Decorating the Christmas tree is the highlight of December in our house. We haul out our special boxes which all look like presents to begin with, and when we open them we are flooded with the memories of Christmases past.
Our tree is different from most people’s in that we don’t have a lot of commercial decorations. Instead, we’ve collected items from our lives that we don’t really know what to do with, but we still want to keep. Sometimes we’ve had to do some adaptations to make the item work on the tree by gluing it to something we can attach a string or hook to. Sometimes they are things that can just sit nestled in the branches of the tree.
I have a pair of baby booties that is in this collection. It’s a tiny white pair that my MIL knitted when I was pregnant for the first time. They were used on each subsequent child and when I was giving away the baby clothes to my sister after BooBear, I couldn’t part with those booties. Every year that beautiful handmade gift comes out and I’m reminded of the sweetness of Mother Eco and that wonderful time when my children were first born. All the kids love to hear about when they were babies and each year when the booties are unwrapped from their tissue, I am prompted to share a story.
As the kids grew older, the tree has collected various mementos of their lives. Swimming metals, badges, even small favourite toys have always had a place of honour on our Christmas tree. When my oldest daughter lost one of the gypsy earrings she had gotten from a special uncle, she still couldn’t throw the other one away. It was her idea to redesignate it into a tree ornament. When it comes out each year, someone also has a memory of a fun time with that Uncle to share.
There is a pill bottle filled with sand and a small gold nugget that my oldest son found while gold panning on a summer holiday with his Grandparents in the Yukon. Just as they were leaving a camping spot by the river, he scooped up a coffee can of sand and 200 miles later at their next camping spot he panned out that tiny nugget. He knows exactly where he scooped up the sand and swears that one day he will go back to find his fortune. In the meantime, the nugget went into a clear pill bottle in a bed of the sand it was hidden in and he tied a ribbon around the lip of the cap to hang it on the tree from.
There are homemade playdough decorations that each child made in kindergarden. Their names and the dates carved in to the back with a paperclip. There is even a small bird’s nest that my youngest found while out with her Sprouts group. She was fascinated by its intricate weaving and was thrilled when her older sister suggested that it was pretty enough to go on the Christmas tree.
We’ve participated as host parents when the school or our local Sprouts Group has been involved in exchange programs. Each of the kids that we’ve hosted has always brought us a little something from their country. A lot of these items are small enough to serve as Christmas decorations and when we bring them out each year, we remember that person and the experiences we had with them.
On the night we put up the tree, we first make a big bowl of caramel popcorn and hot chocolate. As a special treat, I make sure to have mini marshmallows on hand for the hot chocolate. It’s always a joyful evening filled with sweet smells, laughter, Christmas carols and best-loved stories. Nobody wants to miss decorating the tree each year, as it has become a treasured Christmas tradition in our house.