This past Christmas I wanted our holiday decor to transport us back to a time of simplicity. Spurred by a nostalgic longing for an era where the pace was slower, overconsumption didn't exist yet, and we took our cues from mother nature around us. A time that brings to mind orange garlands, paper stars, flickering candles, and pine boughs - a true representation of the season and the slower pace that winter ushers in.
I crafted our Old World Christmas using simple natural elements, a few easy DIYs, and used vintage and thrifted items to fill in the rest.
Old World Christmas Tree
A real tree was a non-negotiable, as old world Christmases are first and foremost all about nature. I envisioned a tree with lots of character. One that was irregular, a little hap-hazard, and quirky - just as nature intends. We found our perfect little tree at our local Dallas Farmers Market. Small, but mighty. I love how the branches are layered asymmetrically leaving generous space between.
To get that quintessential old world Christmas tree look, simple is the way to go. Nature-inspired decorations and homemade ornaments will give you the most authentic look. For our tree, I used only three items: delicate white string lights, homemade dried orange slice ornaments, and individual flickering LED clip-on candle lights. This allowed the beautiful shape of the tree to shine, just as much as the decor on it. (Lights I used on our tree linked below.)
A super simple DIY upgrade I added to our tree that you can easily do as well: Switch out the basic green plastic clip bases the LED candle lights come with, and replace them with these vintage looking gold candle holder clips. It adds that extra little pop of vintage charm. When going simple it's all in the little details isn't it?
Dried Orange Slice Ornaments DIY
Dried orange slices are the quintessential old world Christmas decor. Thoughts of old fashioned Christmases conjure up images of dried orange garlands and ornaments galore. Did you know the winter season (at least in the northern hemisphere) is citrus season? Citrus fruits ripen and are at their peak in winter. That is how they became synonymous with the holidays, frequently used as decorations, gifts, and throughout recipes. They are nature's winter jewels.
I had always wanted to try my hand at DIYing dried orange slices for the holidays, and admittedly, I can't believe I've waited this long to do it. This was my first attempt ever, and while time consuming, I ended up enjoying the process and the result immensely. It's incredibly satisfying and inspiring to be surrounded by beauty that you hand created.
(See my top tips for DIY dried orange slices below!)
My TOP tips for the perfect orange slices every time (what other's don't tell you):
Slice them thin and evenly. Try to make all the slices the same thickness. If the thickness varies too much, when you put them in the oven they won't all dehydrate at the same rate, so you end up with some that are extra crispy and some that are still wet.
Blot well with paper towels/kitchen towel to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible
Make sure you check them every 30 mins and flip them. Many say you don't need to do this, but in my experience that will get you unevenly dried and burnt slices - not fun when you've spent so much time making them
BE PATIENT. Seriously, this takes a while. Especially if you're using an oven and not a dehydrator. There is no way to rush this process. Take it low and slow.
I love how the ornaments look like little stained glass windows in the sun.
Nature Inspired Decor
The primary component that I love about creating an Old World Christmas is embracing all of the nature inspired decor. Along with being incredibly affordable and planet friendly, you can essentially DIY or handmake most of your decor items yourself.
In addition to the dried orange slice ornaments, I used a variety of items to complete our old fashioned Christmas look. Including using pine boughs as brancheliers & arrangements in vases, dressing up basic pillar candles with spices and twine, and incorporating the dried orange slices throughout our home in various ways.
I also created some super simple yet elegant 'candle holders' using a couple of thrifted French lemonade bottles I had lying around. I filled them with clipped pine branch greenery, filled the bottles to the top with water, and finished with simple taper candles.
PRO TIP: You can get FREE greenery trimmings from your local plant nursey at the Holidays!
Keep it Thrifted
For items I didn't already have on hand, couldn't DIY, or source from nature, I used thrifted items from our local thrift stores. Family heirlooms and vintage pieces add that personal touch that tell a story that massed produced goods can't. (Not to mention its much easier on your pocketbook.)
For our home's Old World Christmas I thrifted:
Toile printed red and cream curtains for the tree skirt
Vintage brass candlestick holders used to make these adorable advent candles
Silver bowls to hold orange slices and display various decor items
Vintage gold glass ornaments for our 'branchelier' arrangements
The result was a charming and nostalgic holiday setting that was equal parts cozy and magical. I hope this has inspired you to keep things simple and to give yourself a break this holiday season. Taking time to listen to the rhythms of nature around you, and tuning into the magic of crafting a nostalgic Old World Christmas.
See more Old World Christmas content here on @katieunicornofficial Instagram:
Katie Unicorn – Make room for whimsy™
Check out @katieunicornofficial on Instagram where we share DIY tips for your home and garden. You can also hire Katie Unicorn to create a small space design for your home and garden in the Dallas area.