How to Make Orange Pomanders and a Brief History
Set out a big bowl of oranges and a big bowl of cloves and watch your friends and family delight in making pomanders! Learn how to make orange pomanders that last for years plus a fun history of pomanders. My tips and tricks will have you creating unique designs on your pomanders. This is a great Christmas craft for kids and adults and you can use the pomanders to create beautiful displays around the house.
This post was originally published in 2013 but has been updated with lots more information plus tips and tricks to make sure your pomanders not only look amazing, but they last for years!
Pomander comes from the word pommel d’ambre which means apple of amber.
Growing up, my mom always studded our Christmas ham with cloves.
I loved the smell!
So the amazing scent of a bowl full of orange pomanders always reminds me of Christmas.
History of Pomanders
Since the 13th century, people carried a pomanders as a means of protection against infection and disease. Pomanders were very popular in times of widespread disease as it perfumed the air immediately around it so carrying one made it tolerable to walk streets where filth and disease resigned.
People got creative with ways to carry their pomanders and they put them in necklaces and rings but carrying them around in little bags was the most common.
The 18th century is where we see pomanders as we know them today. Only the wealthy could afford pomanders since they were considered a luxury. Most people would not have wasted perfectly good food, oranges, on a decoration.
Having said that, one could find a pomander ball in colonial homes in baskets or cupboards and in a handkerchief for a traveler to smell on the road (again, to cover any nasty smells in the street…and oh, were there nasty smells).
By the Victorian era, pomander balls were a staple in many American homes and a lovely tradition families looked forward to creating.
Decorating with Pomanders
It was in the 1930’s during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg that decorating with pomanders took off!
Colonial Williamsburg was being restored with money from the Rockefellers. The residents of Williamsburg were asked to decorate their homes in a way that was authentic to the Colonial era but the problem was, people did not decorate for Christmas back in the Colonial days!
The solution was to have the people of Williamsburg decorate with materials that would have been available to the original colonists. They embraced DellaRobbia style which was decorating with fruits, greens and other natural elements … and of course pomanders!
How to Make Orange Pomanders
Set a bowl of cloves and a bowl of oranges on your coffee table and watch your family get creative.
1) Wash and dry oranges
2) Simply poke cloves into oranges with a toothpick or skewer no deeper than the clove, then place clove into hole
Get creative with patterns: swirls, spirals, flowers …
Tip: wrap a rubber band around the orange to help with straight lines
3) Place the pomanders in a paper bag for a few weeks to dry them out
The cloves will draw out the juices and they’ll shrink in size
4) Check on your pomanders every day to make sure they aren’t getting moldy (make sure to remove any that develop mold).
5) You’ll know your pomanders are ready when they are lightweight and make a hollow sound when you tap on them.
Tip: you can display freshly made pomanders without drying them but they will only last a few days
How to Refresh Dried Pomanders
The best part about drying pomanders is that they can be used year after year! They will start to lose their scent over time but you can refresh them by adding a few drops of essential oil to them (try clove, orange, cinnamon).
Let the amazing smell of cloves and oranges fill your home around the holidays!
See my Monogrammed Pomander Place Settings here.
Want more natural decorating ideas …
I have always loved these and wanted to try it. I’m pinning so that maybe someday I’ll make one! Have a very Merry Christmas!
I remember making these in school as a kid. It’s nice to know it’s still a desireable item, they do last long time.
Glad you shared this project, would like to make one or two again someday.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Doing this for New Years, Kelly — Merry Christmas, friend!
Definitely going to have to give this a try! I can only imagine how amazing it must smell!
I make these every year and adore the smell!
So easy to do and great fun to share with family & friends 🙂
You can make clove apples too! You usually cover the whole fruit and hang it with ribbon. I love this center piece!
We always used Orris Roos to preserve these. Is that not needed now?
Never heard of it Barbara but if that works for you, keep on doing it!
Thank you, finally, someone says they can go mouldy! Mine did, but I didn’t know about the paper bag trick. I will definitely try again for this Christmas. My dad made me one and sadly died a few days later so the smell of them is so poignant.
I’m so sorry that you lost your dad Jennybell – I hope the smell of the pomanders bring back good memories
Why place the pomander in a bag for a few weeks to dry? Why can’t you just let them dry in the open air?
Helps them to dry out
The more cloves you use in your orange, the faster it will dry out. The ones pictured are beautiful but in my experience, they dont have enough cloves to actually preserve the orange and help dry it out.
Thanks for the tip Lori!
What a wonderful idea! I’ve never made these. It’s nice that they last a little while after. As always, I appreciate the history you share. Merry Christmas Kelly!
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas Lisa!
I need pinafores for a centerpiece in 4 weeks. Is that enough time for them to dry?
Hi Gayle – it should take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for the pomanders to dry.