Recently, I corresponded with my mother about her holiday traditions, growing up in the 1930’s and 1940’s. She recalled her father setting up and decorating the tree on Christmas eve. She recalled glass ornaments of birds and vegetables and tear-drop shapes. She recalled real tin for the tinsel. She mused over how she became a “modern” homemaker in the 1950’s and 1960’s, sending off these traditional style ornaments for uniform reflective balls.
Ironically, not knowing about her childhood traditions, we have gone back to the glass ornaments, and many individual decorations given to us by friends. Our tree might not be too uniform, but your mind can wander from topic to topic looking about the branches.
Linda came from a stronger Christmas decorating tradition than I. When we met, she hosted an annual Christmas party. Many of her friends brought ornaments as gifts. I was into the lights, but renting a room in an apartment in NYC I did not accumulate a lot of decorations. Also, during those years, I tended to visit friends in the D.C. area for holidays. Thus, their trees, lights, and children opening presents fulfilled that range of holiday needs.
As a couple, we spent quite a few years developing our own traditions for Christmas. I do not recall the sequence, but glass birds, vegetables, fruit and tear-drop ornaments appealed to me. Must be genetics, skipping a generation.
While not as numerous, I have collected some memories with various ornaments, which I seek out each year. At one job, I was in charge of an activity group at the hospital. We had a volunteer who brought in slip-case ceramic figurines for the patients to paint. She was a big fan of Christmas, so every year from Thanksgiving on, we had lots of Christmas pieces. I found that doing tasks in parallel with the patients often prompted them to try something that they would otherwise feel intimidated about doing. Not wanting to use too many of the supplies, I usually sought out items that others passed over. One year, I found the three-legged camel. Then, a patient whom I worked with numerous times, and who hated doing crafts, picked out a Santa. She painted it black and orange, then gave it to me. Now, I would not have purchased this at a Christmas Store, but it reminds me of her every year, when I find it and select a place on the tree for it.
When we purchased our property 20+ years ago, I bought a dozen blue spruce trees from an Arbor Day advertisement. I received what looked like a doze dead twigs. I dug holes near our driveway entrance, planted them, and told them that they were in the forest and were now on their own.
Twenty years later, some of these survived and have grown a little taller than I. A couple of years ago, on a lark, Linda purchased a few boxes of glossy, plastic ornaments to decorate these trees. One of our neighbors, who had health challenges and thus many medical appointments, thanked her for providing a little joy every time she drove in and out for some procedure. This became our “Enchanted Forest”. The boxes of ornaments, stars, and strings of beads has grown. Our neighbor’s health has improved. Even the UPS driver comments on finding decorated trees a mile up a dirt road.