The Christmas tree glows displaying precious ornaments but how often do you stop to consider them? When you dressed the tree you may have paused in memory over the little angels and bells and you will handle the fragile treasures again when you take them off to put them away. But how about sitting down by your tree in between your busy baking, shopping, and gift wrapping just to enjoy those ornaments that spend eleven months a year in your attic?
On my tree there is always a bird’s nest perched on a branch with a red cardinal sitting snugly in it. It was the first ornament I purchased for our very own Christmas tree in December 1969. (Prior to that our tree had been a large decorated pine cone in our Athens student apartment.) Now the bird is faded and the nest of straw is tousled after fifty years of finding a place on our Christmas trees. But I sigh with contentment as I remember the fun of ordering it from Spencer’s catalog and then pulling it with delight from its cute little box. Those were simpler times! That cardinal has been joined over the years by several others who perch here and there on green boughs. One cardinal was crafted of felt by my imaginative aunt Emma.
Aunt Emma was a very skilled Christmas decoration artist. She crocheted bells, all kinds of door hangers, and created charming ornaments using felt, bits of thread and buttons. Her creations were popular in north Georgia gift shops. Gradually I collected several of her treasures. Every year now I hang two bright red felt apples in the tree along with the red cardinal she made. One of my favorite of her decorations is a green crocheted door hanger with three sets of merry red bells that jingle every time the door is opened. But best of all are Aunt Emma’s finely crocheted white bells and snowflakes. Amazingly, the snowflakes, though not quite as white as they used to be, are still as crisply starched as when Aunt Emma made them.
One year a good friend, Jackie Joyner, and her daughter, Stephanie, gave us a dozen glass bead wreaths they had made. They are about three inches across, beautifully crafted in vivid red, green and white, and so merry. I always think of those friends as I carefully choose a branch where each wreath can hang.
Then there are the candy canes I made under the instruction of my dear neighbor, Judy Rawlins. They’re made of macramé twine and garden wire, I think. I remember the fun day at our church when several of us girls (and we really were just girls then!) enjoyed a Christmas crafting party. I can hear our laughter and smell the hot Russian tea. There’s a wooden teddy bear ornament from a Sunday school student who’s all grown up now, framed picture ornaments of all our grandchildren, brass colored musical instruments I bought one year when our son was in the band–these all make Christmases past come alive. Oh, and there are the souvenirs–a tiny replica of the White House, Ann Hathaway’s cottage from England, a Hawaiian surfboard, a redwood tree and a cable car from California and a tiny blue windmill from Holland, Michigan.
Maybe you, as I do, have one ornament you simply must have on your tree, maybe a salt dough bell with your child’s thumbprint still on it, or a fragile carefully preserved angel made from a toilet tissue holder. One of my absolute “musts” is a two-inch wooden nativity scene purchased in Savannah.
The three of us–Charles, our six-year-old son, William, and I–had traveled to Savannah to meet for the first time a little girl named Julie who would soon be part of our family. We played with her that afternoon in a park but then had to leave her with her caseworker until the next day. William did not understand at all why his new sister couldn’t just go with us right then. Hadn’t we waited long enough? To console him (and ourselves!) we went down to the riverfront, ate at the Boar’s Head or some fun place, and browsed the shops. Aside from watching taffy makers at work, and eating ice cream, we found this tiny nativity scene ornament and purchased it to commemorate that special time. On the bottom I penciled “Savannah 1975” just in case we forgot!
Amidst all the wonderful busy blur of Christmas activities, stop at least one minute and relish the beauty and meaning of your Christmas tree and its many ornaments, whether bought or handmade. Then bake those sugar cookies, wrap that final present, and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas now!”