It's the day that us gardeners celebrate every year. No, not because it's the day with the least amount of daylight, but because, from now on, the days will be getting longer. It might not feel like much right now, but we're heading towards spring! The winter solstice always seems like a magical day of the year. In myth and religion around the world, the winter solstice often corresponds with the birth of the god or goddess of light. It's no coincidence that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is celebrated by Christians at this time as well as he is often called "The Light of the Word". Lucia or Lucina, the saint or goddess of light, Horus, Egyptian god symbolized by the sun, and Amaterasu, Japanese goddess of the sun all are celebrated or were celebrated around this time as well. Regardless of what you believe, the Solstice is just a really neat day in my opinion. There's something incredibly hopeful about the return of light to the dark days of winter.
Now to something a little more practical, since I've used my first allotted paragraph to rant about our relative position to the sun.
My mom has the same problem every year: we have so many Christmas ornaments, they don't all fit on the Christmas tree. It doesn't help that this year our tree is a little smaller than normal. She loaded the tree with her favorites and shrugged at the numerous leftovers. "Maybe we can do something with these..." she mused. The idea came up to decorate our rather barren three seasons room that sits between the house and our attached garage. It's a large area with lots of windows and a opaque Plexiglas roof. It's cold in the winter, but an excellent place for our tropical plants in the summer. The beginnings of an idea in her mind, my mom went through the ornaments and picked out all the ones of birds or related to birds and set them aside. I was then tasked with creating some sort of tree structure to hang them from.
A few days after, I tromped into the woods to collect dead, fallen sticks and clip a few small cedar branches for some color. We recently got rid of a large, scale-infested umbrella plant and it's giant pot now sits empty in a corner of the three seasons room, a perfect base for my ornament tree creation. Arranging the assorted sticks into the formation that I thought looked somewhat like a tree, I began placing the ornaments on the small branches.
To finish off, I arranged the cedar around the base, stuck a few dried thistle stalks in the bottom and placed an owl lantern at the base. My bird tree was complete and lit up for a dinner gathering my family had that evening.
You could do this with any type of ornament if you have a dry, protected area to arrange winter plant material. I loved the idea of a theme and usually it's not difficult to find commonalities among your ornament collection. Otherwise, colorful baubles would work fine as well. If you don't want to use more precious or fragile ornaments, having kids make ornaments would be another fun craft project.