Holiday decorations from long ago hold special memories

Susan Manzke
Glass ornament that survived dog and cat in the tree.

I’ve visited shops all decked out for the holidays. Most places have Christmas trees with theme ornaments. Every tree was perfect and matched, that includes the garland wrapped in sweeps around the branches. I admired all the special decorations, but I never had the urge to change our tree to duplicate those special collections. I prefer the eclectic group of ornaments that we have.

When I was a child, my parents donned our tree with glass bulbs that had been handed down from another relative. No matter what was in the tree, it sparkled in my eyes. The only thing that would have made our tree better was if we had a train circling the base like our neighbors did. Too bad that never happened.

One Christmas, our collie, Laddy, chased a cat through the house. Of course, the cat climbed our decorated tree and when the dog tried to follow the cat, everything came crashing to the linoleum floor.

Bits of shattered ornaments were everywhere. I tried to help pick up the mess and ended up with a cut finger. Mom was not happy with any of this.

Good thing not all the glass ornaments broke. This year, I put a couple on our four-foot tree. If we’re lucky none will break. Our cats don’t seem to be interested in the tree. They would rather spend their time sitting in the empty ornament boxes.

A handmade ornament from a young daughter many years ago.

Even though these glass ornaments are a keepsake, they are not my favorite. The ones I like best were made over the years by little hands.

The simplest ornament for our children to make in their youth was a dry, open pine cone. A puddle of white glue was plopped on waxed paper and then the pine cone was rolled in the glue. That way only the tips got glued. Glitter was then sprinkled over the glued cone over a separate piece of paper. I could almost say this was a fail-safe project except for spilled glue, spilled glitter, and a child covered in both.

I always liked the handmade ornaments our children brought home from school. Teachers must have a special knack and a lot of patience to get those special gifts finished before winter break. Somehow I think there are days when too much glue and glitter is used in the classroom.

Not all have survived the years. Paper chains only made one season. Packing them away always flattened those decorations, but of course, they could be replaced with new garlands the following year—strung popcorn isn’t the best homemade garland to pack away either. When we made popcorn strings, they eventually found their way outdoors to feed the birds.

Some handmade ornaments waiting to go on the Manzke Christmas tree.

In past years I made my share of ornaments. There are a couple crocheted snowflakes of mine still decorating our holiday. Back when I made them, I gave more away than I kept. Now arthritis in my hands makes doing that kind of work difficult.

There’s a Moravian star in my collection. I made many paper stars twenty years ago and then I stopped. Now I have lost the knack. Even after googling directions I can’t seem to make the paper strips do what I want them too—arthritis affects this work, too.

Still, I like to express some creativity at Christmas time. Now my friends don’t get delicate ornaments. Instead they receive loaves of homemade bread. They don’t get to hang these on the tree, but my friends don’t seem to mind.

Handmade bread now replaces handmade ornament gifts from Susan.

Our tree will stay up into January. I love the lights at night and looking at our collections of ornaments during the day. Eventually, I’ll have to store all away, but after taking the ornaments off, I may just let the lit, naked tree stay up a bit longer.

Happy New Year everyone!

Susan and Bob Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;