It’s here! The holiday season is officially here! Tag Sale Tastes is counting down to Christmas with daily posts (updated for 2017) containing simple ideas to brighten the holidays for you and those around you. (Of course, I’d love it if along the way you’d share your ideas with me.) I’d like to think of this Christmas Countdown as a sort of blog Advent Calendar.
According to my research the word “advent” is Latin in origin, meaning “coming toward.” Christians were so awed by the importance of Christmas and what it celebrated, that they needed a period beforehand to prepare for it, giving themselves time to reflect on it as well as teach their children about the significance of it. In the late 1800s, a German woman made an Advent Calendar for her son Gerhard Lang that consisted of 24 candies stuck onto a sheet of cardboard. As an adult, Gerhard remembered how much he loved receiving his Advent Calendar and how it reminded him every day that Christmas was coming. In 1908, he and a partner printed what is believed to be the first printed Advent Calendar with a little colored picture for each day in Advent. Later they added the little windows that are still popular today. The first Sunday of Advent varies from year to year, falling somewhere between November 27 and December 3 — Advent Calendars compromise for this by beginning on December 1.
For the first day of the Christmas Countdown, I’m going natural — holiday plants are an inexpensive and elegant way to decorate for the season.
Poinsettias are everywhere! Pick up a few and instantly brighten your surroundings. One of my favorite varieties is called Winter Rose — you can see why:
I found these two stunning varieties this year:
An evergreen wreath is another easy way to usher in the holidays. Wreaths have been a Christmas tradition for centuries. The word ‘wreath’ is derived from the old English word “writhen,” meaning “to writhe” or “to twist.” The circular shape of the Christmas wreath, with no beginning or end, is said to symbolize Christ’s eternal love and life never ending. I got a beautiful one at Costco this year for $14.99 — it smells so fresh and pine-y, and looks so pretty on my door:
If you are lucky (or unfortunate) enough — all depends on how you look at it — to have mistletoe growing in a nearby tree, snip a branch and hang some with a ribbon. You never know, you might get lucky! (Unfortunately, mistletoe grows in the Chinese lace bark elms in front of my house, and every year a group of very loud neighbors wanders down and throws all sorts of things at the tree to try to knock some mistletoe loose. Neither I nor my dogs find this holiday tradition amusing.)
Rosemary Christmas trees are available at grocery stores and garden centers. In addition to looking festive, they smell great, and you can snip a sprig here and there to use in cooking and baking. My neighbor surprised me with one the other day, and I love to pat it when I walk by to release its fragrance:
You could also force some amaryllis or paperwhite bulbs. They, too, are widely available in garden centers and grocery stores, and kits for growing them can often be found at Target, Walmart, and other similar retailers. Look for big fat bulbs with shoots and/or buds poking out. If you plant some now, you can have gorgeous blooms by Christmas, (Directions for forcing the paperwhites are here.) Some people have luck planting them in their yard and getting them to rebloom year after year. I am not one of those people.
Paperwhites getting ready to put out buds
Fragrant paperwhite flowers
Striking amaryllis getting ready to show its colors
Amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs also make lovely, budget-friendly holiday gifts. If you hurry, you too can have pretty blooms for the holidays.
There’s lots of other plants and natural elements that you can use to decorate for the holidays — hollies, berry branches, magnolia leaves, white tallow berries, evergreens, pine cones, cinnamon sticks, birch branches, just to name a few. Ditch the silks, and use your imagination to combine natural elements to create beautiful holiday arrangements.