Grab an eggnog (spiked, spiced, or lattee’d) and settle in to hear the story of my Scottish Pioneer Inspired New Brunswick Christmas Tree!
Sometimes, I get ideas that are crazy. Sometimes, I share those ideas. And sometimes, they become even better than I imagined! That’s what happened with this little project. I’ve been wanting to decorate a themed tree for awhile; our family tree is always a mishmash of all kinds of items that are important to us and I love it … but it leaves me craving that picture perfect holiday scene. A sure way for me to take an idea from my head and make it a reality is to make myself accountable to someone else. So, I reached out to some fellow New Brunswick bloggers and asked if they’d like to work together on creating some New Brunswick-themed Christmas trees!
I think it took mere seconds for Jenna (There’s a Shoe for That) and Ruth Ann (Everything Unscripted) to jump on board. Then our friend Ingrid stepped up to sponsor a The NB Box prize for folks who took part in this project in 2018. (Sorry, we haven’t relaunched.)
The NB Box is a fabulous way to pamper yourself or someone else, perfect for everyone from your best friend to your new client to your family living away. Each box is filled with carefully curated locally-made products – and you can pick and choose what’s in your box! We also had a few special runner-up prizes to gift – these beautiful hand-made New Brunswick tartan-inspired ornaments, handcrafted especially for the #MyNBChristmasTree 2018 contest!
Now, on to MY #MyNBChristmasTree – also inspired by New Brunswick’s tartan and the legacy of this province’s Scottish pioneers.
About one out of every six New Brunswickers has Scottish ancestry, and three-quarters of my grandparents are of Highland Scottish descent, so choosing to honour this legacy was a perfect fit for me. It also helped I still had some lovely New Brunswick tartan waiting to be used! I decided to create a garland, mixing the tartan with burlap.
New Brunswick’s tartan lends itself especially well to Christmas projects, as the colours are predominately red and green, with some brown, blue, and gold woven through. The tartan itself wouldn’t have been a part of any early Scottish settlers’ holiday traditions; it was commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook and designed in Gagetown in 1959. The red used symbolizes the loyalty of both the New Brunswick Regiment and the province’s early Loyalist settlers. The ‘beaver brown’ is a nod to Beaverbrook. The forest green represents our lumber history, while the meadow green stands for agriculture. The blue symoblizes our coastal and inland water, while the threads of gold represent our potential wealth.
I love working with tartan for projects like this, because the edges look great when slightly frayed. Perfect for a non-sewer like me who wants to keep things simple! Just cut the cloth in strips and once you’re finished working with it, help free a thread or two if needed to mask any uneven cuts you made.
I paired the tartan with burlap, as this was a common household item in the Maritimes long before it became a craft staple. Many homes throughout our province and nearby have rugs and mats and even artwork created using yarn, cloth, and burlap. I learned rug hooking as a child, alongside my mother, who uses the skill in her job as an animator at Nova Scotia’s Highland Village, a living history pioneer museum similar to King’s Landing.
To create the garland, I simply cut roughly-equally sized pieces of tartan and burlap and tied them one by one with a simple knot along a piece of rope I picked up in a craft aisle. Pop on a holiday movie and get it done!
I’m not usually a garland person when it comes to decorating our trees, but I loved how this particular garland filled out this tree! Adding some pinecones the kids collected in the fall helped complete the look, making this tiny artificial tree look much more full and realistic.
I love when the house also smells like Christmas, so making these cinnamon ornaments were a must for me! I first made these when our eldest was little; her second Christmas, when I knew hands would be curious and my antique ornament collection should stay tucked away (which it still is, several years later!), I decorated the tree with these kid-friendly decorations, adding some dried orange slices for lovely pops of colour. It was one of my favourite trees and it was really my inspiration for this Scottish Pioneer inspired tree. I wanted to keep things simple and homemade, embracing the minimalist ‘less is best’ mindset.
Creating the cinnamon ornaments is simple: equal parts apple sauce and cinnamon, rolled into dough, and cut into shapes. Bake at a low temperature for an hour or so, and voila! I stayed with the idea of beauty through simplicity and only made star shapes for this tree, using two different sizes to break up the visual symmetry.
For a second ornament option this time I wanted to stay away from the orange slices, as that wouldn’t be keeping with the Scottish Pioneer theme (though the tradition of an orange at Christmas is fitting, slicing it up to ‘waste’ on the tree would not have happened!). Instead I asked my husband to cut a few slices off a nice birch branch in the wood pile. You could do so many fun designs, from wood burning to painting that would be in keeping with the theme, but I opted again for simplicity and simply left the birch rounds untouched, other than a small hole and a ribbon tied to hang them.
I love having a tree topper that’s non-traditional; when I saw that Dieppe-based High Tide Designs was creating incredible designs at home on a 3D printer, I knew what this tree needed. I asked, and Krista and Jeremy delivered: an ornament in the shape of New Brunswick! What better way to top off this little homage to the province than to place it right on top! While a 3D printer is not entirely in keeping with a Scottish Pioneer theme, I’d like to think that a talented craftsman could have whittled such a tree topper, and since this one is locally made, I’m willing to meld a little modern ingenuity into the mix for the sake of a perfect #MyNBChristmasTree topper!
There’s a trend in home styling these days to place trees in crates; we happened to have this vintage Coca-Cola box from my husband’s grandparents home that suited this project well. While Coca-Cola might not be a local brand, this crate seems to have been made locally and still bears the stamp of a New Brunswick company inside!
You might have spied a little reindeer in my photos, as well. Again, he’s a simple craft that could have easily been created by early settlers with simple supplies, had the story of Rudolph been popular yet. This particular guy was a gift from our children, thanks to the help of their fabulous preschool teachers of years past. The kids painted the blocks of wood brown and picked out ‘antlers.’ They had some help gluing those on and painting sweet but simple eyes and a nose. A little raffia tied in a bow and you have the most adorable keepsake! (The Santa was handcarved by a man named Josef in Whitney Pier, Cape Breton, many years ago and is one of my favourite Christmas decorations.)
Thank you for indulging me in sharing #MyNBChristmasTree – I can’t wait to see yours! Until then, here are some little ‘gifts’ from me:
My holiday gift idea to match this post (simply because I love Christmas books and this one kept coming to mind while creating my Scottish Pioneer Inspired Christmas Tree): a lovely compilation of stories that will bring the history of the holidays to life, An Orange from Portugal.
Now, go check out the other #MyNBChristmasTree posts!
Remember, we want to see YOUR New Brunswick-inspired trees (or wreaths!), too! Share your photo and tag it with #MyNBChristmasTree; tag us, too (@pickleplanetmoncton, @ruthunscripted, and @jennamac007). We’ll randomly select a winner to be spoiled with a gift from The NB Box!