Christmas Tree Lei

Enjoy the colours of summer flowers on your tree this festive season.

The Kiwi Christmas has little to do with snow and sleigh bells and everything to do with sunshine, beaches, barbecues – and flowers. The pōhutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) is a much-loved feature of the New Zealand landscape and when in bloom they evoke memories of summers and Christmases past. 

The first known published reference to the pōhutukawa as a New Zealand Christmas tree dates from 1857 when “flowers of the scarlet pōhutukawa, or ‘Christmas tree’,“ were part of table decorations at a feast put on by Ngāpuhi leader Eruera Patuone. Cards with flowering pōhutukawa have made Kiwis overseas at Christmas feel homesick ever since.  

While it’s a bit tricky to decorate our Christmas tree with pōhutukawa blooms, with the help of a few paper flowers we can enjoy giving our tree a festive look with a floral lei that’s fitting to our South Pacific celebrations.   

You will need

A Christmas tree and base


Double sided tape 

Sewing pins

String ·

Crepe or tissue paper in various colours

Approximately 50cm x 5m of white tulle or other light chiffon-type fabric (depending on the height of your tree)

A selection of extra silk flowers, with wire stalks trimmed approximately 10cm (optional)

Step 1: Make your own crepe paper flowers 

01 Take a rectangular, layered flat pack of crepe paper and at approximately 15cm, cut through the paper layers across the width. (The finished flower will be slightly narrower than the width of the paper layers you have just cut.)
02 Unfold the paper and if necessary, cut it in half so you have 2 lengths of around 60-80cm. Set 1 piece aside.
03 Fold the length of paper into 6 even layers.
04 Cut along the folded sides at each end.
05 Tidy the rectangular pile of papers and fold back and forth as you would do to make a fan. Press flat and tie in the middle with string.
06 Trim each end in a curve. (Later try a frilled edge.)
07 Carefully spread and unfurl each petal on one side of the knotted string.
08 Repeat on the other side of the string to complete your flower.

Step 2: Wrap the tree

Take one end of the tulle or chiffon fabric and pin it firmly to the back of the tree at the base. Unwind the fabric around the tree gradually working your way up to the top. Secure the end in place with pins. Adjust the fabric to achieve evenly spaced layers. 

Step 3: Create your floral lei

Make a number of flowers in a variety of sizes and colours (as per Step 1). You might also add silk or other artificial flowers into the mix. Pin the paper flowers into place on the fabric, mixing sizes and a graduation of colour as you go. If necessary secure flowers further using tape. Poke any silk flowers into place.

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