Growing up, there wasn’t a strong Christmas ornament tradition in my family. Or one at all, really. There were no hand-crafted trinkets with sentimental value, or delicate keepsakes passed down through generations. The main thing I remember about our tree was its comical 1980s artificiality of sparse, rigid branches, and the candy cane “ornaments” I’d sneak before dinner. I struggle to remember what the rest of the ornaments even looked like.
Which is why today, as a parent of children ages 3, 6, and 8, I must squelch feelings of panic and dread as I learn about the wonderfully sweet and charming tradition of getting a memento ornament for your child(ren) every year. While for the past two years, I did have the foresight to let my kids pick out an ornament from the small selection at the Christmas shop where we buy our trees, I’ve missed several crucial years to create a personalized, curated childhood memory-based ornament tradition. But if it’s not too late for me to get started, it’s not too late for you either.
Why should you get your kids memento ornaments?
The purpose of creating a memento tradition is twofold: Not only do you, the parent, get to enjoy heartwarming moments every year as you see visual reminders of the main events, themes, experiences, and interests of your kids’ lives reflected in special ornaments, they get to start their adult life with a collection of 18—or more!—meaningful decorations for their own tree. (This way, they won’t have to rely on a bunch of boring silver balls from Target when they move out and decorate their first tree, like the rest of us did.)
How to start the tradition
The yearly ornaments can be made or purchased—in fact, for peak nostalgic charm, we recommend a mix of both. When they’re little, what can beat a Baby’s First Christmas ornament made with a sweet, chubby-cheeked photo (easy to make on Shutterfly or Snapfish), or a classic clay baby handprint/footprint? Other ideas include: anything personalized with their name and the year, or ornaments related to big events or their interests. It could be an RV or plane to signify a move, a piano to signify the start of music lessons, or Darth Vader for a villain-obsessed Star Wars fan. The only prerequisite is that it be tied to a positive childhood memory.
What if your kids are older?
If your kids are well beyond the baby/toddler years, but not out of the house yet and you’d like to start, fear not. In my panicked run down to our basement just now to take stock of the ornaments that could be attributed to each of my own kids, I found more than I anticipated or remembered. If your child attended daycare or preschool, chances are, you’ve got some snowflakes with their photo in the center (thank you, preschool teachers), or a sloppy but cute foam reindeer with googly eyes they made when they were three.
If they’re a bit further along age-wise, is there any reason why that child can’t pick a soccer ball and an Among Us ornament to mark this year? Absolutely not. Feel free to double up in any given year to fatten the collection, or reminisce together about what they were into when they were six, and fill in the gaps for as many years as you can.
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