How to Make your Holiday Medieval and Bright with Pomanders

By Molly Mitchell

December 5, 2019

Oranges decorated with patterns of lines and cloves.

Historically, pomander balls were worn by Europeans in the Middle Ages in hopes of warding off the black plague and other pestilence, and also to cover up the fact that pretty much everyone and everything smelled terrible back then.

Painting of a hand holding a medieval pomander.
CORNELISZ VAN OOSTSANEN, Jacob (b. ca. 1472, Oostzan, d. 1533, Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Now we know that pomander balls aren’t much good against the plague, but they’re still fun and easy to put together. Plus, they make cheerful decorations that fill the house with a lovely aroma.

Making them is simple:

  • Poke holes into a firm orange with a toothpick, making any design that you want. 
  • Push whole cloves into the holes, and watch your design come to life. 
  • If you want, you can make complementary patterns in the orange skin with the corner of a citrus zester, or roll your pomander in ground spices for extra fragrance.

Hang them with twine in a cool, dark place for about a week. Once they are dried, they are ready to display! You can hang them up, stack them as centerpieces, or even stick them in drawers to keep clothes fresh and nice-smelling.