In my ongoing effort to expand my Christmas décor with non-Christmassy things, AND learn a thing or two about new Christmas traditions, I discovered that mushrooms are an ancient symbol of good luck in many parts of the world. Get that? Mushrooms. They are not just for pizza anymore. I also happen to think mushrooms are super cute and stuff and will look good on my door all the way through February and beyond. Double stuff woot!
I had seen red and white toadstools used as a motif on ornaments and cards at German Christmas markets, but I did not know why. So I went a huntin’. This is some of the delightfully weird information I found:
- The red and mushrooms, aka Amanita muscaria, aka fly agaric, aka Champignon, are known for being highly poisonous and for having psychedelic properties. Eaten fresh they could easily kill you, but dry them out all winter, and, well…
- Amanitas are almost exclusively found growing at the base of coniferous trees. Because of their close proximity, ancient pagans used the dried Amanitas to adorn pine branches to celebrate winter solstice, a practice which later evolved into decorating Christmas trees. In other words, Amanitas were the first Christmas ornament. Who knew?
- The tradition of using green, red and white as designated Christmas colors comes from the evergreen tree and the red and white mushrooms underneath.
- According to Wikipedia, Santa Claus’s red and white costume is inspired by Amanita mushrooms. Warning, this part gets a little weird; “The idea of Santa Claus and tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace is based centrally upon the fly agaric mushroom itself. With its generally red and white color scheme, he argues that Santa Claus’s suit is related to the mushroom. He also draws parallels with flying reindeer: reindeer had been reported to consume the mushroom and prance around in an intoxicated manner afterwards. American ethnopharmacologist Scott Hajicek-Dobberstein, researching possible links between religious myths and the red mushroom, notes, “If Santa Claus had but one eye [like Odin], or if magic urine had been a part of his legend, his connection to the Amanita muscaria would be much easier to believe.” Wow. Way to be weird, Wikipedia.
There are several books devoted to exploring the ties between ancient Christianity and mushrooms. I’m not buying any of them (literally), but it’s an interesting subject. You decide for yourself. In the meantime, I’m making a wreath!
This isn’t much of a tutorial. These little Styrofoam mushrooms came with stems on the bottom that made it easy to pierce them through a wreath base. After I painted a few of them red and white, I just stuck them in and added a little silicone adhesive to help with stability. That was about it. After it dried, I filled the gaps with some reindeer moss (how appropriate) from the dollar store. Simple and abundant.
Where did you get the mushrooms? Floral supply places will have them, or you can get them online. I got these on clearance from The Pottery when I was in Virginia last year. A year ago, if you were within 100 miles of Williamsburg I would tell you to make the trek to shop there, but as I understand, The Pottery recently moved and lost it’s friendly-craft-supply-warehouse-with-rock-bottom-prices way. This makes me sad. For many years, it was by far my all-time favorite craft store. Sad face. Does anyone else know of a beyond fabulous craft supply warehouse worth visiting? I might need to make a road trip.