As a child, our Christmas trees were decorated with very old glass ornaments. I hated them – I hated the way they were aged and not new. I wished for a different tree with modern decorations, colored lights and sparkly garland. Instead we had a very old-style German tree. My dad would get a live root-bound evergreen that he placed in a large wooden tub and my mom would lovingly adorn it with old-fashioned candle lights, our old German ornaments and very carefully placed silver tinsel. As a child of the 1970’s – this was such a drag for me. I can remember helping my mom decorate our tree and I would “accidentally” drop an ornament or two on occasion, with the hope that I would break enough of them and force us to get new ones. This didn’t work — they weren’t that easy to break on a carpeted floor. In particular, I remember hating the faces on the figural ornaments — I can recall thinking that their faces looked so ugly and creepy that their presence on our tree ruined it completely. I always made sure to hang those in the back. However, my mom would review my work and rearrange my placement after the fact. I would get so frustrated – there was nothing I could do to stop the creation of what I thought was the ugliest Christmas tree in existence. When the holidays were over, my dad would plant the tree in our backyard. Now, I can fully understand and embrace all of what my parents were doing – but at the time, all I could do was shrug my shoulders in disgust and dream of someday owning my own, far superior, tree.
Sometime in my 20s, when the long-awaited moment came for me to decorate my own tree, I experimented with a few new ideas: themed trees, monochromatic trees, a tree decorated entirely with dried flowers, but they all left me feeling flat. I had no real connection to these trees and many times, I would donate my decorations to Goodwill in January because I didn’t want to use them again the following year.
The big surprise came to me when I got married and started a family — it was then that I suddenly yearned to recreate the Christmas Tree from my youth. I wanted to feel something when I looked at my tree – to be warmed inside. I set out to build my own collection of vintage ornaments, much like the ones I detested as a child. I scoured garage sales, flea markets, antique stores, and spent hours searching on EBay (which was my best resource) trying to piece together the tree from my memory. I have amassed quite a collection – I think I have at least two thousand now and the German figurals are, ironically, my favorite. When I had my first daughter, my mom gave me a few jewels from her collection – I was in heaven.
Here I am now and I have a Christmas tree that is loaded with old glass ornaments and I love it, but my kids hate it. Every year, as we decorate our Christmas tree, I tell my kids about the hatred I had for my old family tree and my secret attempts at sabotaging my mother’s efforts. They roll their eyes and hang the ornaments in boredom – they don’t see the humor in it.
Sometimes I wonder (worry) how my kids are processing all of this – am I creating a strange hate-love cycle of family Christmas trees? To soften the effects of this yearly event, I’ve chosen to do a few things differently. We have an artificial gold tree, instead of a live one (I had to put a funky, updated twist on it) and my kids have their own small trees in their bedrooms that they are free to decorate as they wish.
When our daughters are older, they will inherit my large assortment of vintage ornaments – maybe they’ll grow to appreciate this gesture, maybe not. I would imagine that by that time my collection will be quite valuable. I suppose they could always sell them all and use the cash to pay for therapy.