Oh, Christmas Tree!
I have very distinct memories of our Christmas Trees as a kid over time.
Firstly, that we were ALWAYS “the last family to get a tree”- one year that might have very well been true, when we waited until Christmas Eve to get it.
It always happened this way due to a combination of reasons. One, my brother’s birthday is on December 7th and my mother didn’t want him to ever feel that his day was slighted. Two, my parents are firm Episcopalians in that we recognized the 10 Days of Christmas as the actual 10 Days starting with Christmas being the first. Three, my father is super cheap and can’t stand paying more than $50 for a tree- even though he always wanted one large enough to reach the tops of their 14 foot ceiling home. These days he’s had to bend to inflation and concede that he might need to go more towards $150… especially once they traded in their 1910’s home with its 14 foot ceilings for a mid-century modern with something like a 20 foot or so atrium in the living room.
The trees themselves always seemed to hold some magic, mostly in the stories they told through the ornaments and lights. You see, my father- meticulous electrician at heart, always took special care of those old-fashioned bubble lights. So that we still have ours that hearken back to the 1970’s, not the newer ones that were brought out some decades later.
Bubble lights, newer lights, and so on. One year he even hooked up a voltameter up to the tree and howled with delight at the reading.
Another year, he decided that he needed to devise a pulley system to hoist the trees up. That was the year that once all of the ornaments were down, he thoughts it would be hilarious to hang the damn thing upside down just to see if he could do it.
He could do it.
The ornaments themselves were always the most fun for me. An old stained glass 1977 ornament always helped me to remember that was the year my parents met and married in. A harking angel that one of my mother’s students gave her as a gift. All of the old things that my brother and I made as children.
Even now, when I realized that somehow I didn’t have many ornaments of my own (I think my parents must have them hidden away somewhere- mixed in with their own since last year I was temporarily living with them while buying/renovating this home), the ones I love the most are the ones my children made. A painted Chinese palace, inspired by learning Chinese one year. Christmas trees with symbols and explanations of their Catholic school teachings. A feather in a glass ornament from their new teachers. A Georgia shaped ornament from their first year at their new school. And “painted swirl” ornaments they made while working a craft fair with my mother and I.
Each holds a precious memory.
And so I thought, surely- all of y’all have the same? I asked, and you answered. Please read below what y’all shared, and post your own in comments.
(Left to right, top to bottom)
“This is an antique ornament. The elf inside looks weird in this picture because the photo doesn’t do it justice. The story behind it is that it used to be on my grandparents’ tree in WV. When my mother was growing up they would put the tree up on Christmas Eve. My favorite memory is from their house on Christmas Eve.. . my idea of heaven! That house isn’t there anymore and neither are my grandparents. The beautiful memories of my perfect childhood Christmases come back every time I look at that plastic elf on my tree. He is happy and a bit mischievous, just like my grandmother would tell me that I was.” – Carol
“This is my dogs first ornament and it’s my favorite because she’s my favorite pup 😍! I actually stick it to my fridge after Christmas every year because I love it so much lol”- Amy
“This year we added an ornament of my Sweet Ace who crossed the Rainbow Bridge in April❤️🐾😢. He was my baby. We miss him so much❤️🐾“- Racquel
“The pretzel! I picked it up at the Strasbourg Christkindelsmarik when mom and I spent Christmas in France five years ago. It represents the first real trip we got to take together with me as an adult.”- Melanie
“My late father was a Sci-Fi nerd – a trait that he passed down to me. We have this Christmas ornament that is a Star Trek shuttle – you plug it in to a light bulb spot and when you press a button on the bottom Spock speaks. It was my Dad’s favorite, and my favorite because of that. Plus it was fun! Each year I love to see it on the tree & hear Spock’s voice. It’s like my dad is there for Christmas.”- Meghan
“My younger, & only Sister loved and collected Christopher Radko Christmas ornaments for years. She passed away in 2010… I’m blessed to have them all…
We were very very close and I love & miss her every day…I’ve given many of them to her closet friends. I know she’d love that !
This is one of my favs. I leave this one & two others out all year !
Merry Christmas to you and your family ❣️🎄“- Beverly
“My parents have collected Radkos for years! They make for the most beautiful tree.”- Taylor
“Blackeyed Pea Baby Jesus in a toothpick manger with Butter Bean Mary and Joseph in a toothpick stable! My favorite of Anna Kate’s handmade ornaments!”- Paige
“My 1/2 sister made these for me years ago. Sent me one every year and now we are closer than ever! I first met her when I was ten, then our father died a few weeks later. Saw her again when I was 18. Over the past 20 years we are closer than ever. Feel like I’m connected to our father through her.”- Wendel
“”Blue Angel,” as we call her in our family, was my beloved mother’s favorite ornament. She was handmade by some talented individual and then bought by my mother at a church bazaar her first Christmas out of college. Mommy and I used her as a template for the “Blue Angel” sugar cookies we made together each Christmas. This ornament is always the first I put on our tree. Our four-year-old daughter thinks she is Elsa from “Frozen”!”- Julia
“My favorite is of a man who selflessly died to save others, and then caused great joy when he rose from the dead.”- Ben
“I have two! These ornaments have my babies birth bracelets, foot prints and going home outfits inside them. “- Jamie
“My fave is this Santa Starfish! I grew up in FL and he has a special spot in my heart!”- Shari
“When Nate and I first started dating someone accidentally called us “Natelynn and Kait” instead of “Kaitlynn and Nate”. We joked about it and as one of my Christmas presents (a month after we started dating) he got me this ornament. It was cute, but I also thought he was a little crazy. Well… now we have one from every year that we’ve been together. All spelt differently of course because we can never agree on how it should be spelt.”- Kaitlynn
“For years my aunt gave my sister and I a piece of Spode every year, starting long before we could really appreciate getting plates for Christmas. She passed away last year and the dishes have become such a precious memory of her. She worked harder than anyone I know and rarely spent money on herself, but it was important to her that my sister and I have something nice. This year will be our second Christmas without her and the second with our new tradition of buying ourselves a piece in her honor. This is one of the last ones she gave us and one of my favorites, the hot cocoa mug with matching candy cane stirring spoon.”- Taylor
“On a more ridiculous note, last year instead of buying Christmas cards I bought these felt frame ornaments from Michael’s and sent them to all of my friends with my school picture. It was such a funny surprise to everyone and it’s been great to see how tickled people get all over again when they pull them out this year. One of my best friends from high school kept his out all year and periodically sends me posed pictures of it!… Side note, Santa and Elf Taylor DO NOT make the cut on the parent’s Radko tree ” – Taylor
“Mike & I saved the champagne corks from the night we got married & the first night of our honeymoon. We attached ornament hooks & hang them at the top of the tree every year “- Mariah
” I’ve got my mother’s hand painted ornaments she made when she got married. They are priceless to me and I have a drummer boy my parents got in Germany.”- Mike
“I have a wooden Clara from the Nutcracker holding a miniature Nutcracker. I got it from my mom & dad when I was 4. I had just seen the Nutcracker for the first time. In another year or so I would begin taking ballet classes & dancing upwards of 17 years. I still have that ornament and it is hands-down the most important one.”- Nicole
” My favorite that I now own is actually my very first ornament, a 1985 Precious Moments “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament that my mom gave me. But as far as family ornaments, my mom and I have really gaudy canary yellow earrings (big for her and little for me) that an aunt had given us one year. My ears weren’t even pierced and this aunt was notorious for giving out the most ridiculously random gifts every year so we decided to put them on the tree as a reminder.”- Ruth
“A dear friend in NYC went to an Episcopal monastery near Hyde Park and purchased in the gift shop, a bell ornament with cherubs climbing up the rope to ring the bell.”- Wesley
“A glass ballerina that we got when I was a kid from The Nutcracker at The Grand Opera House. She’s so graceful and beautiful “- Kelisa
So many of y’all shared amazing memories, of lost loved ones and those still with you. Some even discovered they had ornaments and stories in common. Some were even just funny- haha!
Thank y’all for sharing!
I wish each of you a lovely and Merry Christmas and Happiest of Holidays- I’ll be seeing some of y’all very soon, and for those of you who I can’t , I hold y’all in my hearts.
Love to all y’all,
Molly McWilliams Wilkins
Molly McWilliams Wilkins is a Southern culture commentator, web producer, and social media marketing maven. She is also a freelance writer who has worked with a variety of publications and online magazines including Bourbon & Boots, Paste Magazine, Macon Magazine, the 11th Hour, Macon Food & Culture Magazine, and as the Digital Content Editor for The Southern Weekend. Mommy first, fashionista, social media maven, writer, artist, dreamer and poet. Hangs on to her Oxford Commas by force. Addicted to shoes and purses- and lots of coffee. Coffee coffee coffee.