Sick of storebought holiday decor? Outdoorsman L. Woodrow Ross explains how to use natural items from your own property to decorate for the holidays.
Holidays decorations have become a major enterprise for many companies. We see Christmas decorations for sale in retail establishments prior to Thanksgiving. Molded plastic, inflatable figures, twinkling or flashing lights and more grace the shelves, and the general population falls in step and uses them to observe the holidays.
Why not take a look around your property at the natural beauty and have an "old fashioned Christmas" season this year? There are many ways that our parents and grandparents celebrated the season without breaking the bank or leaning on commercialism.
Items from nature you can use to decorate for the holidays
Our natural environment is full of beautiful items that make wonderful decorations. Some of these old fashioned holiday decorations will probably ring a bell with you:
- Pine cones and gum tree balls make great tree ornaments and may be used in the natural state or painted silver or gold to add a little color to the Christmas tree. They may also be used with natural greenery such as red cedar or balsam for table centerpieces.
- Boughs of Nandina bushes, especially those with red berries, made nice additions to centerpieces, sprays and wreaths.
- Christmas trees are big business today, but in years past, the local trees on our properties were selected and were cut fresh for the home. Many commercially-produced trees are cut well ahead of time and begin to drop needles well before the holiday cycle is over. One must be careful to select a fresh-cut tree. Hunters and hikers in previous times would walk and observe until the perfect tree was selected and cut for a special location in the home.
- Grape vine prunings can yield some excellent material for forming holiday wreaths. After the base is formed, they can be decorated with pine cones, gum tree balls, holly with berries, bows and greenery. If you do not have grape vines, wisteria vine and kudzu makes excellent wreaths. These wreaths are easily formed and the neat thing is that you can tailor the size to fit the space where it will be used.
- When I was a child, many homes would have a small thorn bush (we called them "Rabbit Apple" because of the edible, small, red fruit) adorned with sugar-coated gum drops. Visitors and residents alike would pluck the tasty treats and enjoy them. They could be replaced throughout the holiday season.
- Cranberries and popcorn were often strung for tree decorations. This was something children could be enlisted to help with, and if some of the popcorn was consumed during the process, that was okay.
- Decorating was never complete without mistletoe and holly with brilliant red berries placed strategically around the house. Many a kiss was shared beneath the mistletoe. It was often hung over doorways so the unwary could be ambushed by the alert friends.
- Those who are capable of doing woodwork might consider constructing a handmade Nativity set. I made one more than 35 years ago, shown above, when our daughters were small. The small figurines were added over the years and although it was crude and the figurine sizes were not consistent, it became a beloved part of our holiday season. Our daughters would each move the figurines around to suit their preference. Then the next would come by and move them to suit their idea of how is should look. One of the daughters would sing to the Baby Jesus. We still enjoy it after so many years have passed.
Making your holiday keepsakes even more special
We have focused on the Christmas season, but for those of other cultures who do not observe Christmas, many of the same ideas may be used to decorate for the fall season. They will add a special warmth to the home and make it more inviting.
It is amazing how special small things are and how they add to our enjoyment. Our first grandson made a Thanksgiving turkey from a pine cone with a colored paper head, tail feathers and pipe cleaner legs. Another grandson later made a turkey from paper, and a granddaughter colored a special turkey for my wife. Every year, these treasures are removed from storage and carefully placed to be enjoyed by all in remembrance of their loving presentation to a special grandmother many years ago.
When a Christmas tree is selected, it invariably needs some trimming of the lower limbs to fit in a stand. Save those trimmings for decorations. They can be used on wreaths and I always make a spray with a large red bow to decorate the mailbox.
Nothing represents the holiday season more than celebrating with good friends, the smell and enjoyment of good food, the fragrance of a fresh-cut tree and a crackling fire in the fireplace. Make your holiday season special with some attention to using natural, environmentally-friendly items that you collect from your property. Each one will have a special significance because of where it came from and will add to your holiday enjoyment.
Photos submitted by L. Woodrow Ross.