Making Fruit Garlands for the Winter Solstice

Dried orange and apple slices.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Today, the North Country Druidic Study Group is coming together to celebrate an early Winter Solstice.  We decided to individually make garlands which we will join together in ritual to create a group offering to the Sun.  In light of recent tragedies around the world, we are putting the garland together with the intent and wish that peace and healing will warm the Earth in the coming season.  It sounds very touchy-feely-New-Agey, but sometimes we need that.  Samhain focused on the inevitability of death, but the Winter Solstice teachers hope and renewal as the sun grows in strength each day.

Garlands are actually a common winter decoration dating back to ancient times.  During the Roman Saturnalia, people brought greenery into temples (Hutton, 2).  The custom existed in the British Isles and persisted despite the Reformation (34-38).  People tended to use what they had on hand, so if greens weren’t available, dried fruit and herbs were also used.  Eventually, popcorn entered the mix!  Making a garland of edibles is not only beautiful, eco-friendly, and ancestral, it can be seen as a gift to the Nature Spirits.

Using what I had in my home, I gathered my materials:

  • fruit
  • a dehydrator
  • a large, sturdy needle
  • twine

Given that I was only making a small garland to tie onto others, I only used two oranges and one apple.  An orange is perfect for a modern Winter Solstice garland because of its very solar qualities.  Apples, connected to the Otherworld and often symbolizing love or immortality, were also appropriate choices for our working.   Having an electric dehydrator on hand meant that I didn’t have to prep for very long.  I sliced the fruit and distributed it on the dehydrator trays and left it overnight to do it’s thing.  If you don’t have that appliance at home, fruit can also be dried in the oven (which will require your supervision) or traditionally using air circulation.  That will take more foresight as you’ll want to string and dry your fruit at least a few weeks in advance, taking care that the fruit does not become dusty, moldy, or fodder for fruit flies.  This can often be accomplished with mesh bags, proper spacing, and good air flow.

Once your fruit is dry, thread the needle with twine and get to work creating a lovely garland!  Each year I’ve made one, my husband and I worked together, taking turns and making a pattern.  It’s a fun family activity and can serve as a lesson on needle safety for the little ones.  Whether you keep your garland inside for a little while, or put it outdoors right away, you can be sure the Nature Spirits will enjoy some fruit in the cold of winter.  What’s left will please the tiny critters who feast on detritus.

 

The finished Winter Solstice fruit garland.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe
 
Resources:
 
Hutton, Ronald.  The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.  Oxford University Press, Oxford; 1996.

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