Why Mama’s Ornament Collection Is the Greatest Heirloom of All
We would sooner give up Netflix than one of those Christmas treasures, passed down from her tree to ours.
When I first went to work and started making an annual November trip to New York, I wanted to bring back something special for Mama to put on her Christmas tree in Alabama. Over time, I filled her tree with festive ornaments as big as softballs. But as pretty as those are, they’re not the ornaments I love best.
My favorites are the two or three surviving small, delicate vintage Christmas ornaments that belonged to my grandmother—the ones Mama grew up with and hung on our tree when I was little. It was a live cedar—nothing “pre-lit” back then. Every Christmas, those old ornaments would still have traces of last year’s “snow”—Ivory Snow detergent flakes mixed with water and whipped into a meringue-like consistency. Mama tipped the branches of her tree with it. Between all that soap and evergreen, the house smelled wonderful.
No matter how much holiday decor I might collect for my own home, nothing will ever match Mama’s, especially her trees, now artificial and pre-lit but still adorned with those antique Christmas ornaments. (And I’ll never match the savvy decorating strategy of my Aunt Gladys, who would simply move her fully decorated Christmas tree into the garage and cover it with plastic when the holidays were over. Ahead of her time.)
Apparently, our Facebook Brain Trust also feels strongly about Mama’s holiday décor. We hope you enjoy their holiday memories and share some of yours:
“My mother had a tree angel that we used as long as I can remember.”
“We enjoy, most of all, the Faberge style ornaments my mother created so long ago. I treat them tenderly and ensure that my son knows all about every dazzling one. He will be the one to march them into the future. (Our children must share these memories too!)”
“We have a collection of ornaments that were given to Mom by my Aunt Iva. They are handmade from Czechoslovakia—made of glass tubes and tiny beads that look to be glass also. . . . My other favorites are my husband's grandmother's blown glass ornaments that I'm sure came from Woolworth's back in the 40s and 50s. These dear ladies are in Heaven now—and these treasures are ours. I've retired them from the tree because they are too delicate, but they are displayed in my mother's crystal bowls and are truly my favorites.”
“I love vintage ornaments from my Nanny’s decorations. My favorite one is clear turquoise.”
“My Momma had an ornament that I loved as a child. It was a deep indigo/sapphire blue glass ornament that had an iridescent shimmer and was surrounded by a star-shaped fine mesh of golden wire netting sprinkled with that old-fashioned kind of silver glass glitter. I don't know how to describe it really, but it was so glamorous. She got it on her honeymoon in Miami in 1958, and I remember her telling me she loved it the second she saw it because it matched her engagement ring—which was a gold band with a sapphire solitaire surrounded by a halo of diamonds. It was always my favorite ornament to unwrap and hang on the tree.”
O Little Town
“I remember a tiny metal Santa on a sled that had a set of detachable reindeer—and a cardboard Nativity set with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and 2 sheep glued in place. . . . Many, many Christmases we enjoyed these.”
“My mother had so many ornaments, and almost every one of them had a story. We were always so big on Christmas! The most special Christmas decoration to me isn’t an ornament—it’s my father’s handmade Nativity that he got when he was a child. Each piece is wrapped in crinkled paper—probably the same paper it came in.”
Lights All Aglow
“Bubble lights are still my favorite.”
“I loved those big old colored lights Mother used.”
“When my mom moved in with us and I cleaned out her house, I found a Christmas decoration from 1970. It’s a partridge in a pear tree. The pears are hot pink, lime green, and purple velveteen, and the partridge is white with sequins and beads. All sit on little white tree limbs in a lime green velvet pot. Very 70s! I pulled it out for the first time this year and love it. I remember it sitting on our hall table.”
“I still have a foam gingerbread man from the 60s. I took a bite out of it because Mom and Dad never convinced me it wasn’t real!”
“For me, it was all about the icicles on the tree. I don’t think my mother ever bought new ones. She just recycled the same ones every year.”
WATCH: Things Mama Says In Hobby Lobby This Time Of Year
She had better not see any Halloween nonsense on the same shelf with the Nativity camels, or somebody in management will get an earful.