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Use it as foil and accent for holiday centerpieces
WHAT?S BRILLIANT IN YOUR home and around your Christmas table this holiday season may be more than just the conversation.

It could well be the Christmas decor?conversational pieces in themselves and articulated not in the commercial vernacular of plastic trees and store-bought decor, but in organic discards from your garden.

They can be used in surprisingly inventive ways to inject fresh life into festive ornaments grown hackneyed and predictable over the years. They include driftwood, dried twigs, discarded tree branches and various parts of the ubiquitous areca palm, a tropical plant found in great abundance throughout the Philippines and the rest of Asia.

Wrapped in betel leaf, sliced across the grain and mixed with tobacco and/or edible lime, the areca nut was, to our Pinoy forebears, what the chewing gum is to our jean-clad westernized modern generation?a highly prized ?chew? shared by peoples from all walks of life, from Indonesia to India, Thailand and the Philippines.

Called nganga in the Philippines and paan in India, these popular ?chews? turned the user?s mouths a bright orange-red, not unlike the color of the fruit itself, which comes attached in clusters, like grape, to a many-branched stem.

With the sturdy sheathing base and graceful leaves of areca palm, this stem, when dried, creates an attractive network of twig-like tiny branches that are a perfect foil and accent for decorative arrangements of Christmas centerpieces.

While nganga chewing has all but disappeared, having lost favor and flavor among modern Filipinos, the tall, prolific palm continues to thrive as a popular ornamental garden plant. It?s easy to maintain and propagate, requiring very little care.

Spray-painted or dipped into paint, or left in their natural state and combined with store-bought ornaments such as colored balls and tinsel, they can make eco-friendly statements in all corners of the house.

To create your own, all you need are glue gun, clippers, pliers, floral ties, scissors and plenty of imagination. The organic components are free and readily available.