Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree!

Grams has finally finished putting up the Christmas Tree. It was much harder than it should have been and took much longer than I planned on.

My main complaint about putting up the tree each year is that assembling and shaping our artificial tree results in my hands and arms being scratched up to the point of bleeding. We bought this tree two years ago and made sure we got a pre-lit tree. This was supposed to make it easier.

Last year my friend Stephanie posted on Facebook that she doesn't actually take her artificial tree down each year. She just covers it in plastic and stores it standing upright. I thought that was a brilliant idea! So last year, instead of taking the tree down, we wrestled it out the front door and into the garage, wrapped it in heavy-duty plastic and stored it standing upright.

I expected that this year, Grandad would just haul the tree back into the living room, plug it in, and it would be ready to decorate. Not so! When we plugged it in, the lights on several limbs did not come on. I then spent the next 3 days, replacing bulbs, searching for the ends of the plugs and re-arranging them. I even went and bought a Light Helper-Pro. For a cost of $20, this little tool is supposed to fix your mini-lights. It did not, but it was useful for removing burned out bulbs and it will help you determine whether or not the lights have power. After three days, I went to Walgreens and bought a strand of 100 mini lights and just strung them over the burned out bulbs. Then it took me two nights to decorate it. This is a 7' tree and I'm only 5'1" tall. That mean climbing up and down the stepladder numerous times. Here's the finished product.

I once answered an online quiz that included the question "If your house was on fire what would you grab as you ran out the door?" My initial answer to that question was "absolutely nothing." I would be happy to get out with just my family in one piece. But after giving it some serious thought I want to reconsider. If I can grab something on my way out the door, I want to save my Christmas ornaments.

I've been collecting ornaments since we got married 35 years ago. I have several hundred ornaments. Many of them are sentimental favorites. The first year we were married my employer and his wife gave us a Norman Rockwell collectible ornament. It was beautiful and I loved it and I added a new Norman Rockwell ornament to my collection each year for about seven years. Unfortunately, a few years ago, I had all eight of them displayed on my fireplace mantle and Grandad bumped into them, they fell and every single one of them shattered. Not a single one of those ornaments survived.

The first year we were married, our budget was extremely lean. There wasn't a lot of money for ornaments. I bought kits for sequined ornaments and spent the month of November making these ornaments. The rest of the tree was filled with candy canes and pipe-cleaner ornaments. That was what we could afford.

These two ornaments are the first ornaments I remember buying. The baby reindeer is hand-painted on porcelain and is very delicate. The wreath is made of plastic beads, but it looks like crystal and is beautiful on the tree. Both of these were bought in 1976 and have held up extremely well.

This angel and Christmas tree are needlepoint ornaments that I made in the late 1970's. There were a few more of them that were done on plastic canvas. Unfortunately, over the years, the plastic broke down and I had to discard them.

When our kids were born, I made each of them an ornament. In addition, I bought or made an ornament for them each year of their life. When they married, each of them received a box of their own ornaments at their bridal shower. It was special to pass that tradition on to them.

Of course, these handmade ornaments from their school years are among my favorites.  When my daughter used to decorate the tree as a teenager, she always put them in the back so they didn't show. I prefer them front and center.

This set of three ornaments is among my prized possessions. They are so special to me that I don't put them on the tree. They are in a shadowbox. Here's the story behind them. The silver mercury-glass ornament at the top was from my husband's paternal grandparents' Christmas tree. The angel in the center is from his parents' tree. The red box at the bottom was a gift from Grandma Valenta the last Christmas she was with us. She prayed for us over this box and told us it would represent her love and prayers for our family.

This butterfly is special because Grandad stole it for me. If you know him at all, you'll know that this is probably the only thing he has ever stolen in his life. And, I'm sure he went to confession the next day. It's made out of plastic, wire and glitter and is probably worth about fifty cents. We were at a fancy dress up party at the Corpus Christi Town Club, sometime between 1975 and 1979. The trees were all decorated with these butterflies and we were both drunk. I begged him to get me one and he did. I treasure it because it makes me smile. 

This set of ceramic kings was a gift from my sister Bylinda.  The sequined Santa Claus was made by my sister-in-law Laurie. I love getting ornaments as gifts.

These angels are made of pasta. One of my former employers and his wife were of Italian descent. Every other year they hosted a big Italian Christmas party. These were party favors.

This Santa and his reindeer ornament has a fun story. I got it in a gift exchange at work. It was a gift from my boss, but one of the other administrative staff picked it out and purchased it. It turned out that I drew her name that year and got her exactly the same ornament. We still laugh about it.

For at least 30 years, the place I worked had an ornament exchange for Christmas each year. These are two of my favorites from that exchange. 

 I especially like this "Joy" ornament. When you put it on the tree you insert a mini-light in the back and it lights up. I have two of this style that my kids gave me.


When we travel, instead of souvenirs I buy Christmas ornaments. The Coca-Cola bottle came from our last trip to Las Vegas. The amber glass bulb is from the Sandwich Glass Museum on Cape Cod. I bought it this summer on our trip to Massachusetts. The red star is made of glass and I bought it because I have a thing for stars.

Some ornaments don't have any sentimental value. I just like them. The Mary Engelbreit teapot is probably the most expensive ornament in my collection. I thought the other one was beautiful. It was made in Germany and is made of glass with a detailed castle inside.

But beautiful ornaments don't have to be expensive. Both of these sequined ornaments came from Dollar Tree. That means they cost $1 each.

And this is my newest ornament. It was a gift from my friend Janna and I love it. She went to North Carolina on vacation last summer. We're going there next summer for my niece's wedding. I can't wait.

I have hundreds of other ornaments, but this will have to do for now. I've got to pack. I'm meeting Grandad in Houston tomorrow afternoon for a weekend with Nick and Marie. We'll all be going to the company Christmas party together on Saturday night. But first we'll be doing a little Christmas shopping.


  1. Beautiful treasures! I can see why these are things you'd consider grabbing in a fire. Lovely.

    I've thought about leaving the tree standing year-round (hidden away, of course). Guess I'll scratch that idea after reading this. Sounded good, though.

    Enjoy your weekend with the family!

  2. wow! That's so special! A tree of memories!

  3. I love the story of your ornaments; I'd want to save them, too!

    I feel all out of sorts this year because my tree STILL isn't up, and at this point, who knows if I'll even put it up. I've been telling anyone and everyone that I may just buy a cheap tabletop one, put it on an end table, and call it a day...

    Happy holidays!

  4. Beautiful tree! And now you have documented all your lovely ornaments in case of a fire. Not that that will happen!

  5. What a beautiful post! Love the stories behind the ornaments! I had, at one time, a collection of very sentimental ornaments and like you, had a special ornament for each of my children each year. However, we lost them all in a fire and I never attempted to replace them. I didn't replace a lot of things, just didnt have the heart.

  6. Such wonderful memories each ornament holds . . . lovely!
    I know what you mean about shaping trees. After years of working with them (as a designer in stores) I splurged last year and bought one on HSN. It just falls magically into place. It's amazing & I love it!
    Of course, I still have to shape my clients' trees, but I get paid to do that ;)
    I also have a light-fixer-thingy. Love that! Took me a while to figure the dang thing out, but now I can't be without it this time of year.
    Thanks so much for dropping by!

  7. Thanks for stopping by my page, I thought I would hop on over here & check yours out! I can't wait to set up my Christmas Tree! Yours looks awesome! Merry Christmas!! Thanks for sharing! The best way to keep in touch with me is Facebook, I may be all over then net but it's hard for me to keep track of all the accounts & comment on them all so hopefully I will see you on Facebook! Cheers!

  8. Love this post, the ornaments are so beautiful! Everytime I pull out my ornaments, they bring back so many lovely memories! I have so many from my childhood:-) I live in NC, where will you be vacationing, and celebrating your nieces wedding? :-)
    Take care,

  9. I love all of your ornaments, but especially the three in the shadow box. I really love the box...containing the prayers. Would you mind if I used that idea?

  10. I really like the 3 kings ornament.
    We lived in North Carolina about 20 years ago
    and the kids that we had at the time each got a sand dollar ornament and I got one for myself.
    I really like them.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Your ornaments are beautiful! Everytime I decorate the tree, I remember how everyone of those ornaments found it's way onto our tree. My husband and I just celebrated our 23 anniversary yesterday. So December is a big month for us. Thanks for sharing your memories and beautiful tree.

  12. What wonderful memories. Your tree is absolutely stunning and I hope you feel it was worth the hassle. Thanks for sharing your ornaments with us!

  13. Lovely stories. I agree, the ornaments are full of sentimental value in our house too. As I put them up, I think of how and when I got them. I am always a little sad when I take the tree down.

    But my, that's a hard job you have there. We have a live tree the purchasing and putting up of which is my husband's job and I get to decorate. I just figure every year I'm going to have to replace half the lights so I buy them when they are on sale in Walgreens so we have plenty in stock.

  14. Isn't it amazing how Christmas ornaments can tell a story? As I was decorating my tree with my family I had ornaments that I had made when I was in grammar school, ornaments of fancy high heeled shoes that my friends gave me in college, ornaments that my husband and I bought on sale because our budget was so strapped when we were first married, the ornament that holds my first ultrasound, the ornament of my daughter's first Christmas. It's so amazing that a tree can hold so many memories. Great post.

    Found you via SITS and I'm your newest follower!