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Christmas Traditions: Ornaments

on November 28, 2012



We spent last Friday decorating our house for Christmas.  I’ve not always been one for diving into Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving but since all of our children were home and available we decided it would be a good day to do it.  The last two years our oldest hasn’t been home to help decorate the tree which caused no small amount of sadness for his mother.  You see we have ornament traditions at our home.

I mostly blame Hallmark for causing our ornament condition to begin with.  It all started 22 years ago when someone gave our son a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament: an adorable year stamped teddy bear holding a candy cane.  (I am a sucker for teddy bears.) He was the first one in a series of “Child’s First Five Years” ornaments so me, being me, had no other choice than to buy one every year until we had the complete set.  The year of the fourth ornament our daughter was born.  In order to be fair and equal (every parent’s goal) she had to have her own ornament.  By that time Hallmark had started a new five-year series so we committed to another five years mostly because I can’t leave something undone.  Of course by the time she got to year three our poor son’s series was over.  It didn’t seem fair to buy her an ornament and not him so I searched for a special ornament for him.  I found a bear on a bike. Perfect! He’d learned to ride his bike without training wheels that year.  What I didn’t know with that purchase was that I thrust myself into years of buying ornaments “to be fair” for each child each year.   Some years we let the kids pick out an ornament that they liked so I have Jeff Gordon, John Elway, Disney Princesses and Barbies hanging on my tree.  Most years I rack my brain to find an ornament that symbolizes something that happened in that child’s life over the course of the year.  We have football ornaments, a flute and a trumpet, four ornaments with some sort of educational theme for the first years of school, a snowman with a coffee cup from my daughter’s first job, a Santa holding a hamburger for our son’s, cars for the year they got their driver’s licence and one ornament with our son’s college logo. Each of them are marked with the year they were obtained.   All of them make me smile when we pull them out of their boxes.  So many memories.   Each child knows what each of their ornaments stand for and each one hangs their own every year.  They get their new ornament and hang it on Christmas Eve.  It’s a tradition.

Our intention is to give the kids their ornament collection when they move out on their own so while our tree is looking pretty crowded and rather eclectic this year I know some year, probably a year soon, some of those ornaments will go to a new tree and mine will begin emptying.  The thought makes me rather sad and suddenly I understand why my mother changed her Christmas decorations the year we all got married and moved out.  I’ve never had aspirations to have a professionally decorated looking tree. I like our homey tree with the odd ornaments.  It just feels right for us. As I was thinking those thoughts last Friday while cleaning up after “D-day” something occurred to me.  We have ornament traditions beyond the one for our children.  I just hadn’t thought of it before.

I’ll share a few of them:

Every year my tree holds 18 of these bulbs loving crocheted by my grandmother.  She gave them to me for Christmas the year I got married.  These bulbs go on first every year.

Made by the same grandmother and gifted the same year are these snowflakes. All 18 of them are different from each other.  No two are exactly alike.   They go on last every year.  I smile each year as we hang these handcrafted works of love.  I can picture my grandma sitting in her rocking chair (the one that now sits in the corner of my living room) working on Christmas gifts throughout the year.  It’s a connection to my past that will always have a connection to my children’s pasts as well.  We talk about great grandma every year when we hang the ornaments she made.

From my other grandma I was given a great ornament idea.  Because she had nine grandchildren she had no small number of handmade ornaments given to her.  Because she liked her living room tree to remain rather formal she came up with a solution: a tree in her bedroom.  She hung all the ornaments we grandkids gave her on that tree “So I look at them last thing each night.”  Instead of a tree in the bedroom we have put a tree in the basement family room.  That tree holds all the handmade treasures the kids bring home each year.  The various frames with school pictures and church pictures.  The foam creations.  The odd assortment of ornaments that every mother struggles to know where to hang.  It’s the “kid tree”.  Hanging on that tree are these:


The almost 40-year-old ornaments that my grandmother (the same one who made the other ornaments) made and gave to me when I was quite little.  I loved “The Wizard of Oz”.  I can remember being so angry with my mom for making me pack them away with the other Christmas ornaments that year.  I wanted to keep them out and play with them.  All these years later I am thankful for my mom’s infinite wisdom.  They would have been ruined in no time had I kept them in my room like I’d wanted.  Now they hang alongside the other treasures on our family room tree.  The past and the present blended together.

There are some ornaments that have found locations in other special places in my home.


This fella was made by uncle and given to me by my mother.  He hangs above my kitchen window showing off  the beautiful craftsmanship and my love for bears.


This candy cane was made by our youngest son.  The one who hates to do crafty things.  (I mean HATES it.)  He made this at church one night and came home and hung it on the kitchen cabinet handle.  I’ve hung it there every year since reminded of how hard he worked doing something he didn’t like to do and is somewhat difficult for him so that he could help decorate our kitchen.

Those are just a few of the treasures our ornament boxes hold.  Treasures not because they are fancy or expensive but because of the memories they hold and the people they represent.  I hadn’t realized how special our ornaments are to me until I stopped and thought about it.  I’m glad that I did.  I’m no longer annoyed at Hallmark for starting me off on an “ornament tradition”.  I kind of had one started anyway.  I just hadn’t realized it.

Does your family have Christmas Ornament traditions?  I’d love to hear about them!






5 responses to “Christmas Traditions: Ornaments

  1. I love the memories that Christmas ornaments evoke! I thought I only took pleasure in the ornaments but yesterday I realized how tied to the ornaments my daughter is. My 2 year old broke one of her ornaments from her first Christmas…sobbing prevailed. I felt so bad because you can’t replace them! I love all your stories and I can totally relate!!

    • wedelmom says:

      Poor Iris! 😦 We too broke an ornament this year – our 1994 Husker National Championship one. I thought our youngest son was going to get sick from crying. His father handled it well though. 😉

  2. We buy or make ornaments to symbolize the biggest events of the past year. The tradition just “happened” – we were on a cruise in December when my hubby (the boyfriend) proposed. We bought a Christmas ornament and it was a lovely reminder of the cruise and the proposal. Since then quite a few ornaments were added to our tree: buying a house, getting married, getting pregnant… I haven’t gotten a baby’s first christmas ornament yet for my baby – but my mom gave me mine, with my birth year on it 🙂

    • wedelmom says:

      Excellent. The best traditions “just happen” usually. If we plan them they don’t ever seem to work out as well so they? Enjoy your baby’s first Christmas. Before you know it he’ll be hanging his 20th ornament on the tree.

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