Every December we make a little bowl of orange and clove pomanders to set on our shelf.  The spicy citrus smell is spectacular.


The process is simple – poke whole cloves into the skin of an orange.  You can use any pattern you’d like.  We make stripes, swirls, random designs, and polka dots.  My kids like to make their own initials sometimes.

Initials on pomanders

Ours aren’t always perfect, because they are made by little fingers at our place.  If you want yours to be perfect, you can put rubber bands around them to use as a guide for making perfect stripes.  We are in it for the fun of making up our own designs, so we don’t use guides.  We just stick those little cloves in wherever we want to.

Isabel-making-pomanders    And while we work I tell them the story of St. Nicholas and the oranges.  There are many, many versions of this very old tale, but this one is my favorite.

Long, long ago there lived a man who was named Nicholas.  He was a good man, always very kind.  His parents both died while he was quite young, and left him a good deal of money.  Most young men who had inherited a good deal of money would’ve spent it on themselves, but not Nicholas.  Nicholas always thought of others and all the good he could do.  He spent his entire life using his money to help the poor and needy.
Once he heard of three young sisters, daughters of a pauper who could not afford dowries for his girls.  Without dowries, the maidens would not be able to marry, and would spend their lives poor and without families.  When Nicholas heard about their plight he went to their house in the night with three small bags of gold.  He threw the bags of gold up on the house and right down the chimney, where they landed in the stockings of the daughters that had been hung out to dry by the fireplace.  The girls now had gold for their dowries, and happy futures ahead of them.
Nicholas, who spent his whole life doing good, was made a saint, and we still remember him at Christmastime for his generosity and good gifts.  We find an orange in the toe of our stockings each Christmas morning to represent the bags of gold that he gave the maidens.  St. Nicholas reminds us of the good that can come to the world when we give generously of the things we are blessed with.

Our little bowl of pomanders then sits on our shelf, smelling yummy and reminding us of the good we can do in the world when we give gifts of ourselves selflessly.


If you’d like to keep your pomanders, you can hang them up to dry for about a week.  Just hang a ribbon around them and let them hang on a nail or hanger.  We like to make new ones each year as we tell the story again, so we just let them sit in the bowl for a few weeks at Christmastime.  They last at least 3 or 4 weeks without any drying at all.

More From Layers of Learning

If you like this idea, I hope you’ll check out our Holidayopedia.  It’s our collection of fun holiday ideas that we use with our families all around the year.  We’d also love to hear about your favorite traditions and holiday ideas.  Just leave us a comment!


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