December is a slightly mixed up time of year for our families. For several months, now, we’ve been reminded of that it is a time for celebration and giving. And with that, come family traditions. Don’t all families have them?!
For us and the many new and old branches of our families, there are the decorations. My husband did his part by putting up a string of lights along the eaves of our home and hanging some on the bushes under our front window. We tend to go American: patriotic with red, white and blue lights. Some nearby yards have religious themes while other families are more secular with blow-up snowmen and reindeer in lights. Some families have traditions of hedging their bets with displays that are both religious and secular. As in family trees, holiday lights have age-old, passed down traditions.
Next, there are the Christmas trees. For some families, real trees are the way to go. For others, artificial is the “new” tradition.
And then there are the ornaments. Some families prefer trees with ornaments that have a theme. This may be by color or nationality—or even an Elvis theme making him another type of Christmas King. Some families decorate their tree differently every year or two. For others, ornaments are passed down from generation to generation and carefully put away each year to be used again and again. I’m a member of the “other” group. There are very few breakable ornaments on my tree. This genealogist finds that it is easier to put our traditional ornaments back up onto the tree after one of the small children or pets knocks them over—generation after generation.
These family ornaments aren’t expensive, but most have a story. There are a couple from when my children were in elementary school and about the same age my grandchildren are now. Those early ones are made mostly from construction paper or milk cartons or with pipe cleaners and a paper clip or two. There are two or three that have been in the family since my grandmother made them when she was recovering from hip surgery in the hospital. She’s be gone almost 30 years now and we still put them up. There’s a pink and white angel fish that we inherited from my husband’s side of the family. These ornaments have a story, too. Some that go up each year were purchased when we travelled. And there is one that my mother-in-law made out of the extra material from my wedding dress.
The Christmas trees in our families will never make the cover of a home interior magazine. But the ornaments and their stories are important for the family history researcher. Ornaments have significance in the lives and places of families and can remind us of important times in a family’s history.
One crafty aunt made ornaments out of felt depicting each and every member of the family. This was for my in-law’s tree. Every time a new baby came along, there was a new ornament to be added. After both of my husband’s parents died, the ornaments were inherited by each represented family.
The last Christmas gifts my husband’s grandmother gave her grandchildren were Scottie dog tree ornaments. What was the significance? She lived in Glasgow, Montana. Now, when these get passed down from generation to generation, the story of the Scottie dog will help family members connect to past ancestors—and places.
For families and their history, hire a genealogist from RecordClick. Your stories will come alive and they may include traditions, especially from times shared at holidays such as Christmas.