Holiday decorations are a big deal in my family. I have sisters who were elementary school teachers—they are decorating pros. But it was my mother and her sisters who took Christmas decorating to new heights and started us on our ornament collections.
My Aunt Sue loved making curious, crafty things (I have an awesome tuna can spray-painted metallic green and with a small scene set inside it.) But her goal was simply that by the time we hit twenty-one all the cousins would have enough ornaments to put on a small tree. We’ve all collected over the years, giving each other unusual ornaments, giving them to friends and neighbors, making them. . .you get the idea.
As you may have guessed, my tree is a mixture of many, many faiths and traditions—as a storyteller’s tree should be. I’ve been sharing ornaments over the Internet on social media, and several of my BVC cohorts have volunteered special ornaments or decorations from their own homes. (They also understood that if they didn’t cough up a story, I would write a story about the decoration involving the Flying Spaghetti Monster, squids, and probably Cthulhu. Vonda N. McIntyre said “That I would like to read.”)
Of course I had to find a Flying Spaghetti Monster for my tree, as the reference has been hard-coded into my recent life. This fine fellow came from an Etsy store in Florida. I could have had him with a Santa cap, but after many years of collecting, I have many wonderful Santas. I simply wanted a spaghetti monster. (Hope you like him, Vonda!)
The same artist also made yard flamingos, both festive and year round. (She doesn’t make zombie flamingos. . .yet. . . .) Flamingos are a big part of the mythos of my years down in Austin, TX. A local plant nursery ended up in court over their creative displays of flamingo flocks, changing with the seasons on their corner of Bee Caves and Loop 360.
Art won, and as long as the nursery existed, we had yard flamingos announcing each holiday. I picked this little fellow up this year because doesn’t everyone need at least one yard flamingo? (In my case, on a holiday tree, not in a yard.) I also got flamingos for my niece and nephew, because collections. (I cannot imagine how many ornaments they will inherit.)
Memories, woven each year into a new pattern of color and light.
From James Hetley we have a real Victorian Christmas decoration—a mantel sleigh and rather impressive reindeer.
“I am attaching “Victorian mantel” with our old Santa and sleigh setup. These are inherited from my mother’s side, with cast lead reindeer. Which my wife, ever the naturalist, says are elk. But who’s counting….”
Madeleine Robins doesn’t buy ornaments, except for one—her tree topper.
“Here’s our tree topper: the angel bunny. It’s the only ornament I’ve ever bought (other than replacing glass bulbs and lights) and, at the time I bought it, it cost the earth in Then-Madeleine dollars. She has a faintly pinkish glow in this photo, but really, she’s all white except for the insides of her ears.”
Have you heard of the tradition of hanging a blown glass pickle on a tree for good luck in the coming year? Another tradition is having a bird’s nest somewhere in the tree. (A real bird’s nest was extra lucky.) In Mad’s family, they went a step further.
“… it was traditional in my family to have a nest and bird (with eggs) on the tree (may have had something to do with the name?). So my father gave me this when we started having a tree of our own.”
From the Northwest Sara Stamey writes:
“Just got back from our end-of-crazy-quarter decompress trip to Maui, and here is a photo of a sweet mermaid ornament we got there. Thor feels she was watching over us during our snorkel trips. The bonus was getting to swim with a large manta ray who kept circling around us as it was filter-feeding on the reef.”
Pati Nagle lives in the heart of New Mexico, and throws herself into holidays with joy. This ornament holds a special place in her heart.
“This was a commemorative ornament issued by the U. S. Post Office in 1997. It was based on a beautiful stamp featuring an angel. I bought the ornament not only because I loved that stamp, but in honor of my marriage earlier that year. The marriage and the ornament are both going strong.”
Every year in Austin we have a Pow Wow–the real thing, various tribal members performing, explaining, sharing their heritage and their art. I went in search of a drum. I didn’t want anything decorated that could interfere with the sound, and I could not afford one large and deep enough for me. But I did stop to admire a beautiful, simple goatskin drum one artist had made.
Among his wares he had a bowl of tiny drums, painted with symbols from First Nation lore. Several had turtles, both in color and as black line drawings, as well as deer, lizards, and a couple of Kokopellis. They weren’t selling as well as he’d hoped, perhaps because they were natural goatskin and had few colors, or only color as accent.
I bought up a dozen of them and gave them as gifts, to people who needed healing or other attributes of the symbols. I kept the simplest Kokopelli for myself. Whether wizard, shaman, or fertility symbol, he’s welcome on my tree. I wish I had the artist’s name to hand, but it is packed in my ornament box, so unless he recognizes his work, I’ll have to report back the next time I dive into the box.
Before I left, the artist told me he would not chance packing that ritual drum up and transporting it home, and he’d take XX for it. I went ten dollars over budget, and I have a wonderful drum. Two wonderful drums, actually!
This Christmas my sisters and I have declared a truce–we simply don’t need any more ornaments. But I expect to get a new cat next year, and cats have an unhealthy interest in Christmas trees. So I picked up a few more ornaments for me.
This phoenix is from an artist on the Internet working in five different fragrant PNW woods. I also purchased a phoenix for one of my best friends, who relishes both beautiful and unusual on her tree.
We had not discussed ornaments this year, but when we last talked she admitted to buying us both ornaments at the Christmas Fairs in Germany. Her husband looked over and said “Why are you buying that?” She answered, “Kath-eee….” And he said, “Oh, of course.”
I would not be surprised to receive a Krampus ornament.
May your special days be spent with the people whom you love, who love you.