Over many years we have accumulated enough Christmas ornaments to decorate at least two sizeable Christmas trees. We never use them all, but there are many that always make their way onto a branch. I learned as a child, from my own family experience, that a decorated Christmas tree is not only a central theme for your holiday celebration, but a piece of history, each ornament telling its own story or having its own personal meaning. My wife has taken to labeling many of our ornaments with any relevant information regarding year purchased, where and why or who gave it to us a gift. Like so many families around the world, part of the holiday tradition is the annual experience of digging through the cartons and recounting the significance of each ornament. Some bring back happy memories, some bring back sad memories and some of course make us laugh.
So here’s a top 10 list of ornaments on the Warner Christmas tree that have special significance to me. They’re listed in a somewhat chronological order. My wife and kids could probably generate their own lists as well, but these are my favorites.
The Schmoo: The Schmoo was once a proud snowman, happily hanging in our tree when I was a child, covered in a white felt-like material with painted black eyes and a smiling mouth. I used to like to play with the snowman until one year I got him all dirty. In my efforts to get the snowman clean, I took him to the bathroom sink and washed him with soap and hot water… at which time the snowman’s felt outer layer disintegrated and washed away down the sink. I cried and cried and cried and cried… and then cried some more. My brothers renamed him “the Schmoo”… which I’m not really sure what a Schmoo is… and he hung on our tree for many more years. Sometime after moving to Michigan in 1993, my mother visited and gave me the Schmoo along with some other leftover memories from my home. He still hangs on our tree today!
The “Steve” Ornament: I made this when I was a kid back in the early 1970’s. Actually like many of the things my kids brought home as toddlers, I figure my teacher probably made it and gave it to me. I know this because to this day I still can’t write my name that clearly in cursive. Amazing it still survives!
The Stocking: Another of my childhood creations. Not sure where I was going with this… perhaps this is what I thought Santa looked like at the time, you know, sort of like a terrorist. On the other hand, I do think that perhaps I had some insight into the future popularity of the goatee beard that so many men wear these days. The Stocking usually goes on the back of the tree, sort of towards the bottom, where it’s not very visible.
The Scary Plastic Made in China Santa Claus: When Kim and I were in college, the first year we were together, we scraped together the little money we had, took a trip into town to the local drug store and bought enough ornaments to decorate a small tree we had in one of our dorm rooms. I vaguely remember even having to call a taxi to drive us there and back because we didn’t have a car. We bought some glass balls, a few plastic icicles and snowflakes and other odds and ends. Several still hang on our tree today, one of which was this fantastic Santa Clause head. My daughter thinks it’s scary… she’s got a point.
The Beeswax Moose: My Mom bought me this ornament in 1990 when I was in college. Probably from LL Bean or some other Maine retail store. I went through a stage where I was into Moose things and this added to the collection. It survives to this day, it hasn’t melted, it hasn’t cracked, and it hasn’t fallen apart. Give some credit to the bees for producing an amazing, durable, all-natural material that can withstand 22 years and counting.
The Russian Girl: My brother and his wife were having trouble conceiving a child. After years of fertility treatments and other unsuccessful attempts at a pregnancy, they decided to travel to Russia in 1997 to adopt a baby boy, an absolutely amazing young man who is now 16. This ornament came back with them from Russia… with Love!
The Honeymoon Bear: Kim and I got married in 1992. We just recently celebrated our 20th anniversary. For our honeymoon we spent a week in Hawaii. We had reserved a week on Kauai, but that year a hurricane tore through and devastated the island. We had to quickly change our plans and ended up spending most of our time on Oahu. Still a fabulous experience and a place we hope to return to someday.
The Amish Buggy: In 2002 my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive, dangerous and malignant brain tumor. That summer, knowing that her days were limited, several members of our family took a trip with her to the Amish country around Lancaster Pennsylvania. It was a week I will not ever forget. My Mom passed away on October 20, 2002.
The Bear: No particular history here other than we bought this ornament the very first Christmas we spent in Michigan after moving from the East Coast. It’s one of our favorites… just because it’s so damn cute.
The Kids Ornaments: Of course history continues when kids are introduced into the Christmas ornament mix. We have dozens of ornaments that the kids have brought home from pre-school and elementary school. Unfortunately all the ornaments made from that petrified cookie product, that teachers sometimes make ornaments with, have since rotted away. The one’s pictured are made from fired clay. With any luck, someday when my kids have moved away and started their own families, I’ll be able to pass these on.
What ornaments hold special significance to your family?