Family & Education

Taking Down the Christmas Tree: Preserving a Panoply of Ornaments and Tradition

BY Anita L. Sherman TIMEJanuary 16, 2022 PRINT

When my husband Don and I celebrated our first Christmas together decades ago, he presented me with a small ornament—a porcelain doll dressed in burgundy. I was delighted. With each Christmas, she takes a prominent spot on the tree, always a reminder of our first Christmas together. So began our tradition of purchasing an ornament to celebrate us each year.

When our daughter Sophia was born, we decided to do the same for her, starting a collection of ornaments that someday would be given to her to decorate her tree.

Two boys came along and the same was done for them. A few years ago, our older son Douglas requested his ornaments. The plan has always been for the respective collections to be given to the respective child. Yet as I gathered them for him, I found myself teary to let them go, remembering each of them and why that particular ornament was chosen. My sadness was short-lived. They have found their own place of honor in their home adorning a small unique tree.

Last spring, our daughter and her family moved to Warrenton. They have their first house and she’s always been wild about Christmas. I knew she would want her ornaments and agreed to pull them aside when we took down the tree this year.

That day came as 2021 slipped into 2022. I’ve always been a fan of January 6—the Epiphany. While Christmas Day has passed, the season isn’t over. The three kings have yet to visit the newborn child who is soon to be baptized by John the Baptist, celebrating him as God and a man.

Aside from its religious significance, I like epiphanies—new beginnings, new starts, new perspectives, new realizations—particularly pertinent as a new year begins.

I reached for the small bear on top of a sleigh. This was Sophia’s first Christmas ornament, chosen by me to commemorate her arrival in our lives. It was followed by many more through the years.

Epoch Times Photo
The author chose this bear on a sleigh as the first ornament in a decades-long collection for her daughter Sophia. (Anita L. Sherman)

By the time she was 4 or 5, she was selecting her own—lots of reindeer, fairies, and small animals. One year, it was nesting bunnies.

She also went through phases, so there are several Rudolphs and Misfit Toys.

I grew up with Madame Alexander dolls, so many of my choices involved red and green plaid-clad little dolls nestled to a teddy bear.

One year, Sophia was very disappointed as I deviated from my usual Hallmark selection and went for a bright, red glass evening gown. I thought it was very elegant, but she wasn’t impressed. I learned my lesson.

As I gathered her collection, I noted the remarks I’d written on most of the boxes. Where we were living at the time and why I had chosen this particular one. The process brought back a flood of memories and lots of emotion.

A small, frisky, cream-colored feline figure in 2006 was an extra ornament, remembering the loss of her cat Molly.

A vintage phonograph player was for her boyfriend, eventually to be her husband, David.

And then there were a few years when she requested, and I didn’t refuse, to purchase two ornaments because she just couldn’t decide.

As my husband and I took down the tree this year, a growing collection of ornament boxes made their way to a separate area on the table. I found a red and green plaid ornament box to house them and was pleased that they all fit.

Memory Maker

Looking back to my childhood, I don’t know whether my mother was conscious of all the warm memories she created for me, particularly around Christmas.

Baking sugar cookies, opening greeting cards together, and letting me arrange them on the piano or mantel, meticulously hanging tinsel on the tree, or choosing a new holiday dress.

These rituals, repeated year after year, formed for me a foundation of security and unconditional love.

When I became a mother, making memories was on my agenda as a legacy to hopefully pass on to my children since it had meant so much to me growing up.

Purchasing a new ornament each year for each child was a tradition we started.

“I remember each one,” Sophia said to me when I told her that the collection was assembled and I would give it to her the next time we visited.

Sophia’s daughter, Ada, is 4. She’s crazy about animals, and her choice this past Christmas was a fanciful porcelain zebra wearing a red scarf. Her younger brother, Harrison, received a snowman.

So the tradition continues in their household.

Memories last a lifetime, and so many of them are centered on family traditions, particularly during the holidays.

Positive traditions honor us and those we love. They are priceless. Over the years, they link us to memories that build security and hopefully strengthen and enrich family bonds.

It’s never too late to start traditions of your own. It’s a new year—time for new beginnings and new memories to be made.

Anita L. Sherman is an award-winning journalist who has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for local papers and regional publications in Virginia. She now works as a freelance writer and is working on her first novel. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to four, and she resides in Warrenton, Va. Anita can be reached at anitajustwrite@gmail.com
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