Christmas is just around the corner – it’s time to get festive and cosy! Decorating the house while playing Christmas songs and sipping hot chocolate is my favourite way to start the season and a never-failing way to get into that holiday spirit. I like to use natural elements and homemade ornaments both for decorating the house and for wrapping my Christmas presents. Everything looks better adorned with pine, spruce or conifer branches, pine cones and a sprig of ilex berries. And one thing that can’t be missing to get that rustic, festive feel is a batch of dried orange slices.
In our house, you know Christmas is coming when the table is covered with branches to make wreaths while the room is filled with the scent of orange coming from the oven. Dried orange slices make a lovely fragrant natural ornament and they are very easy to make. All you need is a bag of oranges, a very low oven and a bit of patience while the oven turns your sliced oranges into ready to use Christmas decorations for you.
Once they’re ready, they’ll keep for several years. Their colour will darken over time, though, as you can see in the wrapped presents and the Christmas wreath pictured below. I like to make a fresh batch every year as part of our Christmas preparation ritual, but I also keep the ones I made in the previous years, because I like the combination of the different colours.
Below I’ll show you my way to make dried orange slices and hopefully give you some inspiration for using them, from decorating your Christmas presents to making garlands, wreaths and Christmas tree ornaments.
I wish you happy holidays!
How to dry orange slices to make natural Christmas decorations
What you’ll need
- your personal pick of citrus fruits. You can use all regular oranges for a beautiful monochrome decoration, or add blood oranges, grapefruits, tangerines or limes for added colour and variety in size.
- one or several (depending on how many slices you intend to make) baking sheets or wire racks lined with baking parchment
- paper towels to pat dry the fresh slices
If you intend to make just a few Christmas tree ornaments, 3 oranges and 1 baking sheet will do. In order to decorate the presents, Christmas wreath and garland pictured below, I used a whole bag of oranges and rotated 4 baking sheets in the oven.
Heat the oven to 90°C/195°F.
Using a sharp knife, cut your oranges into 5-7 mm (1/8-1/4 inch) thick slices. Pat the slices dry with paper towels to speed up the drying process, then arrange them in a single layer over the baking sheets.
Dry the orange slices in the oven for 4-6 hours. Halfway through cooking, rotate the baking sheets and flip the slices for even drying. As ovens can differ, check the slices every hour and remove them from the oven earlier if necessary.
Your slices are ready when they’re slightly bendy and dry to the touch on both sides. If they’re still a bit moist or sticky when you check them, return them to the oven for a bit longer. Once they’re dry, remove them from the oven to prevent them turning brown.
Leave the slices to cool and dry completely overnight; they should be completely firm the next day. Now they’re ready to be used for making decorations, like the ones shown below.
How to use dried orange slices in Christmas decorations
Wrapping Christmas gifts
Dried orange slices make a lovely Christmas present decoration. Simple brown paper, tied with white strings or coloured ribbons make a pretty base. If the strings are tied tightly around the parcel, you can simply insert one or more slices under them. Alternatively, you can loop an additional thread around the centre of the slice or around one side of the rim and tie it to the ribbon so you can see all of it. It will look even prettier when combined with other natural elements, like sprigs of pine, spruce or conifer, small pine cones, cinnamon sticks, anise stars, dried flowers or twigs of ilex. Star shaped wooden ornaments add a delicate Christmas touch. Finish with a handwritten name tag and the recipient will be joyful even before unpacking their gift.
Decorating Christmas wreaths
Use dried orange slices to decorate handmade Christmas wreaths, combined with Christmas greens and ilex berries. Alternating overlapping groups and single slices creates a natural, pleasing effect. In this wreath I combined this year’s freshly dried orange slices with the ones I made last year. You’ll notice how last year’s slices, which actually used to have the same colour, have darkened considerably over time, leading to a beautiful colour contrast with their more recent counterparts.
Making Christmas tree ornaments
Single dried orange slices make very pretty Christmas tree ornaments, as their translucent centre lets the light shine through beautifully. Simply string them to a piece of thread and tie them to a branch as they are, or decorate them with wooden beads, berries, little pine cones and greens like olive branches, Eucalyptus leaves or pine twigs.
Making a Christmas garland
To make a dried orange Christmas garland you’ll need your dried orange slices, a piece of string slightly longer than the garland you intend to make and a thick embroidery needle (if you don’t have one, you can pre-punch the orange slices with a toothpick instead). Optional extras are Christmas greens, wooden beads, small bows, cinnamon sticks and any additional natural elements that you think will look pretty.
For a quick and simple garland, you can tie individual orange slices to the string in different ways. You can make them face sidewards by stringing the thread through the centre of the slices, or by looping it around the upper part of the rim. To make them face forward, like in the Christmas tree ornament above, loop the string first around the left and then around the right side of the rim, before continuing with the next slice. Or you can make the slices overlap, by looping the string around the left side of the rim, then stringing the thread through the centre of the slice before attaching the left side of the next slice. You can use orange slices only, or alternate the orange with other decorative elements.
Instead of showcasing individual slices in your garland, you can stack the slices and string them in small groups by leading the thread through the centres. If you arrange them by size – the largest slices in the middle and the tops and bottoms of the oranges on the outside – , this will create a lovely Christmas bauble effect. Separate the baubles with wooden beads, pine cones, Christmas greens and little bows, or choose any colour or material that takes your fancy!
Or simply arrange the slices on a decorative platter for a quick and easy way to add atmosphere to the table!
If you like to add to the festive feel while making your decorations and make the house smell even more delicious, you may want to make a big pot of this chai-infused hot chocolate. Now all that’s left to do is choosing your personal favourite Christmas music and the season has officially started. Whichever way you’ll be celebrating, I wish you a wonderful time!
Need more Christmas inspiration?
If you need some last-minute Christmas brunch or dinnner inspiration, you might like some of these ideas:
- Vegan Christmas Bundt cake with orange and white chocolate icing
- Vegan stollen wreath with cranberries and homemade marzipan
- Golden beetroot salad with cranberries and spiced pecans
- Savoury Christmas wreath with chestnuts, roasted veg and fresh herbs
- Stuffed squash with herby wild rice salad and pomegranate
- Baby beetroot tatin with red onion and balsamic caramel
An individual jar of this tahini granola with pistachios and rose petals with a small spoon tied to it, or a small bottle of thyme-infused olive oil would make a lovely and personal last-minute edible Christmas gift. For more Christmas inspiration, just type “Christmas” to search the website using the Search button above.
How will you use your dried orange slices this year? I’d love to see your creations! The same goes if you make any of my Christmas recipes – I’d love for you to tag me on your Instagram or leave a comment in the comment section below the recipes. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.