Nature's Christmas Decorating Miracle

Pine cones placed around  LED candles on a white plate.

When I first bought my house, I couldn’t afford much in the way of Christmas decorations. Actually, when I first bought my house, I couldn’t afford much in the way of food or furniture, but it’s much easier to find a chair on the side of the road than a mercury glass Santa Claus. And my mom was always an easy source for food.

So my first couple of years here, the Christmas decorations consisted of a lot of cheap dollar-store Christmas balls in bowls around the house and pine cones. A lot of pine cones. When in doubt (or debt), add a pine cone. That’s my Christmas motto. They’re really inexpensive if you buy them, plus you can also find them for free on the ground. Regardless of where you get them, pine cones have a surprising warmth and elegance about them after you've scraped the worms and dirt off. The pine cone: nature's little Christmas decorating miracle.

The dollar-store balls are gone, but I still have the bins of pine cones from when I couldn’t afford a lot of Christmas decorations. And I still use those pine cones every single year. Some of them are store-bought, and some of them were found, but all of them find a place in my house every holiday season.

Pine cones hung on serving  pitchers with twine.

Drop them in a bowl, drape them from a door knob, align them down the center of your dining room table or add them to sparse wreaths.

I have found in my years of Christmas decorating that there are few things the pine cone can't make look better. Even tipsy Uncle Bob looks better when he's surrounded by pine cones.

I got a white Christmas tree on sale one year but was terrified about how much it was going to cost to decorate it with nice ornaments. Enter the pine cone. I decided to do the whole tree in a pine cone theme, buying as many glass pine cone ornaments as I could afford and then filling the rest of the tree with regular, cheap pine cones.

Pine cone attached to a present with twine.

One year, pine cones even subbed as bows on my presents. Just cut an index card into a circle, smear it with glue and then cover it with concentric circles of twine. Glue your pine cone on top of the twine and you’re done. This sort of simple rustic bow looks great with classic brown wrapping paper tied up with string. The wrapping paper you see on the package in the back of the photo below is actually a chicken-feed sack from a local organic chicken feed company – because nothing says “I care about you” like wrapping someone’s present in a farm animal food bag.

Pine cones – the easiest, cheapest holiday decoration around. They literally grow on trees, they last indefinitely and if you decide one day that you have a massive, eye-twitch-inducing aversion to pine cones, you can just throw them in the fireplace, in a compost pile or at your scrooge-y neighbor.

Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen


Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Five years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff ( as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.

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