Painting the Sliding Glass Door

My family had a bunch of super random Christmas traditions. My dad insisted on a fire in the fireplace on christmas morning even the years when it was 80 degrees outside. My mom made a fancy Christmas Eve dinner and then just vegetable soup on Christmas Day so she didn’t have to cook. But one of my most favorite traditons was the annual painting of our sliding glass door.

This tradition started when we still lived in the San Fernando Valley and I was only 3. My mom decided to paint a bucolic Christmas snow scene on the sliding glass door that led to our patio. This was only their second Christmas in California and my mom was missing the snow. I, being only three, was allowed to only paint a single tree as my contribution. I, being three, painted a red tree. Now that I have a three year old myself, this strory makes a little more sense.

My parents continued the tradition when we moved to the house I remember growing up in and every year we painted the door. I recently found the album that contained some of the photos (mostly the mid-80s) and thought I would share some.  We divided the door in to quadrants and always painted in the same sections, unless it was a year people decided to share, go horizontal or my grandma came, when she came we added a center spot.

Top Left: Mom * Top Right: Dad * Bottom Left: My Sister * Bottom Right: Me

The year my dad did the grinch


I always liked my mom’s mouse under the tree.

Surprisingly simple designs from everyone this year.

Snow bunnies!

The year my mom was being clever and painted a “partridge in a pear tree,” for years we referred to it as the door uterus.

If you would like to start your own door painting tradition, here’s what we did.

  • The day before painting, clean the door with glass cleaner and then vinegar/water.
  • The day of painting, use a washable marker and a yard stick to divide the door into sections (if needed).
  • Cover the floor around the door with a tarp, craft paper or newspaper.
  • Use water soluble paint to paint the door. We normally used poster paint, craft acrylic would probably work but would be a little harder to clean up.
  • Paint the INSIDE of the door.
  • The paint will look different during day or night time. The paint will look more opaque at night but imperfections are more apparent. Brush strokes will show. I painted a lot of things with fur and just dabbed paint to avoid the brush stroke issue.
  • After about 3 weeks, the paint becomes a lot more difficult to clean off.
  • To clean up: use water in a spray bottle and rags to get the bulk of the paint off. The door will look a little murky. When almost all of the paint is off, use glass cleaner or vinegar to get the last layer off.
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