Decorating the Christmas tree is a sentimental journey every year. I usually set up the tree one day and then the next is devoted to decorating with Christmas music in the background and quiet thoughts. I know this day will be a trek down memory lane with tears of sadness over loved ones lost and smiles of joy remembering happy times. The end goal and the end result is a beautiful tree to enjoy while making new memories.
What is it about a Christmas tree anyway? People have celebrated green trees in winter for many years and used evergreen boughs over doors and windows as decoration. The lights on Christmas trees today make it sparkle at night. Little glitters of white lights are all over my tree. And most of my ornaments are either white or crystal. I started changing my tree to white and crystal years ago. But most of all I believe that since the tree holds so many beautiful memories with each ornament, that is the reason I look forward to pulling it out and enjoying it again.
For example, the Swarovski star at the top of this post is the ornament I purchased last year while in Chicago on Black Friday shopping on the Magnificent Mile. I try to purchase a new ornament each year and this one appealed to me because we lost Mom in the previous October and this was going to be the first Christmas without her. There is a quote – Don’t lose hope, When the sun goes down, The stars come out. I think of this ornament as Mom’s star. She loved Christmas and made a big deal out of it each year and spoiled us rotten. Mom’s star reminds me to do the same. Enjoy Christmas and spoil my family.
The first ornaments I collected when I started transitioning to an all white and crystal Christmas tree were the Snowbabies. Once my Mom figured that out she sent me the baby in the swing as well as a few others through the years.
Another favorite ornament type of mine are bells. This one is from a trip to Spain in 1997 to visit my son while he was in the Navy. It is a Lladro which is handcrafted porcelain from Valencia. Below are other favorite bells – the one in the middle was purchased here in town but I love the bell sound and always sit it low and in the front where it’ll get hit by people walking by or by Baxter’s tail wagging. The one on the right is from Hong Kong – a city I loved to visit when working in China. I think of the Symphony of Lights show on Victoria Harbour every time I see it. I’d grab a Starbucks iced tea and sit on steps by the harbour to enjoy the music and light show. It was a signal of the beginning of my relaxing weekend after a week in China. Hong Kong was my safe and comfortable place while traveling east.
This is a handmade bell from my Great Aunt Helen. I have fond memories of a family trip through the west – Aunt Helen, Uncle Carl, and their daughter Donna were in their camper while we were in an RV. We traveled to Yosemite, Las Vegas, to the Hoover Dam. The best memory – a momma bear and her two cubs coming along and forcing us to run into the RV and watch them eat our lunch.
Some ornaments reflect my hobbies. I love to sail, hence the below ornaments. Being on the water, on the beach, or on a sailboat are all moments where I get myself back to me. It is down time, it is relaxation, it is letting the wind blow in my hair. It usually signifies short naps during the day, the warmth of the sun on me, and beautiful sunsets. Seeing the sailboats on the tree make me smile and remind me to enjoy life. The crystal ornament was given to me by a cousin who understands what sailing means to me.
And others reflect another hobby I enjoy – bicycling! I have enjoyed bicycling ever since I was a little girl. I enjoy it so much that I found a harness for Baxter to be able to bicycle with me. But after two miles of running beside me he is ready to go home and collapse on the kitchen floor. I enjoy quick bicycle rides around the neighborhood during lunch breaks when I am working from home, I enjoy bicycling on trails around the area, and I enjoy Saturday or Sunday rides that are long and usually include lunch. Bicycling is relaxing and it is too much fun to consider exercise but I’ll take the loss in calories!
This ornament was from my Aunt Sherron. She had such a great sense of humor and I remember us laughing together when we saw it at Cracker Barrel one Friday night. I had no idea she got me that ornament until I opened it up on Christmas day. And it still makes me smile even after losing her five years ago. It is like a secret giggle only she and I shared – one of many.
This is an ornament I found the first Christmas I did not have my best friend with me. We both turned 50 in the same year – I was three weeks older than her – a point she never let me forget. My family surprised me with a party and then three weeks later her family surprised her with a party. And then six weeks after that Debbie was gone suddenly from heart failure. It broke my heart. How could I lose my best friend so young. We were just getting started!
I’ve had this ornament for many years and each year when I pull it out I am amazed it survived another hot summer being stored in a box with a ton of other ornaments. My Aunt Becky gave me this ornament. It is dainty, delicate, and very special. Aunt Becky is another family member no longer with us and Mom sent me a Santa and Sleigh salt and pepper shaker of Aunt Becky’s. They are now on my Christmas table each year.
The Swarovski Christmas tree ornament above was another one I purchased last year in Chicago. I have it right where I will see it when walking by. It is beautiful and signifies my love of Christmas trees.
And what is a Christmas tree without a snowman or two or three? They are just happy guys hanging around spreading their cheer.
This is an ornament I purchased when I spent Labor Day Weekend in Holland, Michigan. Such a wonderful little town on Lake Michigan. I fell in love with the beach and the channel and I enjoyed relaxing in the sun while watching the sailboats go back and forth past Big Red – Holland’s lighthouse. And the sunsets were fabulous!
This is a special blown glass Christmas tree. It stands no more than eight inches tall but provides a lot of comfort. It was given to me by a very dear friend the Christmas before he died. I miss him terribly and every year I look forward to pulling this out and putting the fish on the branches. My grandchildren love it too but understand how special it is to me and rarely touch it. Bill was my age as well. Pretty scary when you enter the part of life when you lose your friends. There is a saying – When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. I treasure this little Christmas tree because it reminds me how special I was to him – just as special as he was to me.
Here are two more dainty ornaments Mom gave me.
The blue ornament is from Mom as well. It seems like I see a bit of blue no matter what angle I am looking at the tree. Odd because the only part that is blue is the little circle on top.
My daughter gave me this one and I love the idea of preserving snow on my tree.
And I love these icicles. Mom gave many of us in the family a bunch of icicles. They add such a nice finishing touch to the tree.
I am sure you have favorite ornaments or favorite moments during this wonderful season. For me, decorating my Christmas tree is a time to reflect. When the Christmas tree decorations come out it is a time for me to remember the past and to feel the love of the ones no longer here. This quote applies – Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, Love leaves a memory no one can steal. I feel the heartache when pulling out certain ornaments and I feel the love when pulling out others. And about the time I am feeling drained I’ll pull out a snowman or the marshmallow man or the handmade bell.
Decorating the tree is a kind of therapy for me – it makes me remember details of the past and hear the laughter of years ago. And in the end, it reminds me to make new memories and to honor those I’ve lost by enjoying life they way they taught me. I make sure Christmas is something special that my children and grandchildren look forward to. I look forward to the laughter and the squeals during this season and I live in the moment with all the memories hanging on my tree.
Mom gave me a Lenox ornament each year for several years. I looked forward to seeing the new one of the year and then I would make it a point to call her the following year when decorating the tree to tell her how pretty it looked. The ornament below is the last Lenox ornament I received from her. Isn’t it pretty!
What special ornaments are on your tree? And what are you Christmas memories and special moments? I would love to hear them.