Ornaments of Christmas Past

I’ve been admiring our Christmas tree over the last two days. It’s certainly not fancy or color-coordinated. But, it is filled with memories and the work of many hands.

Our ornaments fall into three groups: the funky ornaments my grandmother made, the German blown glass ornaments we bought before the children were born, and homemade ones.

This year we made red and yellow construction paper garlands, which you will see in the background of some of these photos. I also made a few tracing-paper snowflakes to hang with sparkly thread. Anthropapa made our tree topper–a gilded, wooden, four-pointed star–many years ago.

The glass ornaments reflect a time when Papa and I used our tree as an enormous Advent calendar. In the Waldorf tradition, each week of Advent corresponds with an earthly kingdom: mineral, plant, animal, human. Then at Christmas comes the spiritual world in the form of the star at the top. So we bought glass seashells, pinecones, a fish, frog, and birds, and even a Buddha!

This year, perhaps because this will be our first Christmas home without extended family, I have really enjoyed the ornaments that my grandmother made. She was a very crafty and artistic lady–a knitter, beader, sewer, singer, and pianist. Many of her creations were quite elaborate–my aunt has a beautiful beaded and sequined tree skirt Grandma made that shows all the items from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In addition to their sentimental value, these ornaments just please me because they are so unabashedly sparkly and funky. Many of them reflect the style of their times (I assume the late 1960’s-70s).

(Please forgive my fairly inept photography skills.)


Grandma made several of this style, which we liken to the spaceship from Close Encounters. There’s a large red one that’s quite battered by now that we call the Mother Ship. I believe these are all made from styrofoam balls, wrapped in thread and then beads and sequins were pinned on, sometimes with added tassels. They remind me a bit of temari, with added bling.

We have about half a dozen of these Wise Man crowns. Or possibly boxes of frankincense and myrrh. Whatever, they’re fabulous!

A Wise Man. Even his beard is sparkly! And please note the liberal use of gold rickrack. Unfortunately we only have the one, so maybe he’s really a green Santa.

Grandma didn’t make this one, but it’s from my childhood nevertheless. Lovely 70’s painted wood. I never noticed the rather odd placement of the Christmas tree before! Reminds me a bit of Major T. J. Kong.

My fingers are itching to make up some beaded monstrosities of my own!

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6 Comments

Filed under Crafting, Family, holidays

6 responses to “Ornaments of Christmas Past

  1. My mother has many similar ornaments. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that she hasn’t passed them on…..

  2. I loved this post. thank you for sharing your beautiful ornaments. I put one picture of a small section of my tree up a couple of days ago, but maybe I will make a post about some individual and very special ornaments we have. You have inspired me.

    I have been very appalled by all the articles in the papers the last few weeks telling you all about how to ensure that your Christmas tree has a “theme”. Some of them even go so far as to suggest different themes you can use in case you are so uncreative you can’t think of your own.

    The “theme” of my tree is “Friends and family past and present” and I have dozens of ornaments that Jim and I have found at craft fairs in addition to dozens more that have been given to me by my friends over the years. Each year, trimming the tree is a beautiful trip down memory lane. I have so many now that I even have a written list of all of them including when they were acquired and who gave them to me. A pox on commercialism and the “theme tree.”

  3. I think we’re starting to gather a few heirlooms of our own, though they’re all quite recent – as a family, I feel like we’re a “new soul”. They include a small, stuffed gingerbread man, a tin santa claus that looks a little bit like something from the Day of the Dead (Mexican, not George Romero) that supermum got from a charity shop in Tooting when dudelet was in hospital with his broken leg and less exotic sparkling globes I bought from Paperchase two years ago (though the paste-board studded silver pear is quite pretty). There’s a Thomas the Tank engine ball as well. Not sure where that came from.

  4. Sarah: I’m a little sad that so many of the ones my dad sent me were broken beyond repair. But I guess that makes these few more precious.

    HMH: In general I agree with you about themes. Seems like a good way to part people from their money. However, I do like some trees that have a color theme–for example the one at my bank that is all in gold and red–in public locations. Seems like for most people at home it is more about friends and family than style, I hope!

    URD: It’s taken us a while, and a big infusion of these childhood ornaments, to feel like we’ve got a personalized tree. We used to have the full array of colored glass balls, garlands, etc. that can be bought cheaply. Hmmm…Thomas has even infiltrated your tree? Well, nothing wrong with one or two ornaments that reflect something a family member loves!

  5. pillowblogger

    Hi. Found you via my beloved friend on Charlotte’s Web. I love your decorations. Our tree has just gone up with its rather unorthodox coloured wire decorations but LOTS of lights. I got home from work to find my son had added a couple of Bionicles and a T-Rex. Perfect! But the main reason for this note is that I really want the recipe for your mustard sauce you mention so I can make it for Christmas lunch? You can find me on dani.cohen@fd.com. Thanks, Dani

  6. Pingback: Whirling, Twirling « Anthromama

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