Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Natural Crafting and Wreaths Year 'Round

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach this year, we have an immense opportunity to use items that are characteristically natural, and that are often available from the garden in any area of America, for holiday crafting. You can use a variety of greenery, flowers, wild grasses, pinecones, nuts, and many other living materials either alone or in combination with purchased materials to make attractive wreaths and wall hangings in any season of the year. Some of these items will serve your home just as well in other seasons besides autumn, and far beyond the New Year celebrations of 2006.

Wreaths have been used to decorate the home and the human body itself much farther back in history than we can recall. We know that diadems, as they were called in the ancient cultures of Persia, came originally from Greece and the Greek word diadema, meaning a thing that is bound around. This symbolized royalty and was worn around the head of a royal bonnet or hat, but diadems were actually bands or wide strips of fabric at the time. The Greeks used leaves to make head garlands that were awarded as prizes during the ancient Greek Olympic Games. Julius Caesar wore a wreath himself. As time passed, other countries created a variety of headdresses and crowns. In the fifteenth century AD, the working class populations began wearing wreaths to honor religious holidays and to commemorate different occasions. This is where Thanksgiving, autumn and Christmas wreaths were popularized for the home. The tradition has spread to many cultures, for many occasions, all year long.

The holiday wreath is a tradition in many parts of the US and the world, but a Southwestern wreath can be used for autumn holidays and modified for other seasons of the year with add-ons and interchangeable decorations. Your basic wreath can be woven from prairie grasses that grow well in the Southwest, and these can last quite a long time. Long sections of one or more of these grasses can be twisted together in a spiral and then joined at the ends to form a circle or oval shape, held together with floral wire or picture hanging type wire.

Ribbon or raffia can be tied around the body of the wreath's circular arm at intervals, with some wire first applied around under it, if the arm is very large. From season to season, these ribbons, raffia, or a combination of both can be changed to different colors and textures. Ribbons might be wrapped the whole length the arm diagonally, as an alternative. Strips of dark or tan leather make attractive wrappings as well. Seasonal plants and flowers can be inserted at intervals around the wreath, using their stems and floral picks.

On top of that, you can add seasonal ornaments for Thanksgiving, then changing for Christmas or Hanukkah. To finish the piece, add a large bow of your favorite color(s) at either the top or the bottom of the wreath. For New Year's Eve, add some ornamental top hats and champagne classes from your local party store, along with a couple of full sized noisemakers.

To add to your decor enjoyment, try a Southwestern Christmas Tree. You could use a more traditional evergreen or fir and decorate it with Southwestern-design ornaments, but you might also consider trying a cactus as either a large or a smaller centerpiece Christmas Tree. If you have children at home, be sure to remove the lower thorns if you use a large cactus in a pot on the floor. You can stand pots of native grasses or other plants around the base of either a cactus or a fir tree, with bright bows tied around each pot, in place of the traditional cotton snow blankets. Smaller cacti could be decorated and kept on shelves and mantels.

For Southwestern ornaments on any kind of tree, look for native American Indian flutes, full sized, small but still authentic, or toy and Christmas-ornament versions. Add figures of the wolf, the bear, the bald eagle, the Thunderbird, kokopelli, mystic baskets, small adobe houses, horses, and similar images. String several lengths of tiny white lights first to resemble stars in the wide-open sky. Top it all off with shiny ball or fruit-shaped ornaments. Then for the tree topper, use the traditional star, a native headdress, or an American eagle. If you use a cactus in a sunny window area, you can decorate it for each coming holiday and move it outdoors as needed. For your wreath and Christmas Tree needs, visit your local nursery, party store, and department or specialty stores; and do not forget your own backyard for greenery!

Another good resource for ornaments and accessories around the year and around the world is Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Their web catalogue order system can be found at http://www.bronners.com. Many of the ornaments shown are accompanied by the history of associated holidays and legends.

The store in itself covers several acres, and inside there are hundreds of areas arranged by color, style, legend, tradition, country, faith, and holiday. The parking lots combine in lights and decorations to offer a Holiday Light Show 365 days a year, at no cost. You can view all of this online at their website. There is a lot of information and good reading offered there. Happy holidays!

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