Did you know that the tradition of making and hanging a kissing ball dates back to the early Middle Ages? During that time, people used apples or potatoes as a base to create a ball-shaped decoration we now know as kissing balls. The decorations were hung in doorways to bestow goodwill and blessings to all who visited the home. During the 17th through the early 19th centuries, Puritans and other religious groups frowned upon the use of any holiday decoration. Fortunately, Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of England, revived the tradition of decorating with live greenery and Christmas trees for the holidays in 1840. Kissing balls were hung from doorways and ceilings to encourage romance, and many young women would stand underneath them and hope for a kiss.
In the era of using artificial decorations for the holidays, why not revive an old tradition and make a boxwood kissing ball to hang in your home? Involve your family in this time-honored tradition and create an annual holiday activity of your own. You will need the following supplies:
- 6 or 8 in. Styrofoam ball
- Holiday ribbon
- Clippers or garden scissors
- Floral picks and fern pins
- Boxwood sprigs about 3 to 5 inches long (soak in water overnight to prolong the life of the greenery). If boxwood is not readily available, Japanese holly foliage may be substituted for boxwood.
- Holly, pine, cedar, or arborvitae sprigs for accent
- Small pine cones or holiday pick decorations
If you’re using a white Styrofoam ball, you can spray it green to prevent the white from showing through. You may omit this step if you completely cover the ball with the cuttings.
First, wrap decorative ribbon around the Styrofoam ball, twist it at the bottom, and come back up to the original point. This is similar to how you wrap a ribbon around a present. Pin in place with fern pins at both the top and bottom to secure the ribbon and keep it from slipping.
After securing the ribbon, insert the boxwood sprigs into the Styrofoam ball. The sprigs should be even in length, about 3-5 inches, to create a consistently round shape when finished. The sprigs should be placed as close together as possible to create a full shape and to prevent seeing any white from the Styrofoam ball.
Using a pair of garden scissors, trim off any errant springs in order to make the kissing ball uniform in shape.
Make a loop of ribbon as long as needed to hang the kissing ball. Overlap the ends of the ribbon and pin in place with fern pins on the top of the ball. It may be necessary to use multiple pins in order to firmly secure the loop. Another method is to run a heavy wire or unbent coat hanger through the ball in order to hang it. Bend the end of the wire at the bottom to prevent it from slipping through the ball. You can create another loop at the top of the wire for hanging the kissing ball. The wire can be camouflaged by wrapping it with ribbon.
Now comes the fun part. The kissing ball may be decorated with ribbon, pine cones, berries, contrasting foliage, or other seasonal emblishments. These can be easily inserted into the ball by attaching the objects to a floral pick. Wrap the wire of the floral pick around the object to firmly secure it to the pick. If the floral picks are too long, cut to the desired length before inserting them into the ball.
The kissing ball is now ready for hanging from a doorway or entrance. It will be a great conversation piece for the holiday season. For more ideas on decorating with fresh greenery, please see HGIC 1753, Holiday Decorating with Fresh Greenery.