October 18, 2017

Do You Have a Christmas Ornament Tradition? (Start one now)


music tree(My music themed ornament collection)

As I determine when to pack away our Christmas tree ornaments for another year, I’m continually amazed at how many of our family’s ornaments tell their own story. This year my daughters spent hours looking through each ornament and reminiscing its story – who gave it or made it or  how it was passed down.  Some are purely for show, you know those cookie cutter ones that we all have, but others are part of a heritage, a collection that has been started for each child.

As I young girl, I received ornaments for my hope chest. When I got married it was so special to already have meaningful ornaments for our first Christmas. When our first child was born, I decided I wanted to begin a traditional ornament collection for each of our children as well. I started with a theme, but have since branched out in variety.
packers ornaments

One can only buy so many “bear, angel or sports” ornaments. 😉

golf ornaments

So each year I buy every child an ornament for their collection. Through earlier error, I now mark each ornament with the child’s initials and the year it was given (or note any special memory tied with that ornament. Yes, you WILL forget, even if you’re assured that will never happen. Ask me how I know.) If I was starting it now, I would keep a “ornament journal” included with the ornaments for those notes because knowing the story behind each ornament doesn’t always fit on the bottom in my “Sharpie” ball point writing.

When each child gets married, I will then pass on this special gift to them for their first Christmas. I know now that they don’t understand the significance of receiving an ornament every year (mainly the guys), but they will…eventually.

Why am I talking ornaments AFTER Christmas? Well, now is a great time to get a jump start on this new tradition. I will pick up special ornaments full price that might signify a trip or memory, but often, I will purchase their annual ornament (or two) this week when prices are slashed. That way I can invest more money than I might normally spend because I want them to be special.

christmas ornament box

My storage and organization is finally starting to take shape. Slowly,  I have purchased one of the Christmas Memory Boxes above for each child. A Rubbermaid box will work just perfectly as well, but when I finally pass on the gift, my desire is that the box, as well as the ornaments, will be presentational, so I took advantage of the sale. I also have one just for my vintage ornaments and the special ones given from my mom.

If you haven’t started an ornament collection, it’s never to late to start. You can always begin the tradition with a few ornaments for those older children.

If you have an ornament collection, I’d love to hear about it so we can encourage some new ornament traditions.


Once Upon a Family’s 40% off Coupon Code ends this week. If you’re interested in preserving passing on your family’s Christmas ornaments in a special spot, the Christmas Memory Box (shown above) is beautiful and turns your collection into a true heritage piece. There’s free shipping offered for orders $100+ if you choose to purchase multiple boxes.


  1. We did the same thing with Kiddo the year he was born. Since he was born in December and I had been on bed rest for three months, we really didn’t have time to look for that perfect “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. Enter my friend Tammy, who gave us the most beautiful first ornament I’ve ever seen. That started the tradition, and I make sure I write the year as well as the special occasion on the bottom of the ornament. Somehow, this year we didn’t get one for Kiddo…and he let us know, too. I’m thinking I’ll take him with me when I scope out ornaments for tassel toppers and let him pick one out. Better late than never. : )


  2. Starting over 10 years ago, I’ve “made” my 4 kids an ornament each year to put on the tree. They’re usually a simple decoration – snowman decals on a white ball one year, a stylized tree of glitter on a red ball this year. But each kid hangs up their own ornaments every year. This year, my older daughter packed up hers in shoe boxes and bubble wrap for next year, when she & her new husband will have their own tree! Sob! But priceless memories.


  3. What a great idea! I was so disappointed to find out this Christmas that in all the moves we made as a kid, some of the ornaments my mom had (a good portion of them actually) were lost 🙁 I had really hoped maybe she’d pass at least one on to me. The only truly memorable ornaments we have are the first baby ones they all have. I love the idea of passing them on for their first Christmas. Very special, thank you for sharing!

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  4. As my sisters and brother and I got older and had families of our own, instead of exchanging gifts at Christmas (we just buy gifts for the kids), we started an ornament exchange among the adults. We do it as a “white elephant” exchange so it has become a challenge to come up with what we each hope will be the “best” ornament of the year. As a couple of the kids have reached Adulthood so they are out of the kids exchange, they look forward to being able to pick out their own ornament for the exchange. I mark each one with the year and who bought it so I don’t forget. These are some of the most prized ornaments on my tree!


  5. I did the same thing you are. My two older children got their collections recently.They were both so thrilled and had such great memories of their ornaments from their childhood. Their children are now enjoying them and their trees are so full of good memories.



  6. I’ve been trying to buy one new ornament every year that’s special to us. It’s so fun to look back and see what we’ve bought over the years!


  7. I LOVE this post! I have already started my baby girl’s ornament collection, but I love the idea of the special box and also purchasing the ornaments for next year after Christmas this year…I will be doing this from now on. My sweet husband and I started our own ornament tradition 9 years ago on our first Christmas together when we were dating. I always look forward to seeing what he picks out for me. I now take pictures of the ornaments and put them into our Christmas card scrapbook album with the dates so I won’t forget but you have inspired me to want to also write the stories down that go with them. Thanks for always inspiring me! I really enjoy your blog!


  8. I began a few years ago buying Christmas ornaments that have the year on them along with a space to put a picture. I put a current picture of each child in the frame for them, wrap it, and put it in their stocking. Each year as we decorate the tree, it’s fun to see how much each of them have changed.


  9. Our ornament tradition is a bit different. My first Christmas after college I decided to buy one nice ornament a year. The first two are just ornaments but the third year I bought a house and found a house shaped ornament. Thus was born the tradition of symbolic ornaments. Now, married with kids, we think together about the most significant events of the year and how we might represent them on our tree. My current favorites are Sleepy the Dwarf (the year we had an infant and a toddler and got very little sleep!), a tiny but unabridged copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (the year everyone in the house had learned to read) and a tiny kitchen strainer (the year we had a leak in the wall that led to a full-out kitchen remodel over the holidays). I have an ornament book with a photo of each ornament and the story behind it. I do keep a list of ornaments that are given to my kids but we don’t do individual ornaments for them.


  10. Lois Winsor says:

    Our family has a Christmas Ornament tradition that we have carried on for many years. It started off when our children started school and were involved in gift exchanges amongst their classmates. They loved the thrill of going and purchasing that special gift and seeing it being opened by the recipient. Then they started talking about a gift exchange at home. I didn’t want to extinguish their excitement by telling them we couldn’t afford it and I truthfully didn’t want them buying each other a gift that would probably lose it’s value in a short time.
    I had known moms that would go out after Christmas and buy up ornaments for their children, that were now marked down, for their personal collections. They too would have their own collection once they left home.
    That was when I thought, my family could do an ornament exchange instead of a gift exchange and they too would have their own collection when they left home. We as parents are included in it, so when the children are all in homes of their own, we will have our cherished ornaments. Our children are all grown adults in their 20’s and 30’s and the ornament exchange is still one of the biggest highlights of our Christmas!
    I had brought it up a couple years ago, that maybe it was time to end the ornament exchange and my (adult) children got upset and wouldn’t hear of it!! Something so simple, inexpensive but makes such a huge impact on the family… cherished memories!!


    Jen Reply:

    Oh Lois – thanks for sharing your family story. How incredibly special. 🙂


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