Simple Christmas Craft: Orange Pomanders

I’d completely forgotten about these until I came across a drawing in one of Odette’s illustrated books of a beautiful Christmas fireplace mantel adorned with old-fashioned clove-studded oranges. Could we make a fun activity out of making these together? Is this even achievable?? Google to the rescue and YES!

Turns out the word “pomander” comes from the French term “pomme de ambre” which means, eloquently, amber-scented ball. Centuries ago, citrus pomanders were pricked with cloves and rolled in other delicious smelling scents (cinnamon and nutmeg) then tied with ribbon and hung around the neck – the OG deodorant!

The combination of citrus and cloves really does smell amazing. It’s also incredibly easy.

What you need:

  • Firm Citrus
    • We used a mix of navel oranges, tangerines and lemons
  • Whole Cloves
    • I purchased 2 large jars (1.3 oz each) of cloves
  • Toothpicks
  • Ribbon and/or twine
  • Drop-cloth for catching citrus drips

We covered the dining table with the drop-cloth and put the citrus in a pile in the middle with bowls of cloves and toothpicks in arms reach. The toothpicks are handy piercers as the citrus skins can be a little tough, then we pushed the clove stems into the pre-made holes.

You can make any design you like. I like to go with a pattern—lines or stripes of cloves around the orange or lemon are classic. Or throw in a perpendicular stripe and it looks like plaid! The kids are much better at creating modern art of their pomanders—they went for swirls and flowers.  

To hang them, take a length of ribbon or twine and wrap it around the orange just as you would a present in a box and leave enough slack to suspend the pomander at whatever length suits you. I love to hang the smaller tangerines and lemons from the tree and garlands. The larger oranges can hang from a small nail tucked beneath whatever decorations you choose for your mantel. They’re beautiful alongside traditional Christmas stockings or from a peg rack in the dining room as you saw in my Insta post. You could even suspend them from your chandelier over the dining table.

Just beware that after about 4 days in a heated home the citrus will mold—the trick here is to tuck them into the fridge at night and hang them during the day. There is evidently a way to completely dry a whole citrus, but we (i.e. the kids) didn’t have the patience this holiday, so we’ll have to give it a try next year.

What are some of your favorite holiday crafts?

Let me know in the comments!

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  • Hailey Owens

    This is such a great idea! I love to make homemade “potpourri” by heating some cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, apples, water, and pine in a small crock pot. It makes my house smell like heaven. ?

    • Trixie

      Do you just use water as a base or an oil in the crock?

  • Ray Cordovadee

    My family didn’t celebrate Christmas until my older sister got married (were Jewish), so all of our traditions happened as adults. My favorite is the ordaments we make every year! The first ones we made were from a “baby’s first Christmas” set. It’s so much fun.

  • Cori Hess

    Me and my son usually make Christmas cookies and on Christmas Eve we hang our reindeer poop ornament on the tree (lol) it was made by a lady I worked with at the zoo. She used a dehydrater and make onaments, ear rings and necklaces. The story goes that you hang it on the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve so the reindeers don’t pass you buy. They smell it and know to stop.

    Hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year

  • Regina

    My mom does this every year except she put the orange in a small kettle with water and a cinnamon stick and turns the stove on low. Her house smells AMAZING during Christmas.

  • Olivia Jarvis

    Wow, what a great idea! I love that these are an organic way to make the house smell amazing.

  • Jaia

    I am a scent person. I often associate memory and scent so the idea of a decoration that smells amazing and is both a family Christmas craft and a scent memory in the making? WIN!

  • Chrisie Tull

    I guess it’s pretty common now but back in the 70’s I don’t remember seeing anyone but my mom do it. We would wrap all the pictures on the walls & add ribbon &/or bows to make them look like presents!! Then at the end of the season, my brother & I loved “unwrapping” them like presents! Lol. I just lost my mom a few weeks ago so this year will be very hard but wrapping my pictures will make it feel like she’s still here!!

  • Lisa

    I always have pumpkins left over from Halloween and Thanksgiving. I take them and paint them silver and white. I apply silver or iridescent glitter to the top. Once dried, I place them in a large galvanized tub that I’ve tied a Christmas ribbon and bow around. Scatter in a small Christmas tree, handmade birdhouse and some clear lights. Makes a lovely decoration for my front porch.

  • Amy

    I’ve been doing these for years. It IS very meditative! I generally keep a big bowl full on the kitchen counter over the holidays to smell the place up (nicely, of course).

  • Stacie

    I remember doing these with my mom in the early 80s.thanks for reminding us all of these. Enjoy Austin. I called it home for 1/2 my life and have enjoyed it and still do.

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