

In 1997, the cover offered a sneak peek into this glittering menagerie under glass. "Several of us from the magazine had traveled to Las Vegas, to the Mirage Hotel, to give a holiday cookie-decorating workshop at a fundraiser for CapCure, a prostate-cancer research foundation," Martha recalled in her editor's letter. "The event required an immense amount of preparation: Hundreds of cookies had to be rolled and cut and baked. Scores of pastry bags were filled with special tints of royal icing. Dozens of cookies were designed by my staff to serve as examples for our 'students,' who, with some instruction, went on to decorate spectacular owls, squirrels, elephants, stars, moons, and other designs."

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Martha Stewart Living December 1996 Cover
Gentl and Hyers

In 1996, a merry red stocking—filled to the brim with candy canes, gift packages, and other small stuffers—was crafted from felt. It was one of several felting projects that year including a stack of pillows, jacket covers for journals, a buttoned tree skirt, a table runner, bottle wraps, pouches, and other gifts. The pure wool kind has always been a staff favorite—it's pliable and forgiving yet structurally durable to shaping with scissors, needle, and thread.

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Martha Stewart Living December 1995 Cover
William Abranowicz

In 1995, this stately cranberry wreath was one of many in the issue. In order to revive a sense of hometown pride, the Living staff encouraged readers to search their residential states for natural materials with which to make decorative wreaths. Pictured on the cover, cranberries made a fitting tribute to Massachusetts where almost 50 percent of the nation's crop is grown. For inspiration, they honored fifteen states and the District of Columbia with such projects­. This story would serve the initial inspiration for Martha's book of 51 projects, Great American Wreaths ($5.69,, published the following year.

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Martha Stewart Living December 1994 Cover
Victoria Pearson

In 1994, a cookie crescent moon sparkled on Martha's Christmas tree. These moons and stars were strung on fine silver cord that she found at a fabric store. She made the gingerbread cookies without eggs so they'd keep better and left them in the oven overnight after they were decorated to let the icing harden. "I think about holidays all year long, because it is my business," Martha wrote in her editor's letter. "But for pleasure, I think about Christmas."

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Martha Stewart Living December 1993 Cover
Stewart Ferebee

In 1993, this wreath of fresh viburnum berries, crab apples, and rose hips was crafted by Jerry Bolduan of Green Valley Growers in Sebastopol, California. That, of course, was not the issue's only holiday inspiration—included were ten Christmas stocking projects, how to host friends and family for an open house (with 18 recipes), pine and boxwood garlands for decorating the outside of the house, as well as traditional pudding for a great finale to the meal. Martha wrote in her editor's letter: "Expansiveness in thought keeps us creative, inventive, and attentive to the needs of those around us."

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Martha Stewart Living December 1992 Cover
Victoria Pearson

In 1992, Martha trimmed a Christmas tree to grand effect using dried fruit, ribbons, gold cord, crinkle wire, and tacks to make exquisite treasures. The result was unmistakably Old World but, at the time, it called for an epic behind-the-scenes effort. "It didn't feel right to photograph citrus decorations in New England, so we went to California," she recalled of the shoot in her editor's letter. "We found more ideas in local antiques stores, in the San Francisco flower market, and from new friends. When it came time to shoot, we forgot it was midsummer. As photographers, writers, and designers hung swags, looked for errant glass balls, cut out cookies, and wrapped gifts, it reminded me of my brothers and sisters scurrying to finish everything by Christmas Eve."

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Martha Stewart Living December 1991 Cover
John Dugdale

In 1991, Martha donned her holiday best: For the cover, she wore a plaid gold-buttoned jacket and slacks while carrying a bundle of fragrant evergreens in a woven basket. This year also marked her venture into a new category—the weddings space. "My sister Laura was married on New Year's Eve in my parlor twelve years ago," she wrote in the editor's letter. "It was that event that inspired us to create a holiday wedding for this issue, with my home, once again, as the setting. This time we used my new house by the seashore, a shingled rambler with numerous mantels, polished fir floors, and white walls and woodwork." As for her philosophy on combining a holiday such as Christmas or New Year's with a wedding? "Unlike a Christmas birthday child, who may feel a little cheated," she wrote, "a bride married on Christmas feels doubly blessed."

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Martha Stewart Living December 1990 Cover
Neil Kirk

This is when it all started: In the winter of 1990, Martha published the preview issue of Living with more than a hundred holiday recipes, wreaths, cookies, and gift-wrapping ideas. In its pages, she shared what would come to be celebrated as her most classic Good Things—gingerbread-cookies-turned-ornaments, bottled oils and vinegars infused with herbs as hostess gifts, all-natural potpourri, and meringue mushrooms. Our all-time favorite? A pyramid of sugared fruit—seckel pears, lady apples, figs, tangerines, lemons, kumquats—that makes a wonderful edible display for the holidays. "We thought of the things that are important to us, and that's what you'll find in this holiday issue," she wrote in her first-ever editor's letter. "Our families and our homes are the centers of our lives. This magazine will always be filled with ways to make those homes more beautiful, more comfortable, more full of life and light and joy for those we love."

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