Decorate for the holidays with natural elements

Now that we’ve consumed millions of turkeys, waited in line to buy things, shopped at small businesses and bought even more stuff online from the comfort of our homes, many people turn their attention to bedecking their halls to bring about the spirit of the holidays.

Bright colors, knick-knacks and sparkly things are all part of the great holiday festooning. But you’ll notice, in large part, natural elements are a part of the decorating.

From the Christmas trees and wreaths to branches and other natural elements, people bring nature inside this time of year (even if it is artificial).

There are several good reasons why we haul perfectly good trees and shrubs inside this time of year (or their artificially constructed impostors).

First off, many Christmas traditions come from December celebrations of other, older religions that venerated the natural world. The timing of Christmas was chosen by the early church to coincide with several other religious observances in an attempt to convert more people to Christianity.

Several pagan religions, which were attuned to natural phenomena, all celebrated around the time of the Winter Solstice (the darkest day) as either a celebration of the darkness or hope for the return of light. Trees and shrubs were often part of these celebrations.

The use of natural elements, especially evergreen trees and shrubs, are three-fold.

First, many of the plants had spiritual or historic importance to adherents of the pagan religions. Second, they were available. And finally, bringing in evergreen boughs and trees were a sign that life would re-emerge and a rebirth would occur after a long winter filled with death and gloom.

When you are using real natural plant materials, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, evergreens will need to stay green and fresh throughout the season. It is important to not decorate too early, as it gets harder to keep cut evergreen fresh the older it gets.

For cut branches used as garlands and other decorations, soaking them in water for a few hours to overnight will help replace moisture from sitting at the shop or, if you are collecting your own, a long dry fall.

Put them in buckets or even fill the bathtub and soak them. After you put them in their final place, it is a good idea to mist them daily with a spray bottle of water to help reduce water loss.

For Christmas trees, you’ll want to keep them in a stand that holds quite a bit of water. You need about 1 quart of water per inch of tree trunk diameter. Check the water level daily and fill as needed.

One of the big myths people fall for is to put stuff in the water to “help” the tree. These range from aspirin to sugar to bleach. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A research study by Penn State revealed cut Christmas trees stay fresher and greener longer with just plain tap water. The study found adding things actually decreased the lifespan of the tree.

Keeping cut evergreen branches and trees fresh and green is especially important if you are using lights with them. Dried-out evergreen needles can easily catch fire from the heat of traditional Christmas lights.

You don’t have to stick to just evergreens to decorate. Using tree branches, leaves, driftwood, pine cones, nuts and fruits are an excellent way to incorporate natural elements into holiday displays.

And don’t forget the holiday houseplants. Amaryllis, paperwhites and Christmas cactus can all add holiday charm. Just be creative. Using natural elements is a great way to express your creativity in a tasteful and beautiful manner.

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