It’s the ornaments, remembered for years and years, taken in and out of musty boxes, that I miss most about the Christmas trees of my childhood… even the tackiest ones. Like the bagel.
In the third grade around Christmas time, my teacher, Mrs. Mifsud, gave every student a bagel. She then brought forward a copious amount of festive adornments: fake evergreen sprigs, plastic red holly berries, gold bells, glittery bows, and tinsel. Each child was told to decorate the bagel, which acted like a wreath, with whatever holiday craft supply they desired. The bagels returned to us after a weekend with Mrs. Mifsud, given to us as hard, shellacked, inedible ornaments. I had that bagel for probably a decade (in perfect condition, might I add) before I reluctantly agreed to throw it out.
But what if that decoration had remained edible? What if we had stuck real sprigs of evergreen and berries in it?
Karen and I got together to create popcorn strings and birdseed ornaments, both of which can be used for a short indoor stint and then sent outdoors for the secondary purpose of helping to feed overwintering birds. For Christmas or solstice or simply out of a love for wildlife and winter, here are a couple homemade holiday ideas.
- Wild bird seed
- Suet (the recipe we used does not use suet)*
- Cookie cutters
- Cookie sheet
- Large bowl
- Wax paper
The birdseed ornaments were easy to put together: we mixed the ingredients, filled cookie-cutters with the mix, inserted wooden pegs (an Ikea purchase reuse) for holes, tamped down with waxed paper, and then set in the freezer for an hour to set. This particular birdseed ornament recipe is a widely circulated one, in part because of its aesthetics and in part because of its “no-mess” selling points. But after making them, I did bit more research and found that it's not the best for our wild birds. Corn syrup is not ideal due to the high amount of sugar, whereas the gelatin comes up non-toxic but not ideal either. So while these ornaments are attractive, and will still provide overwintering birds energy, our final recommendation is to use this recipe that employs regular ol’ suet.
Popcorn & Cranberry Garland
- Local popping corn – popped without salt or butter
- Frozen local cranberries (fresh is okay too!)
- Ribbon or waxed thread (I used tooth floss)
- A thimble
Popcorn and cranberry garland are also simple but beautiful tree decorations that can gain a second life! The popcorn, which is best strung while stale, gets eaten by wildlife while the cranberries are biodegradable and natural. Stringing them together was simple especially with the thimble. The real challenge was popping the perfect popcorn. We found a little secret trick about how to make the best stovetop popcorn, which will be useful for another one of our winter surprises!
Candle Cheer Mason Jars
- Mason jars
- Beeswax candles (we found our Century Wax candles at the Toronto Christmas Market)
- Chalk markers
- Essential oils such as cedar, frankincense (optional)
These jars were quick and fun to make and you can customize them with whatever message you'd like. We added a couple drops of essential oil into the candles to add to the experience, but beeswax candles are sumptuous smelling as is. Then when you're done, wash the message off with a wet cloth and reuse for any of your mason jar needs: drinking mugs, homes for spices, canning supplies, or terrariums. Make sure to always keep burning candles attended and to only keep the bands, not the lids, on during burning.
Have you found all our holiday inspiration secrets? Visit the tree! And happy homemade holidays from the Greenbelt!
-- Jenny Chan