Christmas Tree Stories

My grandmother Raine gave me this Christmas tree in 2004 when she was 93 years old. She had decided that she no longer felt like putting it up every year, especially after the loss of my father (1995) and my uncle (2004).

I hadn’t decorated a Christmas tree since I was a teenager, but Grandma’s gift inspired me to start again. My mother also gave me some ornaments that have been in the family since the 1960’s. And to accompany the tree into the 21st century, I’ve added some new ornaments, mostly purchased from Ten Thousand Villages in Toronto.

My grandmother was a wonderful quilter, and she made the Christmas tree skirt under the rocking horse, teddy bear, and gingerbread girl.

Also resting on the quilted tree skirt are some of the cookie dough ornaments I remember from my childhood. My mother made some of them, but she recently told me she can’t recall exactly which ones. Regardless, I’m glad to have these reminders of Christmases past when my father, mother, and brother and I used to decorate the tree together (and Birthday the cat used to bat and smash the glass balls on the lower branches).

I’m especially fond of the cracks in this circular face. They testify to the survival of more than thirty holiday seasons.

The small red wagon on the left has a story, too. Mom bought it for me one December in the 1970’s when she took me to see the Wornall House museum in Kansas City in all its Christmas glory.

The tree-topping knitted angel is a new addition, as are most of the ornaments in the pictures which follow. She was made in Bangladesh, which reminds me of my students at the college where I teach English.

Elephants, crescent moons, and Bangladeshi angels mingle with Santa, reindeer, and an apple. They help the tree honor Toronto’s multiculturalism and integrate the Christian traditions of my childhood with the pluralism all around me today.

I hope Grandma Raine would have liked the way I set up her tree. She also supplied me with more festive textiles in the form of two placemats (one green, one red) and a smaller Christmas tree skirt.

Finally, six giant postcards from the 1960’s put the finishing touches on my decorating efforts. I think my parents bought these cards in California when my father was working for Trans World Airlines. My favorite one is the calico cat, and “Dr. O’Brien’s Amazing Powders” is a close second.

Thank you for joining me on this narrative sleigh-ride in time and space! It feels jolly to share Grandma Raine’s tree with you!

10 thoughts on “Christmas Tree Stories”

  1. This is my favorite blog entry so far!! I love how you’ve woven the past with the current in your own patchwork. And I especially love how each item reminds you of a person or place. Each piece tells a story and as a whole they tell a book. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. I really like your multicultural tree. The shapes and colours are spectacular. There is a nice blending of family history and your current interests.

  3. Bart, thank you so much for your comment and for inspiring the post in the first place! You’re a star!

  4. I have ceramic ornaments Jen helped me with plus a cookie one. Did not add them this year. Douldn’t do it but have them for safe keeping. Have her glittery stars up.

  5. Did Jenny make the glittery stars? I’m glad you have the ceramic and cookie ornaments for safe-keeping. Must have been fun for creative mom and daughter to do crafts together.

  6. I agree with Bart about the narrative/decorative patchwork of past and present, many cultures, and heart-felt stories of family and friends. Thanks for taking us on this “sleighride” to Grandma’s house and beyond. I’m glad my new ornament from 10,000 Villages has joined the others. And it brought back memories of my own — growing up, we had both a Chanukah menorah and a Christmas tree.

  7. Thank you, Ellen! The ornament you gave me seems right at home! Was your Chanukah menorah similar to the one you described in Feast of Lights? I’d love to hear more about your memories of the menorah and Christmas tree some time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.