For years I dragged out the same ornaments, the same garland, and the same candles, until I realized a few years ago just how commercialized it all was. I’ve been getting back to nature for several years and slowly switching my decorations, along with everything else, over to a more naturally themed holiday home. Here are a few of my favorites.
1. Use pine and fir branches
Use real pine and fir branches to decorate your tables. Once the cut heals over, no more sap will drip from the ends, so cut them and let them sit for a day or so. Place on a table with pine cones, holly berries, pomegranates and candles. Use mini pumpkins and dried ears of corn in the fall. Light the candles once night falls, but keep and eye on them. Pine branches in this condition can dry out quickly, causing a potential fire hazard. I only light the candles when I know I’ll be in the same room.
2. Make pine cone fire starters
Take a large pine cone and dip it in melted wax. I use beeswax, but you can also use palm, soy or even bayberry. Before the wax is hard, add a bit of mica or colored sugar. Mica is a shiny rock found naturally in a lot of areas. It’s used to put sparkle in eye shadow, so it can add some sparkle here. Colored sugar looks cool, and when it’s burned, it gives off colored flames. Store these on a table in a basket for a potpourri effect. And it just looks cute! (Find different waxes for this project here.)
3. Make your own wrapping paper
My Mom and I are the only family we have here in North Carolina, but we still give each other gifts at Christmas. I use plain brown kraft paper that I can recycle, reuse or compost. I tie it with ribbon that was garnered from past gifts and will be reused again. You could also paint or stamp the brown paper for an even more personalized wrapping paper. (Find rolls of kraft paper here.)
4. Decorate citrus pomanders
Remember pushing cloves into oranges at the holidays? We always did it when I was young. The process is simple – make designs on the oranges with a marker and push cloves into the orange along the lines. You can put these in a dish or a basket for a citrus spice scented display.
5. Simmer a natural potpourri
You can take the same idea and simmer orange peels, cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove. Fill a pot with water, toss in your scented additions, and simmer as long as you like. (Just be sure to periodically add more water when needed so the pot doesn’t boil dry.) This will add needed humidity to the air (heated homes in the winter are usually dry) and scent the air with holiday smells. And bonus – the natural essential oils released into the air will kill some bacteria, viruses and other germs, leading to a healthier home.
6. Give handmade gifts
I make a lot of my own gifts. I’m a soap maker and make many other naturally based products that I give away at the holidays. One of the easiest is my deep tissue muscle soak. Take 2 cups of sea salt, a few tablespoons of Epsom salts and and a tablespoon or so of another salt (like Himalayan Pink sea salt, Celtic Grey salt or black salt). Any of these will add extra minerals. Mix together and divide in half. To half of the mixture, add some red food coloring and about a teaspoon of oil and mix well. The type of oil doesn’t matter. I use grapeseed, but you could use sweet almond or sunflower or safflower. All of them are high in Vitamin E and are good for the skin. To the other half of the mixture, add about 20 drops of peppermint essential oil. Mix well. Then, layer the mixtures in a pint jar one after the other. When you are done it will look like a candy cane. Put the top on and tie with a piece of jute twine. You could also place a piece of burlap on the top and tie it down. Add instructions that say something like, “Add a handful to a tub of warm water. Soak for at least 20 minutes to ease away muscle aches.”
7. Consider a live tree
I always try to get a balled and burlap tree so that I can plant it outside after the holidays. In the years that I couldn’t I would go cut down a fresh one. (See our article on real vs. fake Christmas trees here.) Then, after the holidays I would take the decorations off the tree, haul the tree outside and stand it up in my garden. I tied birdseed treats, stale buns and other things on the branches for the birds and bunnies. It provides food on cold winter days and shelter on colder winter nights. In the spring when I’m sure there is no one left inside, I burn it in a bonfire and use the ashes in the compost.
8. Make your own delicious cocoa
What holiday evening is complete without a mug of cocoa? I make my own and have for years. We have a delicious naturally sweetened homemade cocoa recipe that you must try – find it here! If you like your cocoa with a kick, you can add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper. As always, you can adjust the amount of cocoa or sweetener, or even use another type of natural sweetener to suit your tastes. You could also put all the dry ingredients in jars and give it as a gift. Just be sure to attach a tag with instructions and measurements for the wet ingredients.
What are some other natural holiday ideas you’re using this year?