Mistletoe, holly bushes, and live Christmas trees bring green living plants into our homes during the holidays. Even if you are not having a full house for a holiday feast, this season, if you add these beautiful touches to your home, you are bound to feel more alive and excited! The smell of our pine Christmas tree brings me just as much joy as the sight of it. Handmade wreaths and table bouquets are a lovely way to bring your close family together for an activity that will lead to more beauty in your home. And don’t forget the holiday drinks which use herbs and spices!
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe dates back thousands of years. There are many healing properties in mistletoe. The Greeks and the Romans made a balm from it and believed it to cure epilepsy, ulcers, and menstrual cramps.
“Mistletoe’s associations with fertility and vitality continued through the Middle Ages, and by the 18th century, it had become widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. Just how it made the jump from sacred herb to holiday decoration remains up for debate, but the kissing tradition appears to have first caught on among servants in England before spreading to the middle classes. As part of the early custom, men were allowed to steal a kiss from any woman caught standing under the mistletoe, and refusing was viewed as bad luck. Yet another tradition instructed the merrymakers to pluck a single berry from the mistletoe with each kiss, and to stop smooching once they were all gone.” History.com
This custom wouldn’t go well in today’s world where we (thankfully) teach consent and expect it among teens and adults. Also, in a pandemic, kissing is frowned upon by those who are not in your sacred bubble.
This holiday favorite combines flavors of orange, cranberry, star anise, ginger, and cinnamon, depending on the variation you choose. Hot flavorful wine is incredibly soothing on a cold evening. Heck, even on a cold day, if you choose! Whether your family is gathering on Zoom or enjoying the holidays together, this is a wonderful recipe to make together or to share with your virtual guests ahead of time.
HOW TO MAKE MULLED WINE:
- Ingredients: One bottle of red wine (can be cheap). One orange peeled and sliced. A Cinnamon stick or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Whole cloves and star anise (you choose amount). Cardamon pods, if you like. Maple syrup, honey, or sugar (you choose amount). Optional: add some brandy or bourbon. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and give them a quick stir.
- Simmer. Heat until the wine just barely reaches a simmer over medium-high heat. *Avoid letting it bubble in any way — you don’t want to boil off the alcohol. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes or up to 3 hours.
- Strain and season. Use a strainer and remove and discard the orange slices, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and ginger. Taste your mulled wine and stir in your desired amount of extra sweetener if needed.
- Serve. Serve warm in mugs and topped with your favorite garnishes.
There are more ideas out there for making your wreath special this season than you could imagine. Check out this list of 72 ideas that you can make from home for a DIY day. From spray painting interwoven twigs with glued pinecones, to using fresh pine branches tied together with berries, you will likely have a hard time choosing which one to make for your front door. These make wonderful holiday gifts if you don’t want to stop at just one!
Holiday Potted Plants
Whether you are searching for your home or a gift, several plant varieties bring on the feel of the holidays. Most of us think of the poinsettia. However, there are many different types of plants that are wonderful this time of year. Add a few to your home to bring a little bit of the outside in.
- White Jasmine
- Fiddleleaf Fig
- Peace Lily
- Christmas Cactus
- Donkey’s Tail
Holiday Bouquet with Herbs
Take any floral arrangement and add a sprig or two of herbs for a fragrant bouquet to leave a delicious scent in your home. Or create an edible arrangement for your table.
- Take a simple mixture of green stems and add whole stalks of rosemary or mint. Tie a white bow around a clear glass vase and you have a beautifully simple arrangement. Twine is lovely around a vase or mason jar as well.
- Any bouquet of white flowers can get a facelift with tall stems of sage. Don’t forget to add bling to that vase!
- Dried lavender makes an excellent addition to pastel bouquets, such as pink and peach roses or white Cala Lilys.
There are a few tips that are helpful to do before going out to find your tree. First, decide where you will be placing it. Measure from the floor to the ceiling to make sure it will fit. Do not place near a heat source. Consider adding a rug under to protect your hardwood floors or carpet from water and pine needles. Set up your tree stand (if you have one) or buy one. Take the tape measure with you and rope to tie up your tree. Consider bringing a tarp or blanket to place on your roof to protect it from sap. Check out more tips at The Spruce.
- Choose a tree with space between the branches to leave space to hang ornaments.
- Look for a fresh tree. This means the leaves are green and dry. There are no brown spots. If you tug on a branch, it doesn’t fall off.
- Have someone (or yourself) make a fresh cut at the bottom to make it easier for your tree to soak up water.
- Water, water, water that tree! For the first week, you may need to add water daily as it will be very thirsty. I like to use a long skinny glass water bottle to slide under the tree easily without spilling on the floor. Place your finger in to determine the water levels if you cannot see inside.
- Decorate by placing stringed lights on first. Then begin the fun of beautifying the tree with your family. Don’t forget to turn on the holiday music!
Master Herbalist, Jennifer Vollbrecht is a wonder with all things herbal. Incorporating herbs and natural remedies into your life is a great way to stay grounded and connected to the earth. Jennifer Vollbrecht is the owner of You, Me, and Uni. She sells two tea blends and a book on Feminism, which she co-authored with her sister. Uni teas and this fabulous book make wonderful holiday gift ideas and can be ordered and mailed directly to the ones you love. Meditative State of Mind and Know Your Gut, Trust Your Gut are available for $18 and come in an airtight bag.
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden is a writer, editor and the owner of Walden Writes For Women.