There are few yearly rituals more enjoyable to me than putting up my Christmas tree. Untangling strands of lights and unwrapping ornaments of years past is great fun and brings back wonderful memories of people, places, and special times.
Positioning packed-away ornaments on your tree can be a great family ritual, especially if some of those ornaments were fashioned by family members when they were children. Often holiday decorations contain valuable family history. The sight of them can bring nostalgia, wonderful memories, and welcome opportunities to recount those memories with younger generations.
Sometimes handmade tree trimmings are those we value most. For many of these ornaments, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. As a teenager decorating my family’s tree, I considered my childhood handmade ornaments tremendously unattractive. Horrid, actually. The painted Popsicle stick sleds and felt Santa faces were not my favorites to trim the Christmas tree. Oh, how I longed for something more sophisticated than yarn, paper, and glued-on glitter.
As an adult I feel differently. I remember making those ornaments in elementary school and at Girl Scout meetings. My favorites are the simplest—construction paper ornaments adorned with glued-on glitter, an opening in the middle for a picture from that school year. There’s no denying that these ornaments would look a bit out-of-place on the designer-dressed trees we see in department stores. However, if you’re building a Christmas tree from your memories, one ornament at a time, nothing is more beautiful.
The real value in our Christmas decorations and tree ornaments lies not in their external beauty but in the memories and meaning behind them, whether handmade or not. You may have ornaments that honor a child’s birth, an anniversary, or a special trip. Teachers have ornaments given by special students, and others by a special friend or to commemorate a milestone. For some, the most meaningful ornaments may be the precious few scraped up to dress their first grown-up Christmas tree.
Instead of searching out gifts that may be forgotten by next year, consider crafting handmade ornaments for some on your gift list. It’s sure to save money, and is likely more meaningful to the receiver than any gift you could buy. If you’re making ornaments with children, your time spent is an extra gift to them. For gift-giving, place several ornaments in a small, decorative holiday tin, and be sure to label each with the year.
Christmas ornaments can remind us of where we have been, but also of how far we have come. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make great holiday memories. Sometimes, the best memories are homemade.