ikebana and life in japan

a blog about ikebana and life in japan


Christmas Ikebana in the Snow

Twinkling lights, smells of cinnamon and spices from the kitchen, smiles on people's faces, familiar songs on the radio, decorations everywhere you look, and the hope of snow -- yes, it's that time of year again, Christmas!

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. There is just something about the season that brings out the best in people, it's a time when wishes are granted, a time of magic, hope, love, and giving. Who wouldn't love that?

It also means it's time for some Christmas ikebana. It's difficult to find what I think of as Christmas materials, cedar and pine branches, the traditional evergreens of Christmas, here in Japan. The thought here is that if you have any kind of green and red, you have Christmas. But it just doesn't feel right to me. Yes, it is pretty, but it just isn't Christmas without the traditional Christmas boughs.

A couple of weeks ago, the Morioka Chapter of Ohara-ryu Ikebana had a small exhibition, a みんなの花展 (Minna no katen). It was the beginning of November, but everyone wanted to do a Christmas themed exhibition. I felt it was a bit too early, but some of the others pointed out that in ikebana, using materials and themes earlier than their time is a common practice. So, we decided to have a Christmas exhibition with the sub-theme being Christmas Wish, trying to bring a bit of magic and hope to the people of the area after a devastating year hear in Japan.

I knew once the theme was decided that I wanted to do a circular form arrangement and use some candles, something a bit westernized. I began to make some plans about what I wanted to use -- Christmas evergreens, white spider chrysanthemums, white carnations, maybe even some poinsettia? I also wanted to make it look as if it was in the snow, so I began to look for some snow on the Internet.

I couldn't find anything I liked and just happened to stumble upon a picture of some snow in a jar surrounding a candle; and the snow was, believe it or not, some Epsom salts. On one of my outings to the grocery store, I tried to find some Epsom salts, but they don't have that here in Japan. So, I tried to look for some big crystal salts, which proved difficult to find, too. I ended up back on the Internet and found some beautiful salt from Nepal. I ordered a couple of kilograms and was set to go!

The week or so before, I began to look for the Christmas evergreens that I wanted to use. Close to Christmas it is difficult to find that kind of material; it was even more difficult to find it in the beginning of November. Outside of the school that I teach at, there are a few Christmas evergreens, so I snipped a few branches from the bushes. I was lucky enough to find some suitable evergreens at a flower shop in a local grocery store, too. And I even managed to find some eucalyptus to mix in with the other evergreen branches. I think I had 5 different green materials by the time the exhibition rolled around. The white carnations and spider chrysanthemums were easy to find, too; but in the end, I decided not to use any poinsettia. I wanted to use only white flowers and use a few red ball ornaments to add a splash of color to the arrangement.

I made my circular form using 5 small jam jars that I had been saving for quite a while. (I knew they would come in handy one of these days.) I had a large candle stand that I placed in the center of the arrangement with a large white candle, and I covered the base of the arrangement in my salt "snow". I thought it looked very cold and frosty, but with the red ball ornaments, it still had a happy feeling to it. When viewed from above, it looked like a wreath, but I had used 5 containers with the materials spreading out in a circular motion -- a perfect combination of eastern ikebana and western Christmas.

Circular form
A close-up -- you can see the "snow" and the way the materials reach out in a circular form.
I also added a few pine cones to give it a more natural feel.
I thought the spider chrysanthemums also looked like snowflakes.
A close-up of the "snow".
View from above, a wreath. (Sorry, not the best picture. I took this one with my phone.)

The exhibition was held in a hotel lobby, and it put a lot of smiles on people faces as they walked around looking at all of the beautiful flowers. I think the magic and hope of Christmas was felt by everyone who attended the exhibition. I certainly felt it, and it warmed my heart.

Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think, or any of your favorite Christmas memories.


Robyn said...

To say that I love it would be SUCH an UNDERSTATEMENT! But, I do. I adore your thought process and artistry. Remember my Christmas tree decorating parties? Love u, boy. (robyn)

Stephen Coler said...

thanks, robyn! i remember one with your cats causing quite the commotion! good times, indeed.

sometimes i mess the big colored bulbs on the trees. and going out to find and cut your tree was always fun. i would be so excited to drive up to missouri to the christmas tree farm, pick out the tree, take it home and decorate it with the family.

those will definitely be memories i hold and cherish for years to come!

happy christmas decorating to you!

heart you, too!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is Wow. The arrangement is gorgeous, so elegant and playful at the same time. The way that the carnations seem to sway en masse, they do evoke the corps de ballet or a festive dance in general. And I love the sparkle of the snow and the red accents which remind one of holly. You are a true artist, there's no denying that.

Wishing you many blessings and a happy Advent!!


Stephen Coler said...

john, thanks for the lovely comment! from your first comment, i have thought you were an artist with your words. you can evoke a beautiful picture with just a few words, something that i wish i could do. i'm glad you liked the arrangement and stopped by again.

i hope the coming season brings you joy, snow, and some magic.

merry christmas!

The FitzWilliams said...

Love your Christmas ikebana! One of my favorite Christmas memories was seeing/hearing an amazingly talented BFF sing "Once in Royal David's City" at the Hendrix College Candlelight Carol service. It was breathtaking, and I'll never forget sitting in the chapel with tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. Love you!

atelier kado said...


Stephen Coler said...

ml, you are so nice! i have very fond memories of candlelight, too. did you know that they did a live streaming of the service this year? i watched a little of it and it brought back a lot of good memories. there is just something so magical about the whole thing. heart you to!

Stephen Coler said...

atelier kado,
thanks for the comment!

The FitzWilliams said...

Merry Christmas, Stevie!

Stephen Coler said...

merry christmas, misty leigh! hope you are having a great christmas.