A Family History on a Christmas Tree

What does your Christmas tree reveal about you? Is it beautifully colour co-ordinated, reflecting this year’s home decorating trends? Mine is far from being a work of art but it is full of decorations that tell a story. The oldest decorations are nearly seventy years old and date from when my parents first married.DSCF1188

This rather scary looking choir boy has been on family Christmas trees since 1947. He is actually a cake decoration, which is why he is garrotted by wire in order to be hung on the tree.


Then there are the two plastic birds, one green and one red. They, I believe, were originally my grandmother’s. Although they are not budgerigars, to me they were always representative of the budgies that the family owned over the years. They always have to be hung with a red or green light behind them. Of the same era are the yellow plastic angel and a similar pink star and bell, again always hung by the appropriate coloured light.

DSCF1176They came with a set of stars and snow flakes. These consist of two halves so that they can slot together to form a three dimensional decoration. Over the years, some of the halves have been broken so we can no longer always match the colours but they are still precious.



There are also a set of plastic bells that no one could claim were anything other than decidedly naff. They are special too as my mum and then I, when I took over sole charge of tree decorating at the age of eleven, have hung them on our trees for six decades.






Baubles from the 1940s and 1950s still adorn my tree. My favourites were those with butterflies on and I still have those.


 They did meet with a disaster one year when a particularly resinous tree made them unpleasantly sticky and threatened to remove their paint. I did buy some similar ones from ebay just in case they were lost to me for ever but they were still on the tree this year.

From the 1970s, my fondness for Snoopy shines from my tree. There are decorations from my early married life and from the years since.

DSCF1175My daughters have taken the precious-to-them decorations to add to their own trees now but we frequently add to our collections by decorating parcels with tree ornaments. I have cross stitch decorations worked by my mother and daughters. There are hand knitted decorations and others that have been hand made.



DSCF1180 DSCF1183

DSCF1189More recently, I have taken to bringing back tree decorations from my foreign travels.

There are the decorations that have not stood the test of time but they live on in memory. There was the set of decorations whose stomachs consisted of concertinared paper and similar large balls and bells. There was the ‘Korky’ balloon, with a red nose, that was carefully inflated and tied with string, to be let down and re-inflated over a period of about eight Christmas seasons. Equally precious were the rainbow painted balloons. There were paper Chinese lanterns, which I do still have but which don’t very often make it to the tree anymore as they are now very fragile. These made the Christmases of my childhood a magical place.

So there you have my family’s history on a Christmas Tree. I do need a very large tree to hold them all but they have to be displayed each year. I am looking forward to sharing the significance of each precious ornament with my grandchildren. The story goes on as I have got my new granddaughter a special Christmas angel that I hope will be on her tree throughout her life.

8 comments on “A Family History on a Christmas Tree

  1. […] It is beginning to look a lot like …… Decorations are up! I have been putting some of these ornaments on my trees for over fifty years and my mother for more than twenty years before that! Christmas is all about recalling old memories and making new ones; it is about family past and present. I’ll be sharing some family bits and pieces over coming weeks. For more about family associations and my Christmas tree, see my post from 2013. […]

  2. […] straight after Christmas and I wanted to get my money’s worth. Regular readers will know that my Christmas decorations hold a special significance for me and may also remember the awful incident two years ago when I […]

  3. Patricia Hill says:

    Just found your article on vintage Christmas decorations for the tree and saw the “naff” plastic red bell with a cat’s face on it. I have kept one exactly the same and it is put on my tree every year as a reminder of times past shared with my family. I wouldn’t part with it. I think it is the most important decoration on my tree.
    Thank you for putting a picture of it on the web.

    • Afraid the pictures are a little out of focus – probably suited to their age and ‘naffness’ but like you I treasure them. Last year I thought I’d lost them (See December 2015 blogs) cue disaster!

  4. […] there was the saga of the decorations. Two years ago I blogged about my treasured historic Christmas decorations. Suitably large tree purchased I ventured up in the loft and brought down the decorations. Lights […]

  5. The Masters Family says:

    What beautiful decorations Janet. We hope you had a lovely Christmas and we wish you all the best for 2014.

  6. Caro - Claire Wiles says:

    Dear Janet
    Loved to read all about your very special tree and see the lovely treasured ornaments that you have to adorn it.
    For 37 years, before we moved to a smaller home last year, we lived in the country in a log home with 12 foot ceilings .
    The boys would go out the back in the woods and cut down about a 30 foot tree and then cut off the top so that we could get it into the house.
    Then we proceed to decorate it.
    It certainly was not a decorator tree and like you, we had ornaments that went back to Martin and my childhood and there were many special ones that our children made plus others that got added through the years.
    As well, it too k a lot of decorating and lots of lights to complete the picture. I never wanted to take it down and the last year or two would leave it up well into January.
    Since our move we are still trying to get settled in and we have not done too much in the way of Christmas decorating.
    We looked into getting an artificial one this year but I could not quite bring myself to do that, so we just opted for a small fibre optic tree for this year and maybe next year we will have found the boxes with our Christmas decorations in them and we will see what happens then!
    Thanks for sharing your story with us .

  7. Brenda Turner says:

    I collect Christmas tree decorations from each UK and other trips I make. I have trinkets from Hampton Court showing Henry VIII, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, a red London bus, one which says “Mind the Gap,” one in plaid reading “Scotland” and another from Wales, and one in porcelain in the shape of the Island of Jersey. And many others, including a Santa riding a porpoise from Florida, a Santa on a bucking bronco from Calgary Alberta, a beautiful Murano glass angel from Venice, etc. Every tree decoration makes me smile with memories. Cheers.

    Brenda Turner

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