I come from a long line of holiday house decorators. Some of my fondest memories involve dragging out boxes of ornaments and garland to dress the house the day after Thanksgiving, but by far, my favorite memories involve my family’s yearly holiday tree. My mother was, admittedly, picky about tree choice, as she grew up without a live tree, and she would drag the three of us and my father through lot after lot. That said, the ritual of the tree became very important in our family, and it’s something that I still look forward to every year, even if we’ve traded tree lots for open forests.
Once the tree was home, Mom and Dad would put it up and string the lights, and after giving the tree several hours to settle, they would bring out the boxes (and boxes) of family ornaments. What made this tradition so special was that every year, each child was gifted an ornament, somehow related to what we had done that year (I have a field hockey player, a pair of hand-painted (by Mom) ceramic ice skates, a hot pink pig, and many more).
When I went to grad school and faced my first Christmas away from home, I was nearly brought to tears by the arrival of a Christmas package from mom, filled with all 21 of my holiday ornaments, dating back to my first Christmas. Putting them on my own tree in that far-away town not only brought back fond Christmas memories, it brought my family into my own home at Christmas time.
What I love about the tradition of gifting ornaments to children is that it doesn’t have a to be a costly, commercial affair. In lean years (and my family had lean years), we would craft holiday ornaments with my mother. Each ornament is not necessarily expensive, but it is distinctive, and my tree is full of unique pieces that remind me, every time I look at them, of the happiness of holidays at home.
Jason and I have continued this tradition by purchasing ornaments whenever we go away on vacation, so we can continue to chronicle the years on our tree. And, someday, when we have children, we hope to continue my family’s tradition of decorating our tree with warm memories.