Monday, 14 December 2009

Crafting Christmas decorations

by Francesca

I bought our first artificial Christmas tree five years ago. It wasn’t an impromptu purchase: I’d already decided on it 11 months before, when, as had happened every year, our Christmas tree once again died before I could transplant it. I’d always bought trees with a root ball, planning to transplant them after the holidays, but I only succeeded once, and even that lone survivor died inexplicably several months later, during the summer. And in my part of the world, a dead Christmas tree creates waste: it produces minimal firewood, and you can’t compost it very easily unless you own a proper shredder.

At first, my husband objected to the idea of an artificial tree, saying he’d miss the natural feel and scent of a real tree. And although, living at the edge of the woods with three kids coming in and out of the house all day, I feel like I’m spending most days trying to keep nature out of our house, I could see his point: the Christmas season is also about celebrating the dormant and yet living nature around us. But the idea of not killing a tree every year did appeal to him, and eventually we struck a balance between nature and, well . . . the unnatural (aka a plastic tree).

Nowadays, when we decorate our house for Christmas, in addition to our artificial tree, we also cut a few boughs from the local umbrella pines and drape the hearth with them, or hang them like wreaths on our doors. It never ceases to amaze me how long these branches stay fresh: they continue to emanate their fresh, green, aromatic scents for weeks. And whereas our old Christmas trees, which had roots and soil, would hardly survive until the end of the holiday season, despite regular watering, these fresh-cut boughs never seem to die.

In the past month I've been struck by the simple, creative ways that other bloggers have found to use nature to decorate their houses for Christmas. I've asked a few of them to share their projects in this space (all photos by the authors).

Trinsch, a Danish mom of three who lives in Israel, used a red wool sweater that was mistakenly put into a hot wash and got felted, to make felt hearts, and decorated a striking branch for the holiday season. I'm fascinated by the contrast between the red felt hearts and the stark, bare branch.

I love how Nicola salvaged some wood from fallen eucalyptus trees at her daughter’s school in Northern California and used it for crafting. Among other projects, she used the eucalyptus bark and a repurposed glass jar to make this amazing Bark Vase.

In cold and snowy Poland, Isabelle, who is French, made a wonderful garland by stringing mandarin peels together with pine cones she'd bought at a local market. It’s a garland that grows, because her family of four adds the peel of each mandarin they eat to the garland - until they use up the last of their pine cones!

Gardenmama in rural northeastern US used beeswax to craft sculpted figures and candles. She also made these beautiful beeswax ornaments, and in her tutorial she describes the intense incense-like aromas they gave off during the making.

I was very inspired by these handmade ways to decorate our houses for the upcoming holiday season, which turn simple, natural and repurposed materials into beautiful, artistic decorations.