How To Decorate For Christmas With Natural Objects

A Christmas tree decorated with natural objects

Image Credit: Gabriella Clare Marino

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy your Christmas knowing that your entire festive decor was as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible? That all your decorations were made from 100% natural materials, compostable and biodegradable?

One of the many ways that we are encouraged to celebrate Christmas is by filling our houses with cheap, single use and disposable decorations made from plastic.  Think of tinsel, of inflatable Santas, plastic window stickers, baubles and garlands.

But you do not have to bedeck your house with gaudy plastic and flashing LEDs.  Christmas has been around a lot longer than plastic has, so what did people do before we discovered synthetic polymers made from fossil fuels?

For the most traditional ideas on how to decorate your home for Christmas in an environmentally friendly way, the best way to find inspiration is to go back into history; before there were mass produced plastic trinkets, we decorated our homes with the plants that were still green during the winter months.

When we sing about the holly and the ivy in the Christmas carol, it is because they were growing at Christmas. We choose to put a fir tree in our houses because they are evergreen, as alive in mid-December as it is whilst giving us shade in the summer. We kiss under the mistletoe because it is green and bears berries in December, symbolising life and fertility even when it is cold and the days are short.

And then, when Christmas is over, your natural decorations can be replanted, composted or put into your green bin, where they can go back into the soil as nutrients to grow more plants for next year.

 How To Decorate For Christmas With Natural Objects

Just Before We Start...

Obviously you can do your Christmas decorating with anything that you have grown in your own garden, balcony or allotment, or have bought.

However, just because plants are outdoors, that does not mean that you can help yourself to them. You should not take away greenery from anywhere without permission.  That is whether it’s in someone else’s garden, on a farmer’s land or anywhere belonging to an organisation such as The National Trust, or any land run by a charity or an attraction. Even if you have paid to get in.

If it on public land, such as a local park or a street. It’s OK to pick up items on the ground such as windfalls, twigs and pinecones, but it’s not OK to start cutting branches off.

Oh! Christmas Tree!

The first step in decorating your home for Christmas with natural materials is to choose a real Christmas tree. The most environmentally friendly are those which are sold with roots, or better still planted out in your garden and dug up each year and brought inside for a just few weeks.

Chrsitmas tree with natural sdecorations

Image Credit: Gabriella Clare Marino

A mini live Christmas tree can often be bought at your usual supermarket, a local florist or online at Gardening Express.  It will looks magnificent alone or as the focal point of a display, and even a tiny tree will still give you the divine smell of pine trees filling your home. You can even have a go at growing your own.

Mini Real Chrsitmas Tree

Image Credit: Toa Heftiba

Evergreen Branches

Evergreen branches can look sumptuous dressing a window sill, mantelpiece or woven around the stair rail. Choose any type of fir, which is abundant at this time of year. 

Mantelpiece with a fir swag

Image Credit: Toa Heftiba

Eucalyptus is another evergreen that will fill your house with its scent, works brilliantly in a wreath and will look fabulous placed in a vase or jug.

Eucalyptus wreath

Image Credit: Georgia de Lotz

Holly

Holly is another evergreen that will look amazing on a mantel, a window sill or placed in a jar. If you can find a branch laden with berries, it will look even more festive.

Holly

Image Credit: Tobias Tullius

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is another plant that is strongly associated with Christmas. Contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to pick it if it is growing wild in the UK. However most mistletoe in the UK is farmed, so if you want to use it, buy it – it is the grower’s livelihood after all. In the wild Mistletoe tends to grow very high up in trees, so it’s best just to leave it there.

Hang your mistletoe somewhere that you can stand underneath it.

Mistletoe

Image Credit: Annie Spratt

Wreath

It is traditional to hang a wreath on your front door at Christmas, and they make beautiful and welcoming décor inside the house as well. Freshly picked twigs and small branches are often flexible enough to make into wreath, and you can find some instructions for making your own wreath here.

Making A Wreath

Image Credit: Hillary Ungson

Seasonal Fruit & Vegetables

Fruit and vegetables are decorative all year round, and seasonal fruit such as apples, satsumas, squashes and persimmons are in season in December and are attractive piled up in a generous heap in a fruit bowl.

Satsumas in a bowl

Image Credit: Hanna Balan

Pinecones,  Acorns and Conkers

Pinecones, Acorns and Conkers evoke the feeling of Christmas for so many of us and can be found on pavements and in parks to pick up – if the squirrels don’t get the acorns first, and you are organised enough to have grabbed them a month or two earlier. Some people like to decorate them with paint and glitter, but I prefer them as they come off the trees, and they also can last for years rather than needing to be composted after twelfth night.

Pinecones on a dish

Image Credit: Mathilde Langevin

Twigs and Branches

Twigs and small branches of fir will add a festive touch when placed in a jug, case or jar.

Fir branches in a jug

Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Bare twigs and branches, chosen for their symmetry and texture can look magnificently minimalist if that is your aesthetic, and have the advantage that they will not wither or drop their needles before the big day. Place in a vase or Mason jar and your décor is complete.  Again, some like to paint them but I prefer them au naturel.

Twigs and berries in a vase

Image Credit: Veronika Jorjobert

Another beautiful idea is to make star decorations, which you can hang either on your tree or around your house.  Many of the instructions you find will suggest gluing your twigs together, but for the most environmentally friendly decoration, tie your twigs together with cotton, twine or wool.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit has been used decoratively in houses at Christmas at least since Victorian times. The best know way to create a decoration is to slice up a citrus fruit - usually an orange, but a grapefruit or lemon would work just as well. Here are some instructions for making dried fruit slices.

Christmas tree with fruit slices

Image Credit: Annie Spratt

Nuts

If your family don’t have allergies, another tradition dating back to Victorian times is to have a bowl of nuts, still in their shells, available to offer to your guests at Christmas. A bowl with a selection of hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds will have an attractive variety of colours and textures. Leave a nutcracker in the bowl. Your décor can be eaten and the shells composted once Christmas is over. Mixed nuts can be found in most supermarkets around Christmas time.

Nuts and a Nutcracker

Image Credit: Monika Grabkowska

Berries

In nature, a branch may still bear its berries long after the leaves have gone – if the greedy birds have not got to them first! Festively red or white, they will fit in perfectly with Christmas décor and make a beautiful centrepiece.

Berries in a jug on a festive dinner table

Image Credit: Libby Penner

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