Natural decorations – Scandinavian style

By Linda Lind

Houston County Master Gardener

Owner Alpine Nursery


It’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about decorating for Christmas.  I have an attic full of treasures that I’ve collected in our 45 years of marriage.  Then there are those special ones passed on to me from parents and grandparents.  And, of course, we sell wonderful decorations at the nursery.  But more and more I find that I’m drawn to simple, natural decorations… pinecones, bittersweet, red twigged dogwood, clippings from trees and shrubs. It must be genetic, because lately I’ve been following online posts on Pinterest from Scandinavia, and find that they mirror that taste.

It’s so interesting to me to see how different Scandinavian Christmas decorating is from ours.  I never see an artificial Christmas tree – they go out into the forest and cut a charmingly sparse fir tree. Decorations are mostly handmade of straw, paper, yarn or perhaps ginger cut-out cookies.  They use lots of bare branches – pinecone laden larch or tamarack branches and birch branches seem to be favorites. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of a poinsettia in Scandinavian decorating. Instead, they force bulbs of all kinds into bloom.

If they buy a bouquet of flowers, it’s always tulips. Last year I watched the HGTV program featuring the White House Christmas. One of the volunteers was a florist from New York City who was “planting” bulbs under one of the White House Christmas trees. She said that it was a tradition passed on by her mother from Europe. I tried it, and loved the result. I put a plastic tablecloth on a small table in my front porch.  Then I put a small Christmas tree on the center of the table and put shallow pots of hyacinths and crocus around the tree. Finally I covered the pots of bulbs with florist moss. It was exciting to see the bulbs growing all around the tree!

Then there are the straw decorations: Himmelis from Finland, julbukks from Sweden and julnegs from Norway.

While here in America we try to outdo each other with the number of lights we use to decorate our homes, Scandinavians put a single candle in the window. All Scandinavian Christmas decorations feature candles. Every home has some sort of Advent arrangement with four candles. Sometimes they put them in a traditional wreath, but often they will put them in a bowl with moss, pinecones and evergreens. They faithfully light one candle each week until Christmas.

I’d probably summarize a Scandinavian Christmas as peaceful and tranquil. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

If the idea of decorating for Christmas is stressing you out, grab your kids or grandchildren for a walk in the woods. Pick pinecones, snip evergreen sprigs, cut some wild rosehips and do as the Scandinavians do – light some candles and enjoy your family!