You love your Christmas ornaments. You unpack them with care, and it's a magical holiday family tradition to decorate your tree with them. Inherited ornaments and ones from your childhood days bring back warm memories, making your tree an even more symbolic and sentimental showpiece in your home.
Some of your ornaments might have commemorated your first Christmas together, your children's first Christmases or your first Christmas in your new home. They mark the milestones of your life, and a new trend now is to keep the milestone ornament tradition going beyond firsts to milestone moments of the year. Each year, pick out one new ornament that symbolizes a fun event you shared.
It could be a dolphin ornament to tell the story of the time you swam with dolphins during a family vacation. It could be a sports team ornament to commemorate its winning the championship or a puppy ornament to show that you added a furry little addition to your family this year.
Your ornament collection, and your tree, will keep getting more and more meaningful. "Commemorating milestones and moments each year is an important part of the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament line. Each year as ornaments are pulled out to be put on the tree, people often pause and reflect on what event or moment each ornament captured," says Hallmark spokeswoman Deidre Mize, who mentions that the big event in the family this year might be a daughter's quinceanera (a Latin American 15th birthday celebration tradition).
Here are some other suggested milestones that may inspire your ornament-of-the-year choice:
--A dream family vacation (a palm tree ornament, a surfboard ornament or an ornate ornament bought in an exotic city).
--A fitness milestone, such as running your first marathon (a sneaker, a gold medal).
--Completing a major project in your home (a flower ornament to commemorate your new garden, a paintbrush, a little crib to show you created a nursery for the baby you're expecting).
--Getting a pet (puppy, kitten, fish).
--Getting engaged (a faux diamond ring, Champagne bottle, bride and groom figurine).
--Seeing the big blockbuster movie on its premiere day (characters from the movie).
--Hosting your first houseguests (a pineapple, the symbol of hospitality).
--Getting a clean bill of health after a scare or treatments (an apple, a symbol of health to "keep the doctor away").
--Celebrating a big wedding anniversary (a heart, cake, Champagne, the number).
--A child's first dance recital (ballerina).
--A child's sports achievement (football player, soccer ball, gymnastic figurine).
"Recognizing the value and importance of this tradition, parents often pass this ritual on to their children and help them start collections based on interests and activities like sports or dance," says Mize. When children are old enough to understand the tradition you're building, they will be very excited to select their own annual ornaments, commemorating the moments they think are the best of the year.
"It brought tears to my eyes when my daughter picked out an ornament of a peach, since she thought the best part of the year was picking peaches in her grandparents' garden during our visit with them," says mom-of-three Nancy Holden. "I thought for sure she'd go with a cartoon character ornament. She got the meaning of the ritual we started, and we put that peach front-and-center on the tree and sent a photo to my parents."
Ornament creators often launch new designs from beloved holiday movies, such as "A Christmas Story" or "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and your family may decide that since watching a particular movie together is a highlight of their year, the new ornament addition will be a character or scene ornaments.
Or you might decide to theme your annual milestone ornaments to places you've vacationed at or visited as a family, turning your tree into a visual "scrapbook" of your family's great travel memories.
No matter what your chosen ornament each year may be, capture the depth of its symbolism by writing in your own hand (far more personal than computer-printed) the story behind the ornament, such as when the milestone occurred, details about it, why it's momentous, even quotes spoken about it by the children.
Either place this detailed note in each ornament's box, or create an ornament journal or scrapbook filled with photos of the ornaments and your handwritten stories about each. You'll treasure each memory, the stories will be saved for future generations, and your kids will very likely continue your sentimental tradition.