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!
Want more natural decorating ideas …