I love the holiday season and decorating the Christmas tree with ornaments that our family has collected over the years. My favorite types of Christmas trees are those that feature a hodgepodge of ornaments, serving as a kind of scrapbook of family memories—the ones that hold a story for each of the ornaments on their branches. I wanted to share a few of my favorite ornaments that represent some of my own Appalachian memories and that celebrate my roots, so to speak.
1. Grandmother Hale’s Christmas Bells. These bells belonged to my mother’s mother, and I’m pretty sure they still hang from their original strings. I’m not sure how old they are, but they are precious to me, and I usually place them toward the top of the tree.
2. Christmas-Tree Birds. One of these belonged to my Grandmother Hale as well, though it is not in the best condition. I’m not sure what they were made out of, but the one original little bird’s “tail feathers” are stiff, and the clip isn’t as strong as it once was. I have a few more modern ones that are made in the same fashion, and I am quite fond of them.
3. Hee Haw. Like many people my age (and maybe a little older) who are from the South, I grew up on Hee Haw. The show makes me think of my Granddaddy Hale and his side of the family. I saw this ornament at the Grand Ole Opry gift shop on a trip to Nashville, and I just had to add it to my collection.
4. Tennessee-Themed Ornaments. Good ol’ Rocky Top will always be home sweet home to me, and these ornaments reminding me of The Volunteer State and my Appalachian roots bring a smile to my face. Some were gifts, so they remind me of the loved ones who gave them to me as well.
5. Iris Angel. This is a Hallmark ornament from 1998, and it reminds me of the East Tennessee side of the family as well. Not only is the iris the Tennessee state flower, but also my great-grandmother had beautiful irises—some of which my sister Cindy planted at my house years ago. Seeing them bloom each spring warms my heart. (I just noticed this year that it looks like my Iris Angel has a little chip out of it. A lot of my ornaments have been through tree fall or two. The resulting imperfections add to their charm.)
6. Farm-Related Ornaments. I love this Hallmark Fisher-Price barn—it’s a miniature version of the toy one my siblings and I played with as children. The old-school Fisher-Price Little People sets were among our most-loved toys. This ornament not only reminds me of the toys we so enjoyed growing up, but also of my grandparents’ farm. The miniature tractor ornaments also remind me of my Granddaddy and the farm. I also have another barn ornament that I haven’t come across this season, as well as an ornament of Santa in overalls—more reminders of Granddaddy and the farm.
7. Feed-Sack Stocking. My sister Cindy made these sweet stocking ornaments for family members several years ago. As you can see from the writing on the back, they were made using old feed sacks from my grandparents’ farm. I love that she included a note right on the ornament—something I highly recommend. This helps in sharing the story and the significance of the memory. What a treasure!
8. Ornaments Commemorating Christmas at Aunt Oria’s. For many years, my mom’s side of the family enjoyed a holiday get-together at my Aunt Oria and Uncle Ivan’s house in Johnson City, Tennessee. (I’m planning to share more about these gatherings next week.) These ornaments—including a photo from one of the celebrations as well as a cuckoo clock—remind me of these special times.
9. Photo Ornaments. Photo ornaments may be my favorite—they are among the most meaningful to me. We have a lot of photo ornaments, and I add a few more to our tree each year. Some are gifts (which I love), and some I buy. I am sharing just a few here—including some featuring my mother, who passed away in 2012; some picturing our Tennessee childhood (gifts from my siblings); and one with a photo of my family, which was taken at my grandparents’ farm (with permission) not long after the property was sold.
10. Ornaments with Special Handwriting. Many years ago, I made for my family members Christmas ornaments out of my mother’s 1950 letter to Santa that I shared last week. However, I apparently didn’t make one for myself (which I plan to remedy soon). I love having the handwriting of loved ones on the Christmas tree. A few years back (before our son joined our family), when my parents were asking for gift ideas for our daughter, I suggested a Christmas ornament that could be for her from them. I also had them sign the bottom of it, and I am so glad they did. Now that my mother is no longer with us, this is so special—and something I hope she will treasure each year as she hangs it on her own Christmas tree. I highly recommend doing this with your own loved ones.
These are a few of the Appalachian-related memories hanging on our Christmas tree this year. Likewise, we have several Maine- and New England-themed ornaments that celebrate my dad’s side of the family. We also have Korean-themed ornaments that reflect my husband’s and children’s Korean heritage as well. Seeing these ornaments on the tree each Christmas season warms my heart. What are your favorite Christmas ornaments? Do they remind you of a special memory or tell a family story? This Christmas season, as we see so many lovely Christmas trees and ornaments, may we be reminded of the special memories and gifts that God has given us—especially His Son, Jesus. Merry Christmas!