My favourite part of holiday decorating is The Christmas Tree.

No matter what other decorating may or may not get done, the Christmas tree is a must.

So recently, when a bereaved friend mentioned that she still cannot bear to put up the tree at Christmas, it struck me as particularly sad.  Even in my darkest Christmases, (and many of us have had them) when it has been a struggle to do anything else, the tree – a real tree – is the one bright light for me.

And that got me thinking about the Christmas tree.

Every Ornament tells a story

Mercury glass balls for the Christmas tree

Faded, with colour chipping, the glass ornaments of my childhood fill me with joy

Decorating the tree is re-visiting the story of my life.  In recent years, I’ve combined my (rather extensive) ornament collection with my mom’s. Putting her decorations on the tree keeps her with us at Christmas. The pretty glass balls date from my childhood.  Mercury-type glass, some are chipping, but no matter.  I love the way they reflect and amplify the lights of the tree.  And the colourful “glass” garland that gracefully drapes the boughs was, and still is, a must.

Old and new for the Christmas tree

Old and New: My little pilgrim ornament alongside my mom’s mercury-glass balls.

Through the years I’ve made and collected lots of tree ornaments. It is what I always look for when I travel.  This year I’ve had the good fortune to add a few.  New are the hand-made Icelandic horse created by a local artisan in Reykjavik and the porcelain bauble from Mt. St. Michel in Normandy.  France had too many beautiful places and I was so taken with Monet’s home that I had to add a glass ornament from Giverny as well.

Commemorative Christmas ornaments

Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee and an Icelandic horse

Christmas Tree Ornaments from France

Mt. St. Michel, Normandy, France

Each decoration has some special significance:  the 2016 White House Ornament commemorates this year’s visit to the White House.  The little pilgrim is a special gift from a friend the year I first completed the Camino de Santiago.  I acquired The Queen’s Jubilee Ornament on my last trip to London.

White House 2016

White House 2016 Commemorative Ornament

Bought or Handmade?

I love handmade ornaments as well.  I dedicated an entire Pinterest board to them!  Each year I try to make one (or a few!) to add to the collection:  cross stitch, embroidery, Hardanger, or just something cute and crafty.

Embroidered Christmas Ornament

Embroidered Cube

Cross Stitch Christmas tree ornament

Cross Stitched teddies

Hardanger Christmas tree ornament

A Hardanger poinsettia

I’m not sure exactly when I began collecting ornaments, but I know that I have been doing it for a long time.  Opening the boxes and taking out the delicate, tissue-paper-wrapped treasures, time is erased and recollections of people and places flood the memory.  Seeing each is like re-acquainting with an old friend.  I carefully unfold the tissue, gently turn the item in my hand and reflect on the circumstances – the story – around the acquisition of that one. Where were we?  Who was there?  What was the story?

Handmade Christmas tree ornament

Holiday Pinwheel – 2016

Christmas tree angel

Christmas Angel – 2016

Few Christmas moments give as much pleasure as the late night eggnog, sitting in the darkened living room, contemplating the lighted Christmas tree.  Amid all the bustle and clamour of the Christmas season, the Tree provides me the greatest comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas to all and to quote one of my favourite authors, “God bless us, every one!”

What holiday tradition do you like the best?  Tell us about it in the comments.  Merry Christmas!