Day 8: Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations? Reuse, reuse, reuse! Save those bows, ribbons, and gently used wrapping paper and make them last as long as you can! THEN buy second hand items, or better, make your own decorations!

Using a little creativity, so many items can be reused or upcycled and made into beautiful decorations, from old sweaters to small bits of ribbon to scraps of paper. Don’t forget about lawn debris! If you’re lucky enough to have access to some pine trees, use fallen branches or pine cones to make charming decorations that don’t negatively impact the environment!


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Christmas Decoration History:


Early decorations tended to use what was at hand: apples, wool, cotton, thread, gilded walnuts and even home-baked cookies.

The original [Christmas] lights were made of brightly flickering candles weaving fairy-like shadows around dim rooms. The threat of fire ushered in a special craft of metal candle-holders designed to keep candles steady and prevent wax from dripping. A brief experiment with gas lights was disastrous – the lights kept blowing up until finally, in the 1880s, Thomas Edison (or his assistant, depending on the version) lit up what is believed to be the first string of electric Christmas lights.

By the mid-1950s most decorations were mass produced, often in China, and many people, especially among the growing urban middle classes, had lost the art, the time or the desire to ‘make’ things from wood or paper for their tree.


Make your own dough ornaments!

Just make sure you compost anything that can’t be stored until next year. Remember the idea is to not contribute ANYTHING to landfill, so if you don’t have the ability to compost, stick to materials that can be reused year after year.




Upcycle Christmas Cards!


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Don’t REcycle perfectly usable Christmas cards, instead, UPcycle them into beautiful Christmas tree ornaments. This was a Victorian tradition that unfortunately went out of fashion with the commercialization of Christmas and mass-manufacturing of cheap plastic ornaments.


Upcycled Paper Snowflakes:


Photo Source: Tifani Lyn



Another tradition is using decoratively peeled oranges and cloves to spruce up your center piece or add a little charm to your coffee table.

Spiced Pomander Oranges

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Spiced Pomander Oranges make lovely decorations and work as wonderful all natural air fresheners. But it’s a little sad knowing these oranges are going to get moldy in a few days and need to be composted. Seems a bit wasteful. One tip to make them last is to shake them in a container of powdered orrisroot (available at most health food stores) and hang them to dry, which will preserve the aroma for about a year. But I’ve only found orrisroot in plastic tubs. Not ideal.
Instead, why not make them with the kids a day before Christmas, store them in the fridge over night, display them Christmas day, and then make them into a clove spiced orange jam (Recipe here).
And don’t toss the orange peels! They can be made into delicious citrus peel candy!
Candied Citrus Peel Recipe:
  • 1 cup of orange peel, cut into thin slices, ribbons, or curls
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (find in bulk aisle, or packaged in paper!)
  • 1/4 cup of tap water, plus 4-5 extra cups for cooking peels.
  1. Place orange peels in a medium sauce pan and pour in just enough water to cover the peels. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Cook over high heat for ten minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for another ten minutes. Drain. Repeat this process two more times. (Save this water and add to your vinegar cleaning solution for a citrus scent!) 
  2. In a separate saucepan, heat sugar and 1/4 cup water over high heat until boiling. Pour in the orange peels and reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove peel with slotted spoon and dry on wire rack overnight. Store in airtight container. They can last for over a month in the fridge. 




Our top 10 favorite plastic-free decorating ideas:


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Traditional Decorations:

Today we can take a little inspiration from the past. If you like history, I recommend watching all 3 episodes of “Victorian Farm Christmas.” But if you’re in a rush, here are two parts where they demonstrate how they made Christmas decorations in Victorian England. Though I don’t necessarily recommend most of these decorating methods, especially the ones involving pee (yes pee), these clips are inspiring because they allow us to think outside the box when using household materials to create beautiful decorations. The paper lantern idea, however, is awesome.


How Christmas poppers were originally made

Victorian Christmas decorations






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