My old-fashioned traditional tree simply glitters with nostalgia, and this Christmas season I want to share some of my favourite ornaments with you.
This is the time of year when perfectly cone-shaped, colour-matched, ribbon-draped artificial trees start to appear.
But we still have a traditional tree, usually lopsided and tacked to the ceiling with fishing line, complete with sagging branches and shedding needles. Folks, that’s a traditional tree!
In case you are feeling smug about your decision to avoid killing a natural tree, may I remind you that eighty percent of all artificial trees are produced in China in factories, then shipped here using enormous amounts of fuel? A natural tree can be grown from seed within twenty years.
However, I am not judging you! I also have a white artificial tree in my white office for the purpose of displaying some of my lovely mid-century vintage glass ornaments.
Finding the Traditional Tree
But now, here’s my traditional tree. My daughter Katie, her husband Tom, and children Nora, Juliet and Jack found our traditional tree this year when they were cutting down their own.
They have a “secret spot” for the best trees, located on Crown land, which they haven’t even revealed to me!
We had to chop it down significantly to fit under our nine-foot ceiling.
Adding the Traditional Tree Lights
Then out came the lights — easy to untangle since Katie gave me these storage reels for Christmas one year, purchased at Home Hardware.
I start at the top and drape the lights over as many branches as possible in a random pattern. This year I used thirty metres of lights.
My Traditional Tree Ornaments
Then I unpack my ornaments, all carefully sorted and labelled. As I unpack each one, I’m usually overwhelmed with memories.
Some of these shabby ornaments date back to my own childhood in the 1950s, but they remind me of happy days on the family farm in Saskatchewan.
Back in 1983, when I was working at the Red Deer Advocate newspaper and had just given birth to my first baby, a reader sent me this ornament, handmade from an eggshell. It’s one of my favourites!
My writing profession is represented by this tiny typewriter.
And my husband’s construction profession is honoured with this tiny hammer.
Then there are the ornaments that remind me of my own three girls.
A stuffed Santa, made by Janine.
A school photo surrounded by red and green playdough, made by Melinda.
Our family lived in Chihuahua, Mexico from 1994 to 1996 where my husband was building a gold mine for a Canadian company. Each of our three girls has a tiny doll with a baby on her back, to remind us of the poor indigenous people there, the Tarahumara.
Also from Mexico came a set of painted tin ornaments. The kids think this one is hilarious — a skeleton holding a bottle of tequila.
Then there’s the devil, who actually makes an appearance at Christmas time in Mexico. At the end of the children’s Christmas concert at the school they attended in Chihuahua, half the kids came out dressed like angels and the other half like devils, then had a huge fight with cardboard swords. The angels drove the devils off the stage, signifying the triumph of good over evil!
A craft project I did with the three girls when they were younger are these fabric angels, made from thread spools and rags.
Our beloved black Labrador named Laddy, whose bones are buried under a special rock on our property, is remembered lovingly with this ornament.
Then there are our ethnic origins. My husband was born and raised in Berlin, so this glass ball is a nod to his German heritage.
(We have other German mementos, too. To see them, click here: Ten Favourite Christmas Traditions.)
My Scottish ancestors worked for The Hudson’s Bay Company as fur traders.
They married indigenous women, represented by these tiny moccasins.
One of my great-grandfathers was an officer with the North West Mounted Police at Fort Battleford, Saskatchewan.
Of course, we have many travel souvenirs — here are just three of them.
From the Yukon, a replica of the log cabin owned by the poet, Robert W. Service.
We just had to have this lobster from Halifax.
From Italy, this little Michelangelo with a tiny David sculpture in one hand.
Many years ago, my friend Jenefer Marshall crocheted a whole set of these snowflakes and gave them to me. I love their intricacy and the way they float on the branches like real snowflakes.
(Newer Christmas ornaments tend to be heavy, because they can hang on artificial branches — much sturdier than our Douglas fir tree.)
The final step is sticking these vintage sparklers onto the lights.
They aren’t all the same size and some of them always fall off. Believe me, stepping on one of these things in your bare feet will cause you to limp for a week!
However, they add so much sparkle that I always stick on a few dozen.
My Traditional Tree at Night
By the time we are finished, the poor tree is labouring under its burden of riches.
By Christmas Day, the branches will be drooping — but in the meantime, it gives us so much pleasure!
At night, the tree looks even better with the lights reflected in the window, and on the hardwood floor.
Dear Friends, this is the seventh Christmas that I have been writing this newsletter. Some of you have been following me since the beginning, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Here are links to five previous Christmas stories. Read them by clicking on the title. As always, feel free to share my stories with your friends and followers.
- My Dad’s Best Christmas: 1945
- Dresden Church Rose From the Ashes
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas
- Christmas Cards in Wartime
- Ten Favorite Christmas Traditions
To all my readers, new and old, or young and old, have a very Happy Christmas and I’m sending all good wishes for a better year ahead!
With high hopes and great affection, Elinor