Advice From Mom: Traditional Christmas Crafts - Pomanders and Herb Balls

by Rae Osenbaugh


Note: These recipes originated at the "In Season" website. We want to thank them for their generosity in allowing us to reprint them here. The "In Season" site (www.inseason.com) contains a number of interesting projects and ideas for all seasons and holidays. You'll be glad you visited!

Making Traditional Pomanders for Christmas

Pomanders have been used since the Middle Ages. The pomanders that we make today are rooted in Colonial and Victorian times. During those times, pomanders were not only decorative but also useful to cover up bad odors.

They will serve that same useful purpose today, keeping a closet or little used room fragrant with spices and citrus. Apples were frequently used as the pomander base during the Colonial period because oranges were too expensive. Pomanders today are usually made from oranges. You could choose to make your pomanders from:

  • apples

  • oranges

  • lemons

  • limes

  • crab apples

  • kumquats

The smaller pomanders can be hung on the Christmas tree or tied onto packages.

Supplies needed:

  • fruit for base whole cloves

  • powdered/ground spices such as

  • cloves

  • cinnamon

  • ginger

  • nutmeg

  • powdered/ground orris root>
  1. Mix the spices and orris root together. This mixture will help your pomander dry and increase its fragrance. It also helps preserve the pomander. Use about one part orris root to four parts spice mixture.

  2. Select firm, ripe fruit with no blemishes.

  3. Use a skewer of some sort to poke holes in the fruit.

  4. Push the stem of the clove into the fruit.

  5. Place the cloves close together on the fruit. This is a slow, but pleasant process. Try to complete each fruit in one session.

  6. When the orange or apple is completely covered with cloves, roll it in the spice and orris root mixture.

  7. Leave it in the spices.

  8. Put the fruit and spices in a cool, dark place.

  9. Each day, until the fruit dries, roll it in the spices.

When the pomanders are dry, tie a bright ribbon around them and heap in bowl. You can also run a ribbon through the pomanders and use the ribbon to hang them on the Christmas tree.

  1. If you want a stronger citrus fragrance, combine the traditional pomander described above with more contemporary designs.

  2. A quick, pretty pomander can be made by placing cloves in a decorative pattern around an orange. This version does not cover the fruit with cloves and will not last.

  3. The traditional pomander can be stored for years.

Herb balls for the Christmas Tree

Supplies needed:

  • styrofoam balls any size

  • tacky white glue (Elmer's or Highlander Styro-Stix)

  • dried herbs or potpourri or dried rose petals or dried small flowers

  • ribbon, string, or cord for hanger loops

  • straight pins

Making herbal decorations for the Christmas tree brings the warmth and fragrance of the herb garden to the Christmas tree. Some herbs, like rosemary, are associated with Christmas through legend. It is said that Mary, Josph and Jesus stopped to rest during their flight from Bethlehem. Mary spread her blue cloak on a rosemary bush. Since that time, rosemary has had a blue blossom in her honor. Thyme is associated with Christmas, according to legend, because Joseph cut branches from a wild thyme bush to make a bed for Mary. Sweet woodruff is said to have been used in the bed for the baby Jesus. Lavender received its lovely fragrance when Mary spread freshly washed laundry on it to dry. No matter which herbs and flowers you choose to use in your Christmas decorations, they will bring delicate and subtle colors and fragrances to your celebration of this season.

Herb balls - Herb Christmas tree balls

  1. Gather the supplies and herbs.

  2. Spread some paper on the table. This is messy.

  3. If you are using tiny flowers, such as lavender buds: Spread glue on a small section of the ball. Roll it in the flowers or press flowers to the glue. Repeat until the ball is covered. Let it dry.

  4. If you are using flowers with a small, sturdy stem, such as chamomile or oregano: put a thin coat of glue on the ball. Stick the flower stem into the ball. The glue will help hold the stem in the ball and will also support the flower on the ball. Repeat until the ball is covered. Let it dry. This procedure is time-consuming.

  5. If you are using small leaves, such as eucalyptus, or rose petals: Spread glue on a small section of the ball. Press the individual petals or leaves to the glue. Repeat until the ball is covered. Let it dry.

  6. If you are using potpourri, adapt the above processes to the ingredients in the potpouuri.

  7. If you are using tiny rosebuds, you will have to use hot glue. Beware. Hot glue will melt the styrofoam. This process is tricky and dangerous. It is very easy to burn your fingers on the glue or the melting styrofoam. You have to place the rosebuds on the glue very quickly and hold them until the glue "grabs" the buds. ***This process is not recommended for children.***

  8. After the balls are dry, decorate with ribbon. You may choose to add a simple loop at the top of the ball. Cut a length of ribbon, maybe 4 or 5" long. Put one ribbon end on top of the other, forming a circle. Stick the straight pin through the ribbon and into ball. Depending on the amount of glue and herbs on the ball, this may be moderately difficult. Be sure the pin is securely in the ball, not just in the herbs. Use two pins, if necessary. You may add a bit of glue under the ribbon and on top of the pin to be sure the ribbon will be securely attached. ***This process is not recommended for children.*** You may glue a small bow or bit of herbs or a flower on top of the pin to hide it. Use the loop to hang the ball on the tree. 9.You may choose to ignore the ribbon hanger and just pile the balls in bowl of greenery.

As you work with the herbs, the warmth of your hands will release the fragrance of the herbs--the clean, light scent of lavender, the piny spiciness of rosemary, the menthol of eucalyptus or the clean summer hay smell of sweet Annie.

The colors and fragrances of the herbs are quiet and relaxing, something we all can benefit from in this season.


Rae is our house Mom here at Dollar Stretcher. She provides wisdom and organization to our sometimes crazy publication!

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