This article is from our archives, originally published in 2012. It is such a fun idea for the holiday season that we wanted to republish for any of our new readers. Enjoy!
Christmas is coming and you’d like to add a little something extra under the tree for your children. Something to commemorate an important moment from this past year, a milestone, perhaps, or a humorous story. An item that will be treasured for years to come, that can be created from scratch or purchased, and can become a frugal and fun tradition. I have just the idea for you! It has been family-tested and anticipated for over two decades.
Story Ornaments Every year we give our daughters a “Story Ornament,” which becomes a perennial reminder of an important event in their life from the past year. We might commemorate the can’t-miss big events: graduations, engagements, and weddings. Sometimes we might choose instead to celebrate the smaller but still memorable moments.
We bought a miniature “Wheel of Fortune” as a reminder of the game that helped our eldest get through a week-long hospital stay following an emergency appendectomy.
We made a little toy truck into a hanging decoration (yup, just takes a drill and a small eye hook) to mark a cross country trip two of us took in a 16′ Ryder. (Just in case you were wondering, we know how to travel in style and comfort.)
We burned a small Hot Wheels car—yes, set it on fire until it had a nice, blackened, crispy finish—and when it cooled, set it into a clear plastic case. We completed the diorama with a blazing skyline photo backdrop so we would always remember our oldest daughter’s junior year in Paris, when the rioting “youths” were torching about 1,500 cars a night and helicopter spotlights lit up the surrounding area. (Yes, we were very, very nervous about our daughter’s safety, thank you for asking!) We could have chosen an Eiffel Tower or any other easily recognizable Parisian landmark, but we wanted something, well, a little more dramatic and memorable.
Keeping the Memories Fresh The finishing touch to these one-of-a-kind creations is the short note we pen to keep the memory fresh. We write, on stationary or a notecard, a paragraph or two about our ornament selection and highlights of the occasion. When we gave our youngest the bright yellow Ryder, I included a note stating my joy at being able to spend so much one-on-one time with her, my pride at her ability to handle the truck in New York City, and my gratitude for her hollering at me to stop as I was headed right for an overhang at a Sonic drive-through… Even though the girls are both in their twenties, the tradition continues. We love how it cements a high point in their life for a particular year—something important or memorable—by symbolizing the event with the ornament. Our story ornaments have become a treasured tradition as we carefully open the boxes at tree-trimming time, reading notes past and adding another year’s worth of perspective, growth, and sometimes laughter to each memory. We are thankful that the girls will have familiar and beloved decorations for their own trees when they eventually take this richly anecdote-filled collection to start their own tradition, perhaps one day to share with children of their own.
How to Get this Tradition Started So, what do you need to start this tradition in your family? Very little, actually. Just think about what is meaningful to your child, and go from there. Do they love a particular television show? A certain character in a book? Did they take a special trip or achieve a milestone? Remember that you can turn almost anything into a decoration for your tree, so set your creativity loose. If you would prefer to buy something ready-made, remember to check online to see what is available because you can find just about anything you want on the internet. Our family has had great luck with eBay, and I’ve heard that a wide variety of creative, personalized ornaments are available on Etsy. Regardless of whether your children are younger or older, I urge you to start this tradition. We have had lots of fun figuring out what to do each year and how to bring the ideas to life, and I imagine you will as well.
QUESTION: What memory would you choose to preserve for your child? Please share with us in the comments!
CHALLENGE: Create or purchase an ornament for your child/children to celebrate something memorable this past year, and remember to document the story in an accompanying hand-written note.
Images provided by author.
Christmas Tree Image from Microsoft Office Images.