Christmas Memories Wrapped in Homemade Packages

Christmas in my childhood home was always beautiful. A tall, thick tree stood in the corner of our living room, decorated with delicate glass ornaments and strands of glittering tinsel. Presents were carefully wrapped with shiny paper, and hours were spent tying ribbons "just right." A porcelain nativity graced the area in front of the tree, the tall, slender figures so delicate, one hard grasp could have shattered them. It was stunning, magical, and completely untouchable.

Although I treasure the memories of my Christmases past, things are a little different around our house. Last year, my then-barely-three-year-old son knocked the tree down three times. The tree's artificial limbs were drooping, and the ornaments sadly misshapen by the time Christmas morning finally rolled around, but we had a great time hanging the ornaments over and over again. Most of them had been hand-made just that year, and I can't wait to unpack them and add them to this year's collection. I don't mind my son's touching the tree or re-arranging the ornaments or touching the various decorations around the house, because most of them are things he and I made together. And that makes our Christmases incredibly more special. We make papier-mâché ornaments. We bake cookies to hang on the tree. We string cereal. We even make our own wrapping paper and ribbons. And, instead of "untouchable" Christmas memories, I am hoping that my son's memories will be tangible, real memories, full of love and warmth and fun.

 

I began this tradition before my son was born. I was nine months along with him, and it was late October. To keep myself busy during those last long weeks, I began to make "First Christmas" ornaments for him. I used clay to make snowmen, Santa Clauses, little reindeer, and a teddy bear stuffed in a Christmas stocking. I wrote little messages on the back of each one, then signed and dated them. I still hang these in the front of the tree, their place of honor.

But my favorite ornaments are the ones my son and I make together. Last year's papier-mâché ornaments are priceless because of their little flaws: The one that has tiny tears because my son kept ripping the paper back off to get it "straight." The big, fat one that had way too many paper strips on it, and it took three days to finally dry. And the one where my son insisted on using strips he "made" from his Barney book. Those decorations may hang just a little crooked, or look just a little off-center, but I don't think anything could be more valuable than the memories we created in that big bowl of flour and water.

This Christmas, we are busy collecting things for our "nature" ornaments. We've got pinecones to paint and roll in glitter, leaves to color and draw on then dip into resin, marbleized paper to wrap our presents in and colorful gelatin ornaments! I'm positive these will earn an extra-special place on our tree as well, since we are celebrating another "first Christmas" with Alexander, who will be three months old by then. As our family grows, so do our holiday memories, lovingly wrapped in a handmade bow.

-- Alecia Pirulis

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