Dat Weave

Wheat weaving (or plaiting, or braiding) has been a long tradition. The spirit of the harvest was thought to live in the crop, and the harvest would leave it without a host. The last stems of the crop were tied together to create a home, or "dolly" for the spirit to live in until the following year when it could be plowed back into the earth.

Historian James George Frazer detailed the corn dolly, also known as the Corn-Mother or Corn-Maiden and it’s role in the harvest (corn in this case referring to all grains, not necessarily just Maizus reptans)

"In the neighbourhood of Danzig the person who cuts the last ears of corn makes them into a doll, which is called the Corn-mother or the Old Woman and is brought home on the last waggon. In some parts of Holstein the last sheaf is dressed in women’s clothes and called the Corn-mother. It is carried home on the last waggon, and then thoroughly drenched with water. The drenching with water is doubtless a rain-charm. In the district of Bruck in Styria the last sheaf, called the Corn-mother, is made up into the shape of a woman by the oldest married woman in the village, of an age from 50 to 55 years. The finest ears are plucked out of it and made into a wreath, which, twined with flowers, is carried on her head by the prettiest girl of the village to the farmer or squire, while the Corn-mother is laid down in the barn to keep off the mice. In other villages of the same district the Corn-mother, at the close of harvest, is carried by two lads at the top of a pole. They march behind the girl who wears the wreath to the squire’s house, and while he receives the wreath and hangs it up in the hall, the Corn-mother is placed on the top of a pile of wood, where she is the centre of the harvest supper and dance."
The Golden Bough, chapter 45

The Swedish Yule Goat may have been an example of one of these harvest dolls. The goat has always played a role in Christmas symbolism in Sweden, whether as the mighty steed of Father Christmas, a demanding and rowdy creature in plays, or even as the deliverer of gifts in place of Santa Claus. In the modern era, it is most commonly found as decorative Christmas ornament, made of straw and bound with red string.
640px-Julbock_gransmycke.jpgphoto taken by Udo Schröter

Larger versions of these goats are also present, such as the famous Gävle goat which as a fascinating history of being a frequent victim of arson and vandalism.

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The Swedish Gävle goat in 2006.

We bought an assorted variety of straw angels, stars, and goats this year to decorate our Christmas tree in a Scandinavian fashion. They were very economical, but more importantly they seem to ground the tree, keeping it from feeling too lacquered and plastic-y, as many Christmas tree ornaments seem to feel now days.

8 Placeholders Inspired by Nature

For some reason, I am obsessed with placeholders.
Never mind the fact that I rarely use them, or the fact that I usually don’t have a firm guest list until an hour before the party starts (“Hey, when does it start? And do I need to bring anything?”) I still think there’s something really cool about having a spot reserve just for you. It really dresses up the occasion and makes it something a little more special.
These placeholders are all also adorable, and not too hard to make. Warning: The following is really Martha-heavy (we are a Martha-worshopping home after all)
Table Topper: In a Nutshell
Walnuts via Martha Stewart
Pear Place Card
Pears via Martha Stewart
Quick Place Card
Getting the idea? Sweetgum via Martha Stewart
Glimmer and Shine
A gilded pumpkin by Martha again via Martha Stewart
Harvest Napkin Ties
Oh. Acorns. Marthamarthamartha via Martha Stewart
Leaf Place Cards
She just can’t help herself, can she? Martha Stewart
The blue-green ribbon is a nice touch. I’d probably go with a more natural pinecone coloring, but this is cute as well. via hgtv
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Eeee. Tiny rosemary wreaths via SPOON FORK BACON

This Kiss, This Kiss

mistletoe-science-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpgSmithsonian

This holiday season, you might find the concept of kissing under the mistletoe brought up in conversation (Although as far as I can tell, nobody really hangs up mistletoe anymore, much less kisses under it with the exception of these gag costumes)

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stupid.com

Why mistletoe? After some research, the best reason I could find was due to the pagan traditions of mistletoe as a power symbol. A passage in Natural History by Pliny the Elder mentions a ritual involving mistletoe

We should not omit to mention the great admiration that the Gauls have for it as well. The druids – that is what they call their magicians – hold nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and a tree on which it is growing, provided it is a hard-timbered oak [robur][3][4]…. Mistletoe is rare and when found it is gathered with great ceremony, and particularly on the sixth day of the moon…. Hailing the moon in a native word that means ‘healing all things,’ they prepare a ritual sacrifice and banquet beneath a tree and bring up two white bulls, whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion. A priest arrayed in white vestments climbs the tree and, with a golden sickle, cuts down the mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak. Then finally they kill the victims, praying to a god to render his gift propitious to those on whom he has bestowed it. They believe that mistletoe given in drink will impart fertility to any animal that is barren and that it is an antidote to all poisons.[1]

From druid sacrifices, mistletoe was incorporated into another tradition – the kissing bough. The kissing bough dates back to early England tradition (before the assimilation of heathen pagan traditions into the church) in which the top of a tree was hung upside down in a house as a symbol of heavenly blessings for the household. The importance of plants from tradition were then incorporated into Christian tradition with decoration of nativity scenes, carols, and boughs of holly and other evergreen decor.

During the Middle Ages, swags of evergreen branches called “holy boughs” were hung in the hallways to bring about the same blessings. After a period of decoration (and all fun) being frowned upon during the Puritan era in the 17th century, the Victorian era brought about a revival of Christmas decorating, and along with it the reincarnation of the kissing bough as the Victorian kissing ball.

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Pucker up, mister
Restoration Hardware

The Victorian kissing ball was a potato or apple that had sprigs of herbs, holly, evergreen, and mistletoe shoved into it until it was covered in greenery. Like many other flowers and plants of the time, mistletoe had secondary properties attributed to it at the time and was seen as a symbol of good luck and fertility. These kissing balls were hung in dance halls and young men and women would line up to kiss under the mistletoe.

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Kiss me darling (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

I can’t help but notice the similarity between the natural form of a mistletoe growing in nature, and the Victorian kissing ball. Whether by sheer coincidence, or a subconscious desire to mimic nature, it seems fitting that the Victorian kissing ball has come around full circle.

mistletoe-ball_sl.jpgFile:Mistletoe, coming soon to a market near you - geograph.org.uk - 1585249.jpg

Martha Stewart vs. Mother Nature. Who did it better? (Martha Stewart, Wikipedia)

Instructions for making your own Victorian Kissing Ball here

yakimahherald

Making a Victorian kissing ball Yakima Herald

Or make a living Mistletoe Cactus Ball!

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The Rainforest Garden

~K

4 Fall Arrangements in Very Unusual Containers

ADATB

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re scrambling to think of good fall arrangement ideas. While I think it’s going to end up involving rust-colored mums, we found some really awesome ideas regarding using vegetables and squashes as containers. I mean, just when I was feeling the “bouquet in a pumpkin” was getting cliche, I found the idea had continued to evolve!

It makes me wonder what else could be made into vases. Large beets? Savoy cabbage? Ornamental Kale? Perhaps large carrots as bud vases? The possibilities are intriguing.

***

Kee-ju is the co-editor of A Dog and Two Boys, where he manages social media and writes.

Bloemencorso Zundert: Because a Regular Parade Would be Boring

Bloemencorso (translated to “Flower Parade”) are held throughout Belgium  and the Netherlands on the first Sunday of September. All of these floats are created entirely of flowers that are grown by the truckload to be used in the parade. The Bloemencorso in Zundert is the largest and craziest parade in the world, also because all the floats are created entirely from dahlias.

Bloemencorso flower parade, Zundert, Netherlandsyoubentmywookie

In some sort of insane competition that would only happen in a place like the Netherlands, the twenty flower growing districts (or hamlets) compete by creating brightly colored, outlandish parade floats.

Bloemencorso flower parade, Zundert, Netherlandsyoubentmywookie

This is a community event in which everyone has a part to play – the growing of the flowers, the harvesting and transporting, the design of the float, even building the temporary tents and structures to house the gigantic floats.

Bloemencorso flower parade, Zundert, Netherlandsyoubentmywookie

The giant sculptures are fabricated from wire, wood, papier mache and hundreds of blooms (as you can see here) that are affixed to the float

File:Andre-roks 1714.jpgBloemencorso Zundert preparation of dahlias (Wikipedia)

Much like any sort of community event, everyone in the hamlet comes together to affix pins into dahlias for the floats. People will use their PTO and make the preparation into a large social event. It’s very similar to other events here in the states, such as St. Patrick’s Day parades or Fourth of July, and has a very small-town feel to it.

I can’t even get my mind over the work, engineering, and growing of the dahlias required to make some of these floats. I mean, what would you do if you didn’t have enough pink dahlias to finish all the flamingos on the float below?

*mind blown*

youbentmywookie

Flora de Muertos: A Halloween Post on Ancestral Veneration and Flowers

Dia de muertos is fascinating to me due to the fact that growing up, death and the dead were generally regarded by me to be spooky, perhaps even frightening. One either avoided the subject, or regarded it with great solemnity. This celebration instead, is ironically one about life, and remembering those that are now dead with a three-day fiesta.

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Ofrenda with cempasuchil and terciopelos via Mexico Deconoscido

People go and clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. Ofrendas, or altars are installed, upon which offerings to the souls of the dead are placed. The altars are filled with all sorts of items including bottles of liquor, favorite foods or candies, toys, sugar skulls, candied pumpkin, and most importantly cempasuchil (Mexican marigold) and terciopelos (Velvet flower aka Celosia) The Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are particularly prominent as the flower of choice.Graves, ofrendas, and homes are decorated with their brightly colored orange blooms.

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Flowers being sold for Dia de Muertos at an open market via Aztec Noticias

Interestingly enough, Dia de Muertos is not alone in it’s tradition of what is known as "ancestral worship" or "ancestral veneration." Many cultures participate in a very similar ritual in which ancestors that have passed on are honored in some way. The souls of the dead are believed to be able to pass favor or influence the fortune of the living.

In the Phillipines for example, ancestor veneration is expressed during the Halloween/All Soul’s Day celebration by visiting the dead’s graves while cleaning and repairing tombs. Offerings such as prayers, candles, food, and – again – flowers, such as the national flower sampaguita (Arabian Jasmine).

Filipinos buy flowers for All Saints day in Manila

I’m not quite clear on why flowers are such a common offering. If I had to guess, it would have to do something with the idea that the brightly colored and wonderfully scented flowers would bring the souls of the dead great pleasure due to the visual and olfactory experiences (although I have no idea if the souls of the dead can either see or smell). One might also postulate that the flower represents a reminder of mortality – in Buddhism, the offering of a flower represents the idea that the body will one day also fade and wilt.

I Like Big Leaves and I Cannot Lie

When it comes to arrangements, sometimes less is more. In the case of foliage, I have been fascinated with the idea of single large leaves as floral material. The result is always clean, economical, and always is an eye-catching element of the room.

I really love how simple one leaf or one stem can be yet what a difference it makes. By having the foliage alone in a vase, it allows the colors of the foliage to stand out very well. Some of these examples are practically glowing with that bright green! I suppose it makes sense that when the sun hits the plants, the chlorophyll is working overtime and does in a sense produce a visible result.

How to make this arrangement? Simple

1. Cut leaf or stem

2. Find clear vase

3. Insert leaf or stem

FIN

So ridiculously easy. No arranging or layering or blocking or tying required. I can do this. You can do this.

dec06decnews_leaves_pb_lg.jpgTry some variegated philodendron leaves via HGTV for your first project

Large Anthurium Leaves Clear Vase

Anthurium leaves via Sheila Zeller Interiors

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Palm frond via Love Design Barbados

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Monsterosa deliciosa via a pair & a spare

Great Greenery

For something a bit more temperate, you can use hosta leaves in hurricane jars via Better Home & Gardens

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Or how about some ferns in an assortment of bottles via homedit?

I tried a very large dock leaf in one of Steven’s vases this past summer and it worked out very well. The thing was massive – about the size of my torso – but was stunning when you first entered the room. I wouldn’t mind trying some Colocasia leaves next year either to give a similar effect.