Gingerbread house by Cassia Helmling, a contestant in Grove Park Inn’s National Gingerbread Competition, on display at The Grove Arcade.

It starts with that first construction paper garland, or popcorn-and-cranberry chain, or pomander ball (you know, an orange studded with cloves and tied with a ribbon for a closet sachet): Holidays and crafts go hand in hand. Some people make all of their gifts, from knitted scarves to fresh-baked pumpkin bread. Others craft decorations, from a simple sprig of mistletoe, to an artful blown-glass ornament. And while aluminum trees and strings of electric colored lights have their charms, who doesn’t have a soft spot for a candy-covered gingerbread house or a handmade ceramic menorah?

Here, Xpress readers offer some of their favorite festive crafts and the memories those bring to mind.

I decorated in origami in an orange overcoat. I was listening to the paint melt in Neapolitan-themed colors and eating a Rocket Pop on the park bench.

One time, in fur-lined suit with biscuits, I walked all the way to the zoo. I have never been very good at gingerbread houses but I do like to break off a wall and have a snack.

I made a beer can pyramid as I peered amid the antlers of reindeer at eye-level. Never mind the instructions, it's full-steam ahead from here. — Phil Cheney, artist. dynamicartgallerie.com

2. Christmas miniature in a silver server piece, by Darlene Hatchett. etsy.com/shop/hatchettdesigns

I grew up in an old farmhouse surrounded by woods just outside of Washington, D.C. My mother and I would walk through our woods and gather pine boughs (usually from long-needle pines), creeping cedar and princess pines, and bring them home. The cedar and princess pines decorated the mantel above the living room fireplace, but the pine boughs were fanned out on top and bottom to make a large spray for the white front door. The boughs were fastened together with wire and a big red ribbon placed in the center. Fun and friendship and a beautiful door were the product of this annual adventure, and it has become a tradition, as I make sprays every year to decorate the two front porch pillars on my little bungalow.

Last year, I started taking my preschool-age granddaughter to the woods with me to collect greenery. I told her stories about how her great-grandmother Ginger and how I did the same thing that we were doing. We changed the nature of the sprays a bit by adding holly, dried weeds, grasses, hydrangea blossoms, and red and white berries. We also brought home pine cones to tuck in here and there. For a 4-year-old, most of the fun was in the discovery of what we needed and lots that we didn't. Getting enough material took much longer and was much more fun than if I had been doing it alone. We sorted out our collection to make two small sprays, tied the center with wire, and put a green bow on one and a red bow on the other. Cocoa and frosted cookies rounded out the day.

I hope that one Christmas, my great-granddaughter will be going to the woods with her mom to hear stories and collect greens for sprays.  — Sara Marshall

4. Knitted hat and scarf for a celebratory bottle of wine, made by Crystal Rodriguez. etsy.com/shop/CrystalKnits77

These snowmen are made from vintage chenille bedspreads and embellished with recycled sweaters and buttons. Hand carved "carrot" noses and stick arms add to their character, along with rosy cheeks and a dusting of mica flakes for "snow." Handcrafted by Vikki Rogers and available for purchase at The Pink House. pinkhousetreasures.wordpress.com

Christmas is about love, and this ornament was created with love by artist couple Tadashi and Corina Pia Torii. What better ornament to add to your holiday decor than a heart-shaped one? A timeless classic, this exquisite blown-glass heart ornament is laced with a filigree of delicate cane work and ribbons of vibrant color. It will bring holiday cheer and can be enjoyed year around.

After taking a glassblowing class during business studies at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Japanese-born artist Tadashi’s life changed when he realized he had found his true calling in art. Over the past 20 years Tadashi and I, a German-born artist, have worked in the arts. Since 2007 we’ve combined our talents, and in 2011 we relocated from Atlanta to join the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro. Torii Studios is opening in downtown Waynesville in the spring of 2014 and will be our creative home. — Corina Pia Torii, facebook.com/toriistudios

These are wrapping paper toy soldiers I made for last year's liquor gifts. No instructions necessary. They’re mostly all wrapping paper, with some peach paper for faces, pompoms for noses, metallic sticker embellishments, miniature gift and candy cane accouterments and feathers on their hats. They’re put together mostly with glue stick, double-sided tape and a little hot glue; they go together in a flash. — Sue Wille

8. Natural burlap wreath with a red bow and green spray, made by Megan Watson. etsy.com/shop/TheMiddleSisterCo

9. My business partner and I have been crafting for Christmas for our booths at The Screen Door and The Regeneration Station.  From filling up glass ornaments with paint or glitter, to making festive table runners, we enjoy getting ready for the holidays. Pictured: metal and glass bead snowflake garland at the Screen Door. — Cate Scales, thegoodsavl.com.

10. My holiday tradition is to create a Christmas house village. The village is huge, very elaborate and has gone up every year for about 15 years. Currently we have about 60 houses and buildings. The platforms have all been constructed, mostly handmade by my husband and me. Every year, this is a huge deal to assemble, it takes a week or more. This year, my 7 year-old granddaughter was finally old enough to help set up the houses and she was over-the-moon thrilled. — Mary Beth Herman

— Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

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