One of the best things about the Christmas season for me is all the wonderful holiday memories I have from childhood. My family took great efforts to really celebrate the season. I have magical Christmas memories of things as simple as watching the tree in silence, and of watching the snowflakes fall and melt on the big Christmas bulbs that would be strung around our front porch each December.
Another simple but well-loved remnant from then were my grandmother’s vintage Christmas ornaments. Nana’s ornaments were brought out every year after the tree was put up, and delicately – almost ceremonially -unwrapped. As young children, we were allowed to place a precious few upon the lower limbs of the tree before being given our own more child-friendly ornaments. When we’d wake up the next morning, the rest of the ornaments had been placed just so with the precision for design that my grandmother had.
After she passed away, the huge assortment of ornaments were gingerly looked through by the family as we each took a few special ones for our own. I sorted out the red and white ones which fit with my Christmas décor that year and the rest went to other homes and trees to remember Nana with.
Year after year has passed where I have delicately unwrapped these lovely vintage Christmas ornaments. But regardless of all my care, there seems to be one or two broken from the pile each year. This year, as I swept away the remnants of yet another shattered ornament from its storage box, I realized how very few of these I had left. It made me want to photograph them now, while I still can.
Most of Nana’s vintage Christmas ornaments were the classic Shiny Brite ornaments of the 50s and 60s. At one point we had some of the war-years ornaments with the cardboard tabs, but those too have since broken. However, these remaining ones in my possession are the very ornaments that hung in so many of my grandparents’ holiday photos that span back at least 60-some years. Along with handfuls of silver tinsel, they graced the tree limbs each year of our family Christmas tree.
Someday I think I would like to replace all those that have been lost through the years. From time to time my mother or I will come across one or two of these in an antique store, though it’s not really in my budget to spend upwards of $20 on a vintage Christmas ornament right now. There’s something priceless, though, about these few that are left to me. The very ornaments I hold in my hands, here in this technologically brilliant year of 2013 are the same ones held in my grandmother’s own hands during the 1950s and 1960s, when she herself had two young children, just like I do now. I can only imagine the thoughts and struggles she had as a new mother and as a woman of the rapidly changing times. I wish she was still around to ask.
The Christmas season sometimes seems to me to have its own timeline. The rest of the year goes by smoothly, but Christmas memories always seem to flow from one Christmas to the next, with the subtle differences of each year becoming more pronounced with each passing one. And these well-loved ornaments are little family treasures, each filled with its own memories, whispering them in my ear and reminding me anew of the things that had almost been forgotten.
~ Mellie ★