Foraging for Holiday Cheer – Decorating with Nature and Found Objects

This year marks the third holiday season that we’re in our new little house. We moved in November two years ago, so the holiday cheer was relatively muted due to our need to acquire furniture and other more vital household items. We did not skip the wreath, however, and ever since then in the tradition of our first year in our first home, I’ve been creatively “foraging” holiday decorations to create more cheer on the cheap. In this post I’ll share two simple steps to forage for holiday cheer, and then I’ll share some examples of how I’ve used my foraged goodies.

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

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Step 1: Ask Your Friendly Christmas Tree Vendor

Step one in saving money on holiday decorations takes place with your local Christmas tree vendor. Simply ask for scraps. It’s pretty common for a Christmas tree to have a few low-hanging branches at the bottom of the tree that need to be snipped before it comes into your home. Your Christmas tree vendor is not dying to keep those branches. In fact, there are often piles of them hiding around the corners of those candy cane-striped tents. The folks working there will be happy for you to take some off their hands. I always err on the side of too much so I don’t have to go back — I’d say to take 6 or 7 fanned-out branches of evergreen. You’ll be surprised at how handy they are.

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

I love Christmas tree hunting every year!

Step 2: Keep Your Eyes Open and Good Scissors Handy

The level of difficulty in this step will vary based on the location from which you’re reading this. I happen to live in the Bay Area where plants that create beautiful red berries this time of year abound. I learned this foraging trick from my mom. When we were kids, she would scout out red berry bushes in and around our neighborhood, gather up some branches, and use them for Christmas decorations. The ones she found dried really beautifully on solid branches, so she was able to use them year after year. The ones I’ve found aren’t quite that nice, but they’re so easy to access that I don’t mind getting new ones each year. 

You can also scavenge pine cones (watch out for sap and bugs!), whole unshelled nuts like walnuts, pecans, and almonds, sprigs of rosemary, holly, and even mistletoe in some areas. All of these things can serve as pretty accents to create holiday cheer in your home. 

Be creative with this step!

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a BudgetFor example, I have a teeny tiny pomegranate bush outside that makes the littlest pomegranates you’ve ever seen. They really aren’t worth eating (maybe they will be in like 5 years), so I use them in my decorations this time of year.  Another example: I tend to do my shopping at discount places like TJMaxx and Ross, and this year (no lie!) I saw a branch spray-painted in silver on sale for $19.99. That’s not a joke. If you want a silver branch, go get yourself some spray paint and make your own! 

You can “forage” things inside your house too, or collect some “found” objects to repurpose into holiday decor. This year I’m using cute boxes from a gift we got last year, stacking them up with a nice bow, and voilà! More decorations. I’m also filling bowls that sit on tables in my house year-round with those unshelled nuts I mentioned before. I don’t know why that look is “festive,” but it totally works if you use everything creatively. (examples shown below)

4 Ways to Use Your Foraged Goodies

1. Make Your Own Wreath

Last year, I shared a step-by-step instructional post on how to make a holiday wreath. This year, I used the same wreath “skeleton,” the same pine cones (for the third year in a row), fir branches, and berries. You can find these wire wreath backings at most craft stores if you don’t have one leftover from years past. I found a nice spool of holiday ribbon with wire in it for the bow at a discount store for $5 and added that cute touch this year. You can learn how to make a holiday bow of your own at the end of this post. Check out my cute gif of this year’s process!

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

2. Spruce up Side Tables and End Tables

It’s amazing what a few little holiday accents here and there will do to your day-to-day home decor. I have strategically placed fir branches and red berries between bowls and added votive candles for a holiday glow. 

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

I’ve also used the fir and berries to accent the few store-bought decorations I have. I have these beautiful glass trees and some fun candle holders with silver place mats that I use in a few places around the house this time of year. The little touch of nature really takes these festive pieces to the next level.

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

3. Add the Berries to Your Tree

I also learned this trick from my mom. She’s basically Martha Stewart when it comes to decorating for any occasion, creatively pooling resources and ideas from whenever she can. She’s not the most tech-savvy, so this involves a file folder with magazine clippings instead of an Etsy page, but it works for her. For the last few years, she’s been using pheasant pelts (that my dad hunted — don’t forget, I’m from Texas) as part of the holiday decor. Sounds crazy, but it’s really cool looking and makes for a very unique tree. Anyway, back to the berries. If you get long enough branches of berries, you can just set them in there like I have in the pictures below. 

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

4. Make Something New!

I had some larger fir branches left over after making my wreath along with some of the snipped off smaller branches, so I decided to make one more decoration for my mailbox. It’s a super simple bundle with a nice festive bow. I started with a few larger branches and a few smaller ones, a few berries, and the ribbon. I tied the larger twigs together first, then some of the smaller ones toward the middle of the larger ones to fill in any holes at the top. Then I covered the twine with more branches tied to the bottom, tied the berries in front of that, and went to work on the bow. 

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

click image for a larger view


For the Bow

I promised I’d give you a step-by-step on the bow. It seems easy, but some people have a hard time getting the bow straight — the wire sewn into the ribbon on each side helps keep things straight and perky. Be careful that the ribbon is straight where the knot in the bow comes together. That’s a good way to make sure it’s a nice, neat bow — and it’s also a good way to tell which side’s the front and which side’s the back — the twisty part of the knot should go in the back while the loopy part (shown on the left) should go in the front. Thread the bottoms through the knot in opposite directions to make a bow with 4 loops, 2 on each side. Make sure you thread the twine through the back (twisty) side of the bow before you affix it to the bundle. (shown in the small picture on the left above the mail box.) 

Creatively Foraged Holiday Decorations on a Budget

click image for a larger view

Your turn! 

What have you used to decorate this season? Anything found or foraged? Any great deals you’ve found a your local discount store? Anything fun you’ve repurposed for this holiday season?

Please share your ideas below, and don’t forget to show me on Instagram with the #dailywellbeing hashtag!

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