Christmas tree decorating is my art form. I began as a dabbler, erecting a Sears Christmas tree that my husband bought the first year we were married, when we left for family celebrations for the holidays. We shopped together for the kind of unoriginal, maybe even “tacky”, ornaments that we remembered from Woolworth’s Christmas shelves in the fifties–shiny colored glass balls that shatter, with maybe some bells and stars thrown in, finished off with gold tinsel and silver icicles.
Later, when my daughter was born, I became entranced with the charming little wooden painted ornaments that were becoming popular in the eighties. For the first few years, it was tiny Santas, snow people, elves and angels– all the usual Christmas themes, with the only requirement being that I found them to be whimsical and charming. Then I found some painted wooden nursery rhyme characters, and remembered how spellbound I had been by Oliver and Hardy’s “Babes in Toyland” as a youngster. So Humpty Dumpty, Miss Muffet, Little Jack Horner and the three men in the tub joined the more traditional characters who peopled my tree. Occasionally, I would spot another nursery rhyme figure, and eventually hit the big time when Hallmark came out with a Mother Goose ornament. The next year I found a set of Nutcracker Suite ornaments, and Clara, the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy and several other dancers pirouetted their ways onto my tree.
Around that time I found the cutest little Florida tree in a friend’s flower shop and I took my decorating to another level. From that time forward until about a decade ago when I absolutely couldn’t find another ornament to compare with the collection I already have in my attic, I became a hopeless Christmas junkie, converting my home more and more into a domestic version of the Christmas shops one saw everywhere during the holiday season for a while. I now have three Christmas trees, in addition to many standing ornaments, candles, a music box collection and poinsettias and greenery everywhere.
In the living room stands our traditional tree–sometimes a live one, and sometimes our original old Sears tree, that reminds me of our honeymoon years. A few of the first ornaments we bought remain, and the eras of our lives together are marked by other ones–origami ornaments given to us by my sister-in-law who lived in Japan, ribbon and satin ones made by my mother, antique ones handed down to us by my husband’s mother and grandparents. Also, on this tree are ones given by friends or students or children from my Sunday School classes or Girl Scout troops–some homemade, some bought for me. Some I bought at a Christmas market in Europe when I toured with a beloved friend. Every bauble is a memory.
In the bay window of our kitchen/ dinette/ family room is my very contemporary, color-schemed tree that fits in with the decor of this living area. All shades of pinks and greens and golds, with a bit of red or blue here and there. These ornaments are mostly ceramic, some miniature music boxes, many of them Hallmark “little boy” ornaments representing the developmental years of my grandsons. They will go to their wives someday. Some ornaments are traditional Christmas motifs, but many are more generally nostalgic, some “olde shoppe” store fronts, Victorian chaises, stuffed easy chairs and rocking chairs, all in the proper pastels to fit onto the colored-coordinated tree. Wide, sparkly gold ribbon spirals down the tree.
The Florida tree is in the front window of our library/office/guest room facing the street. Some of the original ornaments have bitten the dust, but I have added replacements here and there as I discovered them over the years. The original little candy-striped beach chairs are now complemented by red and white striped flipflops. Two real painted starfish have joined the carved wooden pelicans and duck in captain attire. Santa came to town once on a manatee and once on a porpoise and ran aground on this tree. Most of the red bows are intact, but the one at the top finally had to be retired in favor of a little wooden angel in Christmas clothes with eyelet wings.
I have learned some techniques of tree decorating that could land me a job in a department store someday, but I’ll save those for a blog next year. For now, it suffices to say that creating and re-creating the beautiful trees every year is one of my greatest Yuletide pleasures.