How to Make a Garland with Punchcomments (23) November 30th, 2012
As a child, the official start of the holiday season began not with Thanksgiving (or, as today, Halloween), but rather with the annual rite of transforming piles of red and green construction paper-cut with an old-fashioned, hinge-armed paper cutter (not a safety rail or blade guard in view)-into 1-inch by 8-inch strips. Sometimes the cutting was done by a mindful teacher. More often than not, an arthritic wrist, or simple nonchalance left the cutting of such strips in the hands of one of us children. Although I had an aversion to sharp objects back then, just watching those strips accumulate was a foretaste of the anticipation and excitement that meant only one thing: Christmas was on its way.
My teacher would divvy up the strips of paper into brown paper bags. Each student would be given a bag of strips and dispatched home for the weekend to patiently glue each strip, end-to-end, into an interlocking chain. The resulting garlands were then to be brought back to class the following Monday, where a few favored students would have the pleasure of connecting all of the individual chains together into one, long, festive, red and green "super garland" that a much-put-upon teaching assistant would then be expected to hang-step stool at heel, yawning stapler in hand-across the ceiling of our classroom, from the bulletin board in front to its companion at the rear of the room and back again; criss-crossing above our desks until its length was exhausted.
It will likely surprise no one when I say that my garlands were always meticulously and uniformly glued (using one, carefully applied smudge of Elmer's classroom paste per strip) and that my strips never veered from the strict red-followed-by-green-followed-by-red formula. Most of my classmates, in keeping with the late '60s zeitgeist perhaps, seemed to prefer a more free-form (some might say, random) arrangement of colors (e.g., red, red, green, red, green, green, whatever), which meant I was usually able to pick out my alternating chain from amidst the jumble of holiday color that hung above our heads.
The pleasure of working with my classmates (albeit, classmates who "stubbornly refused" to see how alternating red and green was "clearly superior" to random arrangements of colors) to create something larger than any one of us had the skill or the will to create ourselves has, as an adult, found purchase in me still. I love collaborating with other creators and artists on projects. Each holiday season I like to do at least one craft project that requires the help and participation of my friends, family, nieces, and neighbors. It has to be easy, it has to be quick, and it has to yield something I can use as decoration.
This year I decided against attempting another popcorn and cranberry garland in favor of something utterly simply, a tiny bit tedious (sorry, but it's true), and wonderfully pretty: a simple chain of paper ringlets made with the aid of a few hole punches and a little patience. I expect to have enough garland to swaddle the 8-foot fir tree that will be living in my front parlor. In the meantime, I'm happy to offer here for your review, evidence of one afternoon's worth of cutting and gluing. Imagine, if you can, these few feet of interlocking chains many times longer and encircling an ornament-laden Tannenbaum. Happy tree trimming.
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