If mistletoe is a little sparse for your décor taste, a kissing ball will do the trick.
When it comes to Christmas decorations, there are a few things that immediately come to mind, like DIY wreaths, handmade ornaments, and Christmas lights galore. But wait—aren’t you forgetting something? Christmas kissing balls are a classic decoration that often get left in celebrations past, but in recent years, the evergreen décor has been popping up left and right on Pinterest and in real life. In fact, you've probably seen them hanging near the cash register for purchase at your local Christmas tree farm. (If you like the image you clicked on originally, you can buy that Christmas kissing ball here.)
So, what are Christmas kissing balls? Often confused with mistletoe, these small, medium, and large decorative bunches of holly and evergreen leaves hang from the ceiling (or wherever you install them) in voluptuous ball shapes. Christmas kissing balls are a vintage Christmas decoration that's making a major comeback. They can be accented with pine cones, berries, ribbon—anything festive, really. So why are there Christmas kissing balls and mistletoe put out during the month of December? Wouldn't just one suffice? Well, think of Christmas kissing balls as mistletoe's big sister, since they came first. Here's what you need to know.
What's the history of Christmas kissing balls?
While Christmas kissing balls are picture-perfect in and of themselves, it’s what they stand for that makes them so symbolic of the holidays. Back in the Middle Ages, villagers would tie holly branches and leaves together with twine to craft balls of all shapes and sizes. However, beyond just natural greenery, they would nestle a small baby Jesus figurine in the middle to complete what they referred to as holy boughs. Most often, these decorations were hung over entryways as a beacon for blessings and good tidings to all that walked beneath them.
While these holy boughs were customary among Christians for centuries, they fell off the map once the Puritans came into rule in the 17th century and didn’t make a reappearance again until the English Victorian Era in the 1800s. They also took on a new look, featuring a potato or apple core decorated with evergreen sprigs. At that point, the Christmas kissing balls were hung—with mistletoe added to them, thanks to Charles Dickens romanticizing the plant in two of his books—for single young women to line up underneath to be kissed by an eligible man. But eventually, the trend changed, and became just a few small sprigs of mistletoe hung over a door.
How are Christmas kissing balls used today?
As fragrant as these new Christmas kissing balls were, many people began to realize that the fruit and veggie cores might not last throughout the entire holiday season, let alone more than one. As such, balls made with foam cores came into the picture in the mid 1900s, and along with them came the inclusion of mistletoe.
If you want to opt for the latter, scroll below for a quick tutorial.
How do you make a Christmas kissing ball?
- Foam sphere of your choice
- Wire (or segment of a straightened wire coat hanger)
- Greenery (like holly, pine, and mistletoe)
- Stick the wire through the center of your foam ball until the end pokes out the bottom. Curve the tail end of the wire upwards towards the ball so that it hooks into the bottom. Press it in place. This ensures the ball will be secure when hung.
- Strip the ends of your greenery and cut each sprig to your desired size, making sure they’re all about the same length to create a uniform sphere.
- Stick the stripped ends into the foam ball. Keep adding new greenery until your ball is as full as you’d like.
- Tie a ribbon around the wire at the top of your Christmas kissing ball for added festive cheer.
- Loop the top wire for easy hanging and pick the perfect spot to display your DIY Christmas decoration.