Monday, December 10, 2012

Baubles, bangles and bells ~ Celebrating Christmas

As a family historian, a second generation American of Eastern European ancestry and long time lover of musicals, tradition - no - TRADITION means everything. Come Christmas, however, and traditions can overwhelm. 

I want it all. The Christmas of my childhood. The Christmas of my faith. The Christmases of our families' past. The Christmas of today.   What I end up with are layers and layers of moments, each a link to a Christmas past.  

The music playing references our heritage and our own lives. Slavonic, Latin and English hymns. Folk music and saxophones. Choirs and bells. When the Hallelujah Chorus plays I remember singing it myself for the first time, my daughter's choir, and my mother giggling as she told us of the time she "hallelujahed" a beat to soon. One unanticipated solo. 

This year I was able to spend several days decorating our tree. For the last few years we've traveled at Christmas, visiting family and celebrating afar. No trees put up at home. It was a luxury and joy to reflect on each ornament as I hung it on our mishmash tree. 

There are wheat ornaments from Kansas that remind me of our first home and daughter's birth - and of my husband's ancestors who settled there a century earlier. Tin instruments that make me think of the music we've played over the generations.

A straw ornament from my cousins in Slovakia reminds me of a stable. Lovely little birds make me think of my three mothers - birth, in-law and step. Birders all. 

There are stars that reflect beaches we've walked on. Stars that remind me of the Carpathian mountains. Stars because we remember a Star in the East. A lobster that reminds me of summer dinners and winter parties. 

Angels who herald or chime, angels that hung on trees of grandmothers and great-grandmothers decades ago. 

Our lady of the torch reminds me of a frantic visit decades ago and the earlier passages of my grandparents almost 100 years ago. Our Lady of the tree is an ornament I made 50 years ago. 

There are church spires from Frederick, Maryland and from farther east. And lighthouses from the coasts we've lived on to bring us safely home.

A small home or cabin covered in snow reminds me of growing up in Connecticut and of the many generations of my family who have lived in the mountains. 

A very old Santa from my parents' Air Force days in Europe still peeks out from behind Alice in Wonderland - one of the many children's book characters hiding in the tree because we read

My sister's carousel brings back the our early adult years, when money was tight but her love was shared. I remember rides with her in Binghamton at the carousels and watching my own children whirl round on ones at carnivals and even looking over the Grand River in Michigan.

But above all there are bells. Bells that remind me of church and choirs and songs ringing out across the fields. Bells that help me remember that time and those we love pass, traditions change, but the joy and beauty of Christmas can lift our spirits each winter. 


  1. Precious memories. Thanks for sharing those, Susan. Reading yours coaxed out some of my own.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family. So glad you get to spend this one at home.

  2. Susan,
    I loved this post. I haven't put up our tree yet -- didn't want to think about it. But I have many "special" ornaments I need. This post may be just what I need to get into the Christmas spirit.

    Thanks for sharing your memories. I wish you and all of your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year -- especially with our special grandsons.

  3. Gorgeous ornaments! I sympathize, I want it all, too -- especially the old and lavish traditions. We sung the Hallelujah Chorus in the child-and-adult choir many years in a row. Almost every year One Person (different every time) seemed to "hallelujah" a beat too soon. Ha!.... One year it was me. In the years that we all kept the requisite silence for those two beats, the suspense was just . . . . breathless! : ))

  4. Smiling, thank you. I will decorate Tana in just a few days, as soon as we hit Tuscon. LOVE LOVE LOVE your ornaments!

  5. Loved reading about your special memories around the ornaments .

  6. You have expressed so eloquently why ornaments and the tree are such a big part of our celebration. Past, present, and future all in one place.

  7. Your ornaments are lovely. I have always preferred trees decorated with unique and meaningful ornaments, rather than "theme" trees.

    Since I no longer have kids at home, but still have the tree climbing cats, I no longer put up a tree. My unique ornaments have been passed on to my son, who puts up a tree each year for his kids.

    And I can enjoy that.

  8. I haven't got my tree yet, must less got it up. Got to go get one before they are all gone. I have decorations from years gone by but unfortunately none from my grandparents or parents. Those just seemed to disappear.


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