Sunday, December 9, 2012

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Meet Me Under the Kissing Ball

Kissing Ball
I’ve never cared much for mistletoe at Christmas. A kissing ball, though, now that’s a different story.

Not that I need a kissing ball in my life, mind you. (Although after 25 years of marriage, it probably wouldn’t hurt either.)

No, I like the idea of a kissing ball. Festive greens hanging on a colorful ribbon. An excuse for smooches, hugs and a little PDA (Public Display of Affection) around the holidays. What’s not to like?

Somehow I’ve just never gotten around to buying or making a kissing ball. I've vowed to shake things up a bit this Christmas, though, so it went straight to the top of my to-do list.

Mistletoe goes way back to the ancient Greeks and the Druids. Both used mistletoe -- thought to symbolize fertility and power -- during their celebrations of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The tradition evolved. Evergreens were added. During the Middle Ages, anyone standing under the mistletoe could not object to being kissed. And anyone who wasn't kissed under the mistletoe supposedly wasn't going to be married in the next year. Or so the story went.

The Victorians updated the tradition a bit more, adding herbs. The kissing ball reached the height of its popularity although it has made a comeback in recent years.

So how to get a kissing ball? I thought initially about trimming the boxwoods in my back yard.  But they’re only a few years old and I loathe cutting back anything that’s still green in my garden this time of year. So it was off to my favorite nursery/garden shop.

Red berries for a kissing ball
Red berries, red ribbon and cedar
I gathered up some oregonia, which is like boxwood but with white and green leaves, and a packet of (fake) red berries. Then I visited a craft store for some ribbon and a base. There wasn't any floral foam to be found, at least in a ball shape. Floral foam gets soaked in water and would have kept the greens from drying out. I checked other stores, but came away empty handed so I reluctantly went with Styrofoam.

Kissing ball base with straw and skewer
The process of making a kissing ball turned out to be much more involved than I had anticipated. I put a metal barbecue skewer through the middle of the ball, then used the skewer to guide a drinking straw. That, unfortunately, was the easiest part.
Next, I  cut some transparent ribbon, enough to make a loop at the top and have some dangling below the ball. I pushed the ribbon through the straw using the same metal skewer. Then, I put a knot on the bottom where the ribbon came out in order to secure the ball.

I started cutting oregonia and putting it all around the foam ball. Using a toothpick to make a hole before inserting the evergreen sprig made things go much faster. The more oregonia I put on the ball, however, the more the bottom knot in the ribbon seemed to slip. I ended up putting a toothpick in the bottom knot to make it hold better.

A toothpick at the bottom helped
keep the knot tight
After I had covered the entire ball with a spotty layer of oregonia, I added some cedar leftover from my winter container and some trimmings from the Frasier fir we had bought as a Christmas tree.
Then I went back and filled in the bare spots. And filled in the bare spots. And filled in even more bare spots.
The final touch: Adding berries all over and some thin gold and light green ribbon at the bottom.

Total time elapsed: 5 hours

Well, I had been halfway watching some of the Sunday morning political talk shows when I started but the total amount of time did take me aback. Maybe it was because I hadn't made a kissing ball before. 
I'm happy with the result although the jury is still out on whether or not it boosts the amount of kissing in our household this Christmas. Even Nate Silver probably couldn't call this one.

By Karen Geisler


  1. I adore kissing balls and have had them for years but they are getting too expensive and with no time to make my own I will gaze at it

  2. Gorgeous . . . but no mistletoe!

    1. Sorry. Mistletoe isn't native to the Midwest so it gets gnarly pretty quickly.

  3. Very nice. Sounds like we're both feeling crafty these days. I would never think to use a toothpick to hold it tight. Very ingenious.

    1. Yes, I'm definitely feeling crafty. Hoping to tackle some bird treats next.

  4. You really needed the oasis if you want it to last the season. I make 40 of these for my friend's Christmas Tree farm each winter. I posted how to make them on my site too. One year the owner bought Styrofoam by mistake. It did not work because it does not absorb water. We did not use them. He buys the oasis kits in case you do it again in the future. It turned out nice looking though.

    1. I really tried to find the floral foam but gave up after checking four different stores with three different chains. If I ever manage to find an Oasis ball, I will definitely snap it up, regardless of the season. I'm crossing my fingers that the oregonia will hold up until at least Christmas.

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  5. I like the idea of a mistletoe ball too. I don't even know why. I'm not big on the holidays, but there is something about a large sphere of greenery that just appeals to me. After seeing the trick used to create the ball, I just may go out and make one.