Walnuts are often eaten as a traditional snack in the run-up to the Christmas season. They are wholesome enough in their own right, but the shells can be kept and re-used to make attractive Christmas decorations too.
How to Get the Walnut Shells Suitable For Christmas Decorations
The trick to making gilded walnuts is to crack the walnut shells without crushing them. Most nutcrackers simply apply pressure to crack the nut, which often ends up crushing the walnut. It is far better to use a walnut key inserted into the small opening at the back of the walnut, twisting to open the nut up.
This usually results in the walnut splitting along the natural lines of the nut, preserving the shell for later gilding to make Christmas decorations and keeping the kernel intact too. The simplest walnut keys are the freebies given away with some packets of walnuts, typically a 1 inch diameter steel disc with a shallow point sticking out to one side.
For households that don’t have a walnut key to hand it is possible to use a small stubby flat-bladed screwdriver inserted in the nut where a walnut key would go, but it is probably best not to let children open the nuts this way.
The walnut shells get more brittle as they dry out and age, and the taste doesn’t improve with time either so it is best to use fairly fresh walnuts rather than ones towards the end of their recommended keeping times.
For Extra Fun Put A Fortune Telling Token In the Gilded Walnuts
Once the nutshell is in two halves and some of the woody swarf is cleared out it can receive a slip of paper with the fortune telling device in it. If there are a number of children in the party then some little tokens can be used. Two hearts for the one who will marry first, an image of a bag of gold for the one who will find their fortune first, a paintbrush for the potential artist in the family and a piece of paper with some notes on a stave for the future musician would be true to the original Victorian tradition.
How to Make Gilded Walnut Christmas Tree Decorations
Once the tokens and the shells are ready, a small piece of string or wool can be prepared, with a knot in on end that will hold the string in the reassembled nut, and long enough to tie the nut to the Christmas tree. The token goes into a half-shell with the knotted end of the string.
The edge of the other half-shell can be smeared with some wood glue of quick-drying general glue for the impatient, and then carefully placed on top of the bottom half to make the whole nut. Once the glue has dried, the nut can be hung up temporarily and painted with acrylic gold paint.
How to Make Gilded Walnut Christmas Garlands
A garland needs an awful lot of walnut shells, and it is really nice to involve children in the craft of making unusual Christmas decorations for the home from what would otherwise go to waste. They can glue the nut halves together – there is no need for the fortune tokens or the string of the Christmas tree decorations. The nuts then need to be drilled at right-angles to the natural seam, and then painted.
It is easier to spray paint the nuts in a box after they have been drilled because some of them may crack when drilling. Once the paint has dried turn the nuts over and respray them so they are all painted, and then thread them onto some wire or string to make the garland. Lazy garland crafters will observe that it is not necessary to eat the nuts for this application, though it seems a waste to do so.