Christmas kitsch

The wreath that I made last year using my mother's vintage organ music and the carolers atop the piano.

During our move last summer I was surprised to hear from several of the wonderful people who helped us pack that apparently it is not customary for most people to have 4 plus artificial Christmas trees of several shapes and sizes in their attics alongside the MANY boxes of ornaments, creches, Christmas china, beautiful Santa figurines, stockings, and all the other important paraphernalia that my family and I hold so dear.  Yes, every December I lugged, with the help of my husband and any of my children who happened to be around at the time, all of the essentials from the attic and transformed our house into a holiday wonderland.

For example, the carolers that my mother-in-law made, complete with woolen coats and hand-written carol booklets which they hold always went atop my mother's blonde upright piano alongside an original piano score of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" that I yearly attempted to play just like my mom used to but eventually gave up because there were too many sharps and flats.  I do still sing it a capella though!

I even brought two artificial trees across the country from our time living in Michigan.   I found them next to the dumpster in student housing at the U of M - I couldn't just let perfectly good trees go to waste! 

I think my best decorating year was when my kids were in high school.  Do you know about those photo buttons that booster clubs make of your athlete and then sell to you as fundraisers at the games?  I had acquired many of those over the years, and I decided to put them to good use.  I tied each button on an artificial tree with green and white ribbons (the school colors), got shiny metallic garland in the same bright green as well as tiny soccer, football and basketball ornaments and voila... instant sports tree!  Oh, and I almost forgot about the corny gumbo-like plastic and wire soccer players with a place to put a picture on the face.  Loved it.

That same year I decorated a three foot tabletop tree with shiny red chopsticks tied together with ribbons, tiny take-out boxes and fortune cookies that I sprayed with shellac.  Unfortunately, while being stored in the attic the cookies were eaten by a pesky squirrel who found his way in.  I have always wondered what happened to that poor squirrel...

These trees accompanied an artificial tree in the dining room laden with beautiful dew-covered fruit and swirled with wide burgandy ribbons, as well as a live tree that we decorated as a family.  Childhood ornaments, little red apples and lots of shiny candy canes always made this tree our family favorite. My mother has been making and buying ornaments for my children since they were born with the idea that they will take them to start their own traditions when they begin their own families. 

I believe that my mini-obsession with Christmas decorating stems from my aunt.  She too was an educator, an amazing crafter and cook, and an incredible hostess.  Most years, when I was a child, my family would make the two-hour trek north during winter break to my aunt and uncle's house for a family holiday celebration. 

They lived in the "big city" of Portland. This was always an eye-opening trip for me.  My aunt had access to stores like Daisy Kingdom and outlets that we couldn't even imagine and she wasn't afraid to use them!  Her house was full of holiday kitsch, much of it she made herself.  Every year we would receive handmade ornaments or the newest crafty decoration.  







Now that's a tree! My husband and the tree at Disneyland in the lobby of the California Grand Hotel.


Two other things made our childhood Christmas visits to my aunt and uncle's house exceptional.  One was the 15 foot Christmas tree that was always packed so thickly with ornaments that you could barely see the lights, or the actual tree for that matter.  It was impressive, and set the bar high for me when I became an adult and started to decorate my own tree.  The other was the plate of 20 or more kinds of Christmas cookies and candies that she always  served us each year.  They were always so tasty, and seemingly perfect to me as a child.  A few years ago, at her memorial service, her girls had several of these cookies made for the reception.  It was such an appropriate way to honor this exceptional woman and one of the things she loved.  Later in my life, as an adult, I would take my mother to my aunt's house during the holiday season where for years she sponsored a holiday bazaar for charity with many items she and her friends had made themselves.  Many of the ornaments on my tree came from these bazaars. 


  • Christmas cacti

    My Christmas cacti made the move intact and even decided to bloom at the right time!

  • I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

    Since all of my decorations are in storage, I decided to go with a white and red theme for a mini tree.

  • Little angel bear bearing gifts

    It's all in the details, even the tiny ones.

  • I found this bear waiting for me at Goodwill. It reminded me of my puppy Riley.

  • A hunting we will go

    Does anybody recognize this bear? I have found two of them in as many years at Goodwill stores in two different states! One had a brass bugle. I'm sure they came from a department store and were a special Christmas offering, but I can't find anything about them. Please leave me a comment if you can solve this mystery!