Longtime readers of this blog already know that Brian and I absolutely adore Christmas. It was a love we shared early in our relationship which is largely why our tree today is covered in sentimental ornaments we’ve collected or made together over the years. It all started when we visited the Newport Mansions all decked out in holiday grandeur on a date the first winter we were together. As we were leaving one of the mansion’s gift shops, I spotted a little roly-poly penguin (I LOVE penguins) with little shoes attached with springs that I just had to have. He’s one of the more random ornaments, and special for just that reason. He’s been gracing our Christmas tree ever since and our ornament tradition was born.
We don’t grab an ornament on every outing, but anytime we travel or do something special, we keep an eye out for something unique. It doesn’t necessary even have to be an ornament. On a trip to DC with Brian’s parents and grandparents, I couldn’t find anything I liked so I just grabbed some postcards. A few ornament hooks later and ta-dah: the perfect memento from our trip. Likewise, on our “Babymoon” back in 2015, we selected a beautiful, very delicate ornament made entirely of seashells. It doesn’t have “Sanibel Island” or “babymoon” emblazoned anywhere on it, but that makes it that much more precious and important to talk about with our daughter so she learns its significance and can share in our memory of what that trip meant to us as we excitedly awaited her arrival.To commemorate our first trip to Martha’s Vineyard together the summer after we got engaged, we picked up this lighthouse ornament. And to remember a trip in to NYC to see the tree at Rockefeller, we chose — what else — a glittery Rockefeller Christmas tree ornament. I think we found this one at one of the Christmas market stalls in Bryant Park actually.
I like to write on the backs of the ornaments too, so it’s like a walk down memory lane each Christmas as we unpack our decorations and dress up our tree.
Once Emilia arrived, there wasn’t a question that she’d grace our tree in some fashion, so I started turning each year’s Christmas card into an ornament through Shutterfly. It was probably one of my more brilliant ideas for a number of reasons, but mainly: doing Christmas cards is a LOT OF WORK. In addition to figuring out the photo to use which more often than note requires booking a professional, there is coordinating everyone’s hair and outfits, finding tights and shoes, then finding the perfect card design, and finally, getting the address list prepped for a marathon envelope addressing session. Finally, there’s the postage.
Suffice it to say, if I’m going to all the trouble to craft this magical piece of post for our family, I am going to splurge and commemorate each year’s card with an ornament. I also love to see how our collection (and our family) has changed through the years.
Some of the secrets to our success with a toddler and a tree: start them young. We’ve never had to gate ours off or move to all plastic ornaments because we just taught our daughter from a young age that she can only touch the ornaments “with one finger” and that she can hold absolutely anything she wants, but she just needs to ask Mama or Daddy to get it for her and to not pull it off the tree herself. We also wire the tree to the wall and I secure anything delicate or precious using a little loop of floral wire so it’s really stuck on there. And I hang the more fragile breakables just out of her reach.
For her second Christmas, when the tree was endlessly fascinating for her, I actually kept a selection of her favorite ornaments in a basket just underneath the tree or her to look at, play with and place on the tree if she liked. It worked out well — she got to play with the ornaments she loved, like a little puppy figurine that belonged to Brian as a kid — and I didn’t have to hover around her anytime she approached the tree.
I must really love this one design because I’ve just realized in putting together this post that I’ve used the same design for three consecutive years without realizing it. Oops!
We also make a point to gift at least one special ornament to Emilia each Christmas, too. This year, Caroline, will join in on the fun. Here is the sweet glass snowman I chose for Emilia last year. I usually try to stay away from glass ornaments because why risk the heart ache of a broken treasure, but I couldn’t resist this one. As a Christmas color traditionalist, the colors are giving me major Tiffany’s Christmas catalog vibes and I love the slightly wistful, nostalgic nod with the retro-looking snowflakes. I feel like this ornament is the embodiment of Christmas spirit actually? Look at that little snowman face. Adorable.
One of my favorites is this ornament from our first family trip to San Diego. Emilia was just about to turn 7 months old and officially crawled for the first time at our hotel there. She was such a champ on the flights and was the BEST companion to explore with. And finally, here is one of my favorite ornaments of all that my parents gave me when I was growing up. I was in the music program all through school and performed at both Symphony Hall and Tanglewood with my high school orchestra. It was incredible to have that experience as a kid! When I graduated, one of the most bittersweet moments was my final performance of Hallelujah Chorus in the Christmas concert with the full orchestra. Unwrapping and placing this particular ornament always reminds me how luck I was to have been involved in that program.
I made a LOT of ornaments when I was growing up too, so some of those also grace our tree in addition to ornaments that Brian was gifted as he grew. A few years ago, Brian and I filled some clear glass ornaments with paint for a fun, swirled effect, and last year, I did salt down cut outs and hand prints with Emilia.
I’m still looking for this year’s ornament project inspiration, but so far, I’ve already thought to scan a piece of her artwork and have it printed to an ornament and will likely turn some of her “school” projects into ornaments as well. She did the cutest little reindeer handprint complete with a red pom-pom nose that is just begging to go on the tree.
I think as the girls grow older, I’ll let each select an ornament for the other each year to fill out the tree that is in Emilia’s room now. Right now, it’s just decked out with a felt ball garland.