Decking the halls with memories and stories makes a wonderful way to make holiday decorations more meaningful.
At any time of year, the photographs, keepsakes, and art we display on our walls often represent significant stories and memories. That wonderful trip. The grandparents you remember. The kids when they were small.
As you write about your family’s holiday traditions, I hope you also keep the materials manifestations of those stories close. In December, I find my house filled with nostalgia—the good kind.
Here, I’ll take you on a little tour, and hit some of the highlights.
Not too long after my husband and I got married, my father decided he didn’t want to wait until we provided him with grandkids before getting a train set. He took over the dining room (and my mother’s antique mahogany furniture) with his HO train layout. After his engine jumped the tracks, we purchased a huge sheet of plywood and started building him a village.
Though he’s not been with us for a while, his love of trains remains. Though it doesn’t take over the entire dining room, we do have a shelf for Daddy’s HO buildings that we annual gifts to him when we lived in Germany, along with a lamp filled with his childhood marbles.
The Night Before Christmas
Growing up, our primary Christmas Eve ritual was going to the Aug. W. Smith Company to look at James “Buck” Buchanan’s diorama of The Night Before Christmas. (Follow the link to see photos of the display. They’re beautiful!)
When Christmas decorations come out, we pay homage to that memory in various ways, including handing a tile from long-defunct Aug W. Smith Company on the wall and a tiny copy of Clement Moore’s poem that hangs from the tree. We also have a couple “children” nestled “all snug in their” walnut shell bed.
Decking the Halls with Memories of Faraway Places
I’m sure we’re not alone in purchasing holiday treasures as we travel. Our tree is replete with them. Hawaiian angels and a road sign. A San Francisco cable car. A giddy kangaroo and koala from Australia.
One of my favorite things about living in Germany was the Christmas markets. They seemed almost magical. Twinkling lights, usually in some medieval square, jovial customers and vendors, and the sweet aroma of roasted almonds, glühwein, and lebkuchen. (If you’re not familiar with lebkuchen, think chocolate-covered gingerbread.)
After absorbing in the atmosphere (and some glühwein, which always came in a souvenir glass), I’d purchase a new treasure, such as a pewter, handcrafted wood, or even feather ornament for our tree. Each of these brings back fond memories as they grace our tree.
Memories from my own childhood hang on the boughs of the tree, interspersed with treasures from my kids. These include a couple of ornaments that have hung on my family or my husband’s family’s tree since we can remember.
That includes the angels my boys made during preschool.
The ornaments made in the 60s by Mr. Giles, a family friend, get places of honor. A wood-worker, he made ornaments for his daughters’ friends each year. They range from snow-covered chalets to musical notes to Raggedy Anne.
Of course, the ornaments my boys made in preschool were constructed with a tad less fine-motor skill, but I treasure them all the more for that.
We also love the little tree one of my sons decorated while going through a color-it-bright stage. What it lacks in artfulness, it more than makes up for in color and quantity of decorations.
How do you deck the halls and walls (not to mention the trees and tables) with memories and stories? I’d love to hear how you incorporate the past in your present.