Hung With Care

Random bowl of ornaments.

Some people dread decorating for Christmas, buying or retrieving the Christmas tree from the garage or basement, digging through boxes to find ornaments, and having to string the lights to look the best on the tree. These things seem like quite a bit of work and may induce exasperated sighs, but I absolutely love all of it.

Since I moved to my own place over four years ago, the itch to decorate starts early in the holiday season. I, unlike others, do wait until December actually arrives though. My own home, to decorate how I please, with ornaments and festiveness of my choosing. I didn’t think it could get any better until the year I was given my Grandparents’ old ornaments.

That little mouse is one of my favorites, even though his nose is worn off. His buddies are looking a bit haggard, as well. The apples are cute. And the boot!

There is some questioning on exactly how old some of the ornaments are, but whatever the date, they’ve definitely seen quite a few decades. I have stated on this blog before how much I love and prefer the worn and scuffed items with a story and character over the new pristine items. These ornaments are no exception. They are definitely discolored and have bits worn off of them. Most of them look like they belong on the Island of Misfit Toys, but that is precisely why I love them so much.

Mostly I love them because they belonged to my Grandparents, and they used them year after year. Many of their decorations were broken in an unfortunate accident while trying to store them. Apparently, the box holding them was dropped off a shelf and many of the  ornaments that had been determined and steadfast through the years were lost beyond repair. I was very saddened to learn of this tragedy but felt extremely privileged to be given the ones that survived.

Not sure if these were bought or made.

They are not fancy, nor expensive. They probably have no monetary or antique value, but I take pride in hanging them on my tree each year. Their value is beyond material and the feeling they invoke for me is more than I could have ever asked for. For several years when I would come home for the holidays from college, I would put up my Gramps’ decorations and his tree. He would sit in his recliner telling me where he would like each piece of Christmas cheer. He would sit back and watch as I placed each ornament on the tree, helping me by telling me where the holes appeared. When we were finished we would enjoy the simplicity of what we had just accomplished.

I even love the flimsy foil ornaments. The rocking horse has a mohawk.

Growing up I remember their tree clearly. It pretty much always sat in the same place, up on a small table in the corner. The tree wasn’t big and it wasn’t expensive. It was simple, but it was decorated with love and with family. I feel all their ornaments are infused with that love and sense of family.

My Grandparents’ tree crica 1978. You can decipher some of the ornaments I’ve featured. (My sister’s going to kill me for putting this photo up.)

My Gramps passed away in 2007, and each year I put these ornaments on my tree, I have visions of him watching me decorate. Nodding and approving, wanting to make suggestions on where they should go and which gaps they should fill in, and regaling me with his stories.

Then I smile and think he would be proud for me to carry on with his and Gramma’s decorations, especially both of them knowing how much they mean to me and how the ornaments hold such a special place in my heart and in my holiday season. They have incorporated beautifully with the other ornaments I had to buy new. Though I do like a bit of a mish-mash of decorations, nothing too matching or “styled.”

I did find some very lovely antique ornaments that I added to my collection. When I found and took them in my possession, I felt I had unearthed a treasure. These too, may not be anything specifically special, but I immediately fell in love when I laid eyes upon them. I love the orange color, and the raised adornment that encircles them. There’s a touch of glitter, just enough to be charming without being tacky.

Vintage ornaments are one of my favorite finds at antique stores. Most of them I just take photos of and sigh over, seeing as their prices are usually well out of my budget. Most are priced $3-8 each, which I suppose is not too bad, considering new ornaments can be just as expensive. I have seen some ornaments in the glass cases with price tags that I had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing them right, $15 for one, and even $30 for one. It would be nice to know why these were priced so high. Perhaps they were hand-crafted? Made from a special material? Made by a famous ornament maker? I don’t have the answers, but they are fun to find and look at.

Shiny Brite was a company that made ornaments in the 1940s and 1950s, eventually going out of business in 1962. They made the most popular and recognizable ornaments of that era. My Grandparents had some of these, they were very similar to the multi-colored balls on the right, but were slightly darker in color (victims of the accident). These ornaments are recreated and reissued today by Christopher Radko to bring the Christmas feeling of the 1950s back. I found quite a few full boxes of Shiny Brite ornaments, not only the solid balls, but the reflector balls and some bell shaped ones as well. Though reissued ones are available today, it’s nice to see the originals are available as well.

The nostalgia that vintage ornaments hold is so prevalent and intoxicating I have a hard time staying conscious. I love the look of these decorations. I love to think about where they have been. Were they passed down generation to generation? Or were they discarded when newer, trendier decorations came out? Have they witnessed Christmas after Christmas, watching children grow to adults, or were they given away or sold to new homes often? I think about the hands that have touched and hung them, and how much love and affection were put into the act. I hope after I am unable to hang mine, Grandparents’ ornaments and my own alike, someone, perhaps my niece will feel a need to hold onto them and add them to her own collection of ornaments. Hopefully, they will still hold a special place in someone’s heart and on their tree.

Happy Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Festivus. Happy whatever-you-may-celebrate, to all of you out there.

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12 thoughts on “Hung With Care

  1. Love this post! Passing on ornaments through the family is a great tradition which we plan to keep going. We start decorating the day after Thanksgiving and leave both the indoor and outdoor decorations up through New Year’s Day. Still drag in a real tree each year…pick up the needles…fiddle with the hooks for the ornaments…the usual. Yet, it makes Christmas time unusual…and so special for us. Merry Christmas to one and all!!!

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  2. I wish I had the same enthusiasm for decorating. I got really excited to decorate this year, but then by the end of it I concluded I may not do it again next year. Granted, I did have to buy my tree and all of the decorations this year, which was exhausting (and pricey).

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  3. A great dedication to family memories. Ornaments are very special in my family too. We all have our favorites. I think it is wonderful that you became the keeper of your grandparent’s ornaments. Wonderful piece. Thanks for sharing the spirit of the season. Happy Christmas to you!

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  4. Wonderful post! It made me feel sad but I love your post nonetheless.

    My holiday memories, I am afraid, are not very pleasant. My relatives are rather stiff and formal. The holidays never felt cosy or comfortable. I am glad your memories are good. 🙂

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  5. I didn’t actually read the whole post, but I was touched by the first part where you hanged your grandparents’ ornaments. These ornaments are priceless, it’s small things like these that stir up memories that one can never forget!
    Merry Christmas! 🙂

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