Monday, December 13, 2010

Decking the Halls

We start out with one shoebox full of the ornaments I received in my stocking each year as a child, a string of blue lights, a garland of wooden beads I bought to decorate my dorm room and a felt-and-wire elf C’s mother gave him, which we place on top of the tree, in lieu of angel or star. I make C a stocking in green plaid with gingerbread men along the top. We keep our first tree up until Valentine’s Day.

We add a box of gold glass balls from K-mart and blown-glass ornaments from Eastern Europe, bought at a shop called Phoenix that sells only Christmas ornaments and decorations. We inherit decorations from relatives who are moving and downsizing.

One year, we visit family for Christmas and don’t have a tree. We hang the glass balls bought on a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Quebec City--purple, orange, lime green--in a leafless ficus we rescued from a dumpster.

The next year, we hav

e an extra stocking to hang. M, nine months old and just sitting up, looks wide-eyed at the tree, mouth in a perfect O of amazement. The following year, during our Christmas Eve party, the tree, supported by a cheap, flimsy stand, crashes to the floor, shards of a lifetime of collected ornaments scatter everywhere. “M---!” The shout escapes my mouth before I can think.

“I don’t think the boy had anything to do with it,” a guest comes to the defense of the small person in black overalls and a red turtleneck, still clutching the ornament he pulled from the tree, precipitating its demise.

Three more years go by and we add two more stockings to the mantle. We acquire a sturdier base--cast iron--and pack what’s left of the glass ornaments into a box labeled “Breakable Christmas.” Now Christmas decorations double as toys--ornaments made from fabric, yarn, wood, straw. Stuffed trees and soft gnomes.

A village of wooden houses and snowmen.

This year I am in the Christmas spirit and I am not. I want to decorate, but I do not want to buy or make gifts.

The only shopping I have done is at antique stores, in search of vintage linens, a red vase to match my green one and a tree topper--all for me.

Instead of working on gifts one night after the kids go to bed, I make this wreath (inspired by Mary Beth's) for my own front door.

I’m ready to make Christmas decorating my own. I’ve eliminated much of the inherited decor--the hobo Santa, a puffy 70s wreath, a tin of broken ornament parts and pieces.

I put the breakable ornaments on the tree this year. I had a stern talk with the boys about not throwing couch cushions, jumping off the couch, wrestling, throwing things or playing dodge ball anywhere within range of the tree. We’ve already lost one gold ball (“I vegot!”). We’ll see how many more survive.


  1. Looks like a beautiful way to decorate for the holidays. It is always neat to hear of other's traditions and see all the magic that they create in their homes. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love your windowsill filled with gnomes and your vintage tablecloths. This year my 3-year-old has spent a lot of time rearranging ornaments -- all to a single branch -- and a few have broken. Best of luck with the decorations on your tree!

  3. You always amaze me at all you do at home in addition to bring home the bacon, Andrea.
    You've created some lovely scenes for your boys.

  4. Decorating is my favorite part of Christmas too (although this year you can't seem to see the decorations through the mess . . . oh well.) And I think ornaments and decorations collected over time with stories and memories attached to them (even memories of how they broke) make for the best decorations. To me, that's what the season is all about! Thanks for sharing the stories behind your decorations!

  5. I like reading your decoration history.


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