Christmastime. So many things to do and so little time. Christmas cards to write, holiday parties to attend, cookies to bake, gingerbread houses to make, presents to wrap, feasts to cook and Elfs to move around the shelves. All in the name of giving our kids the BEST. CHRISTMAS. EVER. And although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with creating a little bit of holiday magic for our kids (one of the highlights of our Christmas is building a troll house in the woods that we tend to daily), I’m also a big believer in keeping things simple – childhood and Christmas included. That’s why I’m going to share with you an old, simple craft that I used to make growing up in Scandinavia: pomander Christmas oranges. Among all the Christmas decorations to make with kids, I find that pomander oranges are by far the easiest and add the most holiday ambience to our home.
The first pomanders appeared in France during the Middle Ages and were made of gold or silver. Initially kept as religious keepsakes and worn around the neck to ward off disease, pomander balls were later used as air fresheners in closets and drawers to repel pests and keep clothing fresh. But the tradition of studding oranges with whole cloves and hanging them around the house at Christmastime only goes back to 17th century England, from where it eventually migrated to the American colonies. Pomander oranges are also used to celebrate the winter solstice and the return of light, as citrus fruits are symbols of the sun. Whatever holidays you choose to celebrate, a pomander orange will add an irresistible fragrance and cozy atmosphere to your home this time of the year. My kids loved making their oranges; chances are yours will too!
How to Make Pomander Christmas Oranges
- Whole cloves
- Piercing tool (toothpicks or a metal paper clip both work well)
1. Gather your supplies
Depending on your design, 1 oz of whole cloves is enough for 3-5 oranges. Obviously, the more cloves you use, the stronger the fragrance. Traditionally, fabric ribbon is tied around the pomander, but I’ve found that regular gift ribbon works just as well.
2. Tie the ribbon around the orange
Ribbon is optional if you instead of hanging your pomander prefer to display it as a centerpiece, but if you do use ribbon it’s a good idea to tie it on first. If you wait until after you’ve added the cloves, you might find that some of them are in the way of the ribbon.
3. Make a pattern using the piercing tool
Although my girls and I ended up putting our cloves in randomly, this is your chance to be creative. Using the piercing tool, make a pattern in the skin of the orange. For example, you can make spirals or straight lines in a decorative pattern. Or, your kids may just want to make a smiley face, and that’s OK too!
4. Push the cloves into the orange
This step is much easier on your fingertips if you don’t skip step 3 (we learned this the hard way). Make sure you don’t push too hard on the cloves, since that will crush them.
5. Cure the orange in a cool, dry place
Pomanders will eventually mold, but you can make them last longer by letting them hang dry in a cool place for a couple of weeks before putting them on display. In fact, a dry pomander orange is typically even more fragrant than a fresh one. Another trick to extend the life of your Christmas orange is to roll it in orrisroot powder, which acts as a preservative. For an even more fragrant pomander, try rolling it in this spice mixture.
6. Put it on display
Arrange the oranges with some pine cones and pine branches on a plate and use it as a centerpiece, or hang the pomanders in a window – the choice is yours. You can even hang a small pomander in the Christmas tree.
If you only have time to make one Christmas craft with the kids this year, pomanders are fun and easy. Conveniently, they also make wonderful kid-made gifts for grandparents and teachers, so by making a few and gifting them, you’re killing two birds with one stone. If that’s not a great hack to reduce that holiday stress, I don’t know what is!
P.S. Still way too many things on your to-do-list? Check out 5 Fool-Proof Ways to Beat Holiday Stress and Truly Enjoy the Season.