One day this week we unanimously decided that Claire was looking much too pale to go to school. Clearly, she had to stay home, sip hot chocolate, listen to Vince Guaraldi, and decorate the Christmas tree with me (I don’t homeschool, but I do try to keep my priorities straight–if something like, say, a very low tide, a promising mushroom patch, or a fairy sighting comes up on a school day, we choose the most educational option). It’s so fun to unpack the handmade ornaments from years past (when on earth did we make all this stuff?), and plot new ones for this season. Here’s a little tour of a few favorites:
Last year I went through a phase of hand sewing wool felt ornaments (Claire made some too, but declared the process “boring” and though her felt gingerbread man ornament was beautiful, she trundled off to make snowflakes as soon as he was stuffed). This is the Amanita muscaria from a series of felt mushroom ornaments, most of which I gave to fungus-loving friends.
We love to make our gatherings from the natural world into ornaments. Glittered pine cones are a standby. I like hanging them top-side up. And these dried poppy seed pods from the garden are perhaps my very favorites. They got a glitter wash, and are wired to the branches.
Whenever I see old classical sheet music at garage sales, I snap it up. It’s useful for all kinds of crafts. One year we made these bells, trimmed in metal tinsel, and little jingle bells.
Several of our ornaments were made from applesauce-cinnamon dough, shaped with cookie cutters, baked, and painted. Many have been dropped and broken over the years, but overall they are remarkably sturdy. I made this giraffe when Claire was a baby. The flower fairies are made of wooden beads, silk flowers, embroidery floss, and wire. They were not created as ornaments, but somehow they always turn up on the Christmas tree.
Sometimes I’m astonished that we all do something as earthy and wonderful as bringing a real tree into our homes to celebrate the season of light. It seems like a practice that would have, by now, been coopted by something entirely plastic. But it hasn’t. And though I appreciate the tree-loving sentiment that prompted author Alice Walker to call the yearly Christmas tree harvest a “massacre,” I can’t quite match it. Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of our trees come from small family farms, grown on property that, if not for the Christmas tree farms, would be subdivided into McMansion plots. Instead, the land brings forth trees that sustain families, nourish the air, and grace our homes.
What sorts of ornaments do you make? We’d love to hear about them. Meanwhile, Merry Merry.