Making a kissing ball is a fun, easy project that yields a beautiful holiday ornament when you're done.
What Are Holiday Kissing Balls?
Holiday, mistletoe, or Christmas kissing balls are branches of greenery gathered or tied together to form a round shape and usually hung above a doorway. A traditional kissing ball with a figure of a baby Jesus nestled in the center of it and called a holy bough, is said to offer additional blessings and love to anyone who walked underneath it.
Holiday kissing balls originated in the Middle Ages and were hung over doorways to symbolize love, blessings, and good fortune for those who walked under them. A kissing ball is often confused with traditional mistletoe, which is typically just a sprig or two of the plant hung over doorways and associated more with protection, romance, and fertility. But sprigs of mistletoe can also be used to make a kissing ball, which is why it is sometimes called a mistletoe kissing ball.
You can make natural or artificial kissing balls without Styrofoam, as well. Just use twine to tie natural or artificial greenery from a craft store together to make an imperfect ball. Or you can wind long pieces of greenery together as you would roll a ball of yarn, finishing it off with artificial berries and flowers of your choice either glued on or tucked into empty spaces. Turn an ordinary Christmas ornament into a kissing ball ornament by attaching greenery and ribbon to the top of it.
There are plenty of kissing ball ideas you can use to enhance your creations. Some folks decorate kissing balls with ribbons, mini Christmas ornaments, moss, a strand of twinkling white lights, and other store-bought supplies, while others prefer a more natural approach, using real plant material that's often taken from their own properties. This project uses collected material, though you can embellish it with real or artificial decorations of your choosing.
Equipment / Tools
- Pruning shears
- Needlenose pliers (with wire cutter)
- Coat hanger
- Evergreen branches
- Branches of winterberry or holly with red berries
- Variety of cones from evergreen trees
- Green Styrofoam globe
- Florist's wire
- Plant stakes
- Locust pods
- Gold spray paint (optional)
How To Make a Holiday Kissing Ball
Prepare the Evergreen Branches
Using pruning shears, cut the evergreen branches so that the average branch is about 10 inches long; 3 inches of that length will be inserted into the foam globe. Vary the overall length somewhat to ensure that your kissing ball has texture. Strip the needles from the last 3 inches of each branch by shaving them off with the blades of the pruning shears.
Insert Evergreens into the Styrofoam Ball
Insert the evergreen branches into the foam ball so the stripped ends are covered. Distribute the branches evenly around the globe for a natural look. Move all around the globe as you work, rather than filling one side first. Keep adding branches until the foam is largely hidden from view.
Add the Red Berries
Wire the Cones
Cut 6 to 8 inches of florist's wire for each cone using needlenose pliers or wire cutters. Slip the wire into the grooves under each cone's scales, down near the stem. The wire should encircle the cone. Pull the wire tight and twist it on itself to secure it, leaving several inches of extra wire in two loose ends.
Wire and Install the Cones
Attach each cone to a plant stake by wrapping the loose wire ends around the stake. Insert the stakes into the kissing ball, using random placement or grouping them as desired.
Add Locust Pods
Use long, flat, or curly locust pods as "ribbon substitutes." If desired, paint the pods with gold spray paint for a festive look. To attach a pod, cut a 6-inch length of florist's wire, then poke the wire through the pod and wrap the wire around a plant stake. Insert the stake into the foam ball.
Hang the Kissing Ball
Cut a wire coat hanger in a straight area near the hook (you don't have to cut off or unravel the hook to begin), using the pliers. Straighten the hanger to create a long, straight wire. Insert the wire down through the top center of the kissing ball, and push it all the way through until it exits the bottom side. Make a 90-degree bend at the bottom end so the wire won't pull back through the ball.
Trim the top end of the wire at the desired length, then bend it to create a looped hook for hanging the ball. You can also put a ribbon on a kissing ball using this method. Simply tie the ribbon on the wire and into a loop for hanging. Hang the ball anywhere you like. If you'd like to display it outdoors, try a shepherd's hook. For the best effect, hang the ball in front of a light-colored background, such as a wall or a bunch of dried ornamental grass.
Kissing balls don't need water. A kissing ball made from real greenery should remain fresh for a few weeks. But if you prefer, mist your balls lightly to keep them from drying out prematurely.
How do you make a Victorian kissing ball?
In the Victorian era, the kissing ball became an elaborately decorated ornament filled with an excess of greenery, herbs, ribbons, and flowers. In turn, this idea morphed into what is now popular for wedding decorations and centerpieces, called the kissing flower ball, which is entirely made up of artificial flowers hot glued to a foam ball so they are completely uniform all the way around.
What are kissing balls made of?
Where do you hang kissing balls?