If you want a bit of insight into how I turned out the way I did, consider the year that my mother declared that we’d have an “18th century Christmas.” While our friends asked Santa for American Girl dolls, Adidas Samba sneakers, and fluorescent-haired trolls, my sisters and I were left to scratch out lists that included wishes for wool mittens and scarves. The guideline was that all the gifts needed to be homemade, or at the least, something that children in the 18th century might have received. It took some convincing to get us onboard.
On Christmas morning, our stockings hung heavy with oranges and walnuts and beeswax candles. We all did our best to look amused.
Photography by Erin Boyle.
Above: Despite my lack of enthusiasm for my mom’s scheme at the time, to this day I have a soft spot for anything that smacks of, well, an 18th century Christmas. This year, I made a dried fruit garland to deck my halls. Make yours this week to hang for Thanksgiving, and add a piney garland in December.
N.B. In case there’s a historian in the crowd, it should be noted that the history of decorating wreaths and garlands with dried fruit dates from the early 20th century and the height of Colonial Revival, and not from the Colonial period itself. The thought of sacrificing an orange for décor would have been unthinkable to the colonists. …Details.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Assorted apples, pears, and oranges
- Upholstery needles
- Cookie rack
- Cookie sheet
Step 1: Choose a variety of brightly colored apples, pears, and oranges for slicing.
Step 2: Slice fruit into 1/4 inch slices, through the center of the fruit. Prepare to sacrifice your first few fruits (make fruit salad from the duds!) because it takes a bit of practice to get a clean cut.
Step 3: Place sliced fruit on a cookie rack on top of a cookie sheet.
Step 4: Bake at 150 degrees for from five to six hours. Yes, you read that right. This is a project for a lazy (and chilly) afternoon at home. The next time I make a garland, I might try air drying the fruit (See Justine’s Dried Vegetables to see how).
Step 5: When the fruit is visibly dried, remove from the oven.
Step 6: Use an upholstery needle to thread the dried fruit onto thin twine.
Step 7: If you decide to include walnuts or cinnamon sticks, use a hammer to gently tap the top of the needle through the top of the harder surfaces of your nuts and spices.
Step 8: Hang your finished garland in a sunny spot and enjoy all season.