In my previous post I talked about all the decorating I do for the holidays and alluded to the vast quantity of Christmas ornaments I possess.
I don't really know how to make clear to you the scope of the number of ornaments we are talking about. I guess the best way is in terms of Christmas trees. If you take your average 6 to 7 foot tree and decorated it modestly - you know, so that there is actual space between ornaments - I probably have enough ornaments to fill 5-7 trees. Needless to say, the 3 trees I do decorate each year (1 large, 1 medium and 1 small) are way overfilled and a number of ornaments just flat out stay in their boxes. I try to rotate who makes the tree each year, but, let's face it - some ornaments are stars and some are bench warmers.
It's not as though I have an ornament addiction - I have probably only purchased 25 or fewer ornaments since I got married and started actually setting up Christmas trees. No, the answer lies in heirlooms and the handing down of things and melding of households.
Ornament category 1: ornaments from my husband's childhood.
Probable total: 35-45
These ornaments range from the classics handed down through the family since easily the 1940's......
to some of those golden oldie wooden ones everyone had in the 1960's (I had one too - John's is the Santa, mine is the two little children) ..............
Ornament category 2: Ornaments crocheted or otherwise handmade by John's late grandmother
Probable total: 75-100
These have always been particularly special. She began giving them to us when we first got married and continued right up until her death. Some of the crocheted ones have been stiffened with a sugar mixture (which apparently makes them an irresistible treat for certain dogs - one of my sisters-in-law lost several of hers in a sordid cocker spaniel snack attack) and the ones she made after she moved into the nursing home are pretty floppy. Victims of my "some day I'll get to starching those" lifestyle.
Ornament category 3: homemade by my kids
Probable total: 15-20
I adore these - it was sad when my children migrated into public school where such things do not get made for mothers and fathers at holiday time.
Ornament category 4: homemade by my mother
Probable total: 10 or so
These are also quite special but sporadic. My mother's life is even more hectic than mine so the time she has to sit down and embroider any more is rare.
You can tell she had only two children when she made this one - imagine having enough time to find cute things to cut out of magazines, mounting them, cutting them out on the scroll saw and decorating them. Starting to see where I get my overbooked gene?
Ornament category 5: given by friends or ornament exchange parties
Probable total: 25-30
I won't bother with pictures of the ones from my students - they are pretty much all variations on the theme of harps - but I really like this porcelain gingerbread house from an ornament exchange - tremendously heavy though,
Ornament category 6: ornaments gifted to my children by my mother in law
There is absolutely no guesswork on this number as my mother in law has faithfully given each of my children a special ornament for every Christmas they have been alive.
Unfortunately, many of them are gone or in pieces in storage because for the first 5 - 8 years she bought adorable ornaments from Hallmark that turned out to be incredibly poorly made. Contrary to the longevity of ornaments purchased in my childhood that are still going strong, these usually did not last more than one season. For years John had a plethora of disembodied hands, heads, toys, you name it, in his basement workshop waiting to be reassembled. But plastic does not take to being glued all that well and he eventually gave up. Luckily, my mother in law decided enough was enough and started investing in a different kind of ornament entirely. I am happy to say, all those have survived beautifully.
Ornament category 7: ornaments from my childhood or ornaments thrust upon me by my mother the year she swore off Christmas trees for the rest of her life.
Probable total: Lord knows
I cannot even begin to count them. To be fair, they are all wonderful and I am happy to have them - it's just there are so many!
My favorites are the glass ornaments that survived the great tree crash of '74. That was the year our favorite pug, Phoebe, got herself tangled in something at the base of the tree and brought the whole thing down on herself. As that tree was easily as full as my current tree, the loss of ornaments was considerable. It makes those that I have all the more special. It also gave my mother an excuse to go out scrounging tag sales for replacements, boosting the ornament count even higher. Here are some of my personal favorites - I'd be curious if anyone out there has similar ones.....
Explanation: the green bell lost some of its stem in the great crash. My mother resourcefully just put a cap and hook on it anyway.
So that's a little journey through my ornament madness.
Next post: storing more ornaments than you know what to do with.