I’ve always been a collector. One knick-knack is just a pretty thing, but two or three of them—related in some way—is a collection.
And so it is with Christmas ornaments. I’m not the only one who has pulled together collections of them. Heavens, no! My friend Christy recently posted this comment on Facebook:
Since 1993 I’ve collected ornaments, either that people give me or that I buy to commemorate something in my life (or just that I like a lot, like a dinosaur gourd I bought last year). I started keeping a record of them, which I store with the ornaments, explaining where each one came from and/or what it means. I don’t put up a tree every year so without this record I would definitely have lost track of a lot of them. It brings me so much pleasure to unpack them all and put them on the tree while reading through this journal. It’s my very favorite tradition I ever started. This year I didn’t even need the “filler” ornaments I have, and every ornament on the tree is a sweet memory.
This is a tree I’d love.
When I was growing up in the ’60s, aluminum trees were very popular—all hung with one color of round bulb. They looked cool, they did. And then I’d go home to the hodge-podge of a tree at my house, with ornaments made by my parents, others purchased in a store, and things we kids made at school.
I still have a hodge-podge tree, and I treasure it for the very reason Christy treasures hers. When my son was an infant, we lived in south Louisiana, and I bought a small—it’s perhaps three inches—ceramic Mardi Gras mask. It’s just a souvenir—inside it reads “New Orleans 1983”—but I attached a ribbon and hung it on the tree that year. It makes me remember my little December baby.
Now it’s in the “places” collection, and gets hung with ornaments from Charleston, South Carolina, and Paris, France. None of them are actual Christmas ornaments; I just picked them up in souvenir shops, added a hook, and wrote the year on the back with a Sharpie. One of the French ornaments is just a handpainted chicken (blue); on the back I wrote “Paris 2006.” In the case of a trip to Tybee Island, I collected some sand dollars and glitter-glued the year and place on them. You might also look for lightweight fridge magnets that you can turn into ornaments. As a last resort, use a photo! These days they make lots of varieties of tiny—tree-sized—picture frames, complete with hooks, into which you can put a photograph of a special moment.
Or a special person. When my son was in preschool, they had some kind of craft project every Christmas that resulted in a photo ornament: Milk jug cap? Yep. Construction-paper frame? Yep. Popsicle-stick sled? Got one of those too. This continued through grammar school, and after that I used a school photo and made one for myself. When he became a school teacher, I added those. It’s a collection, y’all. 🙂
When Christy posted about the pleasure her ornament collection brings her, I could definitely relate. Christmas is a nostalgic, sentimental season, perfect for a once-a-year memory. Her friends added comments with lots of stories about their ornament collections too. One started collections for her daughters.
In fact, several years ago I also started a collection for my son, a musician. Musical instruments, bells, musical notation … Music is a beloved Christmas theme, so there’s lots of cheap, ugly stuff to be had. So it’s fun to search out the unique and beautiful instead. I’ve been working on it for years. Some years I might find a half dozen to add, some years none. (This is one of those years.)
The secrets to building an ornament collection are patience, vigilance, and creativity. Have fun with it!