Our modern holiday celebrations are infused with layers of Christmases past—a melange of Victorian sentimentality and winter solstice celebrations pre-dating Christianity. However you celebrate, glimmering candle light, decorating with greenery, and sharing food with loved ones have remained constant.
Inspired by a simpler time, here are ideas for your family to create a cozy, nature-inspired place, using a rustic, less-is-more approach, to connect with the season and each other—and leave excess and waste out in the cold.
Keep it simple.
- Choose living over manufactured—no tinsel, no glitter, no plastic.
- Use what you already have.
- Challenge yourself to be waste-free.
Walk on the Wild Side*
Gather fallen branches and twigs, pine cones, and stones.
- Cut rounds of wood to make coasters for drinks, candle holders or vases, or trivets under hot dishes.
- Suspend a long branch from the ceiling, in the hall or above the table, wrap with mini lights, and hang decorations sparingly.
- Arrange long twigs in a tall vase—go big for drama or small for charming.
- Lash together three large, straight sticks at one end. Splay open to make a free-standing ‘teepee’ tree. String with lights and a few decorations.
*Be respectful of sensitive ecosystems when you gather materials. Only gather what has fallen or ask permission from neighbours or authorities first.
Burn the Right Candle
Use soy, beeswax, hemp, or coconut oil candles with a paper or cotton wick.
Many cheaper varieties use lead in their wicks, which release five times the amount of lead considered dangerous to children.
Raid the Kitchen
- Incorporate cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves for fragrant flourishes.
- String fresh cranberries, popcorn, and dried oranges.
- Use jars to hold candles, pinecones, and gifts.
- Line muffin tins with springs of green and herbs, and tuck in candles.
- Empty tin cans make great silvery vases and candle holders. Remove the top, smooth the edges, and perforate (carefully!) for a lacy effect, then wrap with ribbon or twine.
- Tuck fresh rosemary and a glass ball into whisks, and hang in the kitchen window with velvet ribbon.
Down the Garden Path
- Bring in a decorative urn or birdbath to hold evergreen and bare branches. (Put water in the bottom to keep them fresh.) Tie ribbon around the top.
- Create a vignette with a birdhouse, moss, and lights. Stand on a mirror tile or a round of wood.
- Use dried hydrangea blossoms instead of disposable poinsettias, flown in from faraway places.
- Snip fresh rosemary, sage, and bay leaves to tuck into vases, wreaths, and gifts.
Tie One On
Versatile, rough jute twine adds a lovely, rustic texture.
For a fresh, modern take, choose velvet or satin ribbon in apricot or pink instead of red, or soft moss green or pale blue instead of dark green. After the holidays, save it for next year.
- Wind it through your tree and wreaths.
- Wrap it around glass candle jars and vases.
- Run ribbon down the length of the dinner table.
- Use it to hang decorations and wrap gifts.
- Make garlands with wooden pegs to hold holiday cards.
Choose Living over Plastic
- Are usually locally grown;
- Can be recycled into mulch; and
- When potted, can be replanted in your garden and used again and again.
Set the Table
- Place a long branch down the middle, and tuck in candles, fresh herbs, and greenery.
- Line up a row or group of succulents in small pots, then accessorize. Also great on a windowsill or mantelpiece.
- Tuck fresh herbs in folded cloth napkins or under candles.
Sparkle and Shine
- Place mirrors under centerpieces and arrangements to reflect light and add volume.
- Sprinkle large crystal sugar or salt for ‘snow’.
- Pour glass beads or crystals in bowls or vases.
- Use cut glass or crystal bowls and vases.
- Hang crystals in windows to catch and toss sunlight.
Gifts of Health
Kindness for people and planet
A gym membership, yoga or meditation class
Sailing, kayaking, or swimming lessons
Basket of local, organic, healthy food products
- Curiosity & Learning
Arts and crafts classes
Kitchen capers—learn to bake bread, ferment foods, or can veggies
- A Helping Hand
Donate to charities that feed and shelter others or conserve and protect wildlife
Buy a meal or coffee for someone
Give a coat or blanket, socks and underwear to a shelter
Shovel an elderly neighbour’s driveway
- Go Natural
Wildflower seeds and native plants to attract bees and butterflies
A hummingbird feeder with a recipe for sugar syrup
Birdhouse to create safe places to nest
An eco-lifestyle kit (mug, straw, cloth bags, bamboo cutlery, etc.)
- Spend Time
Take a friend to the theatre or a concert
Arrange a picnic, go for a hike
Create a home date—watch a movie, do crafts, cook a meal