When my son was small, we visited a Waldorf school on the day of their holiday pageant. The children had created little winter scenes with moss and twigs and crystals, and the school was garlanded with green, alive with a beauty that was completely natural. We were enchanted and inspired!
There is such deep magic in bringing the winter world indoors for the holidays: nothing evokes the season like boughs of sweet-smelling evergreen and bright-berried holly. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s fun to decorate the packages we give with the gifts of nature, too.
So we offer this abundance of quick and easy ideas for decorating both your home and your gifts with the seasonal magic of nature. May this green, satisfying way to celebrate the holidays connect us to the deeper spirit of this time of light’s return.
1. Evergreens – It’s good to remember the undying green when the natural world sleeps: fragrant and bristling with good energy, evergreens are the quintessential symbol of this season. Heap them in vases and jugs, garland your doorways, banisters, mirrors, or mantelpieces, place a sprig or two underneath the bows on your gift packages. Put them in an old workboot to place by the door, or a twig basket for the bedside table, or a pretty mug for the kitchen counter. Evergreens add festive cheer to every room in the house.
2. Pinecones – Fun to gather, fun to tie together into strings that you can loop from here to there, pinecones can be added to your green arrangements, or you can splash them with cinnamon and clove essential oils (or dip them in beeswax and then roll them in ground cinnamon and clove) and burn them in the fireplace or mound them in a bowl. Use florist’s wire to attach small pinecones to gifts. Prop place card in front of them for dinner parties.
3. Edibles – It warms the heart to focus on abundance in this wintry time of year. Foods can make lovely decorations that remind us of nature’s generosity: whole apples, pears, pomegranates, and winter squashes are pretty in bowls or placed in a row on a mantel or shelf. Small “Lady Apples” are often available in grocery stores now: you can use a large darning needle to string them together into a gorgeous garland. Dried slices of citrus and apple are pretty additions to packages, wreaths, garlands, and arrangements, too. Other edible lovelies include nuts in the shell, popcorn (so snowy and pretty in strings for trees or doorways), and cranberries. You can add fresh cranberries to the water in a clear glass vase and add flowers as usual. Or just put some cranberries in a glass bowl: the color is so gorgeous! One of my son’s school-friends made a beautiful cranberry and bay-leaf garland that we looped above a kitchen cupboard; it dried and lasted for years. Find out how to make terrific votive holders, garlands, and more: see “winter holiday eco-decorating,” below.
4. Spices and herbs – Bundles of cinnamon sticks make sweet-scented additions to arrangements, garlands, and gift packages. They‘re also fun to tuck into napkins for a special place-setting. Branches of eucalyptus are nice to include with your more usual evergreens (and the scent is good for colds and congestion), and a big pot of rosemary in the house adds wonderful fresh fragrance. Dried bay leaves are fun to use, too–try placing a circle of bay leaves around the base of a vase! Or include them in your garland.
5. Crystals and stones – Clear quartz crystal points are the most magical unmelting icicles ever: twist some florist’s wire around the ends and hang from your tree, or use them to make little scenes on a platter or shallow bowl (see below). Also, at this often-frantic time of year, having a beautiful rock or two around to remind us to slow down and be still is a very good thing: go and see if there are any stones outdoors that want to spend the holidays indoors with you!
6. Branches, moss, bark – Tiny twigs stand in for larger trees in winter scenes you and your children might enjoy making. Stones become boulders, moss becomes the forest floor, crystals are glaciers of ice! Mist the moss with water every few days and replace it outside when you’re done. You can use large pieces of birch bark to hold intriguing arrangements of seeds, berries, and other finds from the outdoors.
7. Wild berries, seedpods, acorns, dried flowers – It can be so much fun to explore your yard or a local park to see what you can find. The season abounds with bright berries, spiky seedpods, and the remnants of dried flowers, all of which could add natural beauty to your indoor decorations.
8. Handmade from nature – Besides the quick and easy joy of simply plunking nature’s gifts here and there around your home, you can go the extra mile and create things of beauty with natural items.
Here’s how to make pomanders:
Using a darning needle, poke holes in lemons or small oranges, tangerines, or apples and insert a clove in each hole. Place the clove-studded fruits in a shallow baking dish filled with a mixture of ground cinnamon and cloves, turning occasionally, until the fruits have dried and hardened. (It speeds things along if you place them on top of a radiator or refrigerator. Plus it will make your home smell heavenly!) When they are “cured,” dust them off, tie a pretty ribbon around them if you like, and give as gifts, hang on the branches of your tree, or place them in a bowl at pulse points in your home.
The golden glow of beeswax candles adds such sunny warmth and honey-scented pleasure to the festivities. You can make your own with bulk beeswax, or purchase them. Either way, your home will be blessed by the bees!
Potpourris are another great way to add texture, color, and sweet, natural scent to your home. Check out these easy directions (especially the formula for Country Kitchen Potpourri!):three potpourris
9. Handmade nature-stamped gift paper: Give grocery bags or recycled brown paper a special touch by coating leaves with non-toxic paint and using them to stamp patterns all over, or gluing pretty treasures from the outdoors on.
For more great ideas, see Winter Holiday Eco-Decorating