I’ve never thought of myself as a collector. I’m sure when I was a kid I had brief moments of collecting things. I know I had a few baseball cards, and some Yo! MTV Raps trading cards (yes, those were a thing). I remember a brief time when I collected charms for a bracelet. I know at one point I thought it would be fun to collect the state quarters… until I realized I could take a couple of them up to the toy store near our house and trade them in for candy.
I don’t remember ever having a lasting collection of anything, except Christmas ornaments. I honestly never even thought of it as a collection until tonight. I probably have about 200 to my name. Every single one was given to me. Each year I get at least a couple new ones. There is always an angel, a tradition my mom and mamaw started a lifetime ago.. my brothers and I always get a new angel each year. There is always a ballerina, a tradition my mom started when I was a kid because I took ballet. There is almost always one more that doesn’t fit into either of those categories, because my mom loves shopping for them.
I didn’t realize until just a few years ago that massive ornament collections are not something every christmas-celebrating person has.
Part of my family’s Christmas tradition is the time spent unpacking the ornaments and remembering who and where they came from, before deciding where they should hang on this year’s tree. It may be my favorite tradition of the season.
There’s the tiny gold angel Mamaw and my mom picked up at Rockefeller Center on one of their bonding trips to New York City when I was just a baby. There’s the little teddy bear playing with a fisher-price toy that was given to me by my best friend’s parents for my second Christmas. The Baby Girl’s First Christmas ball Papaw bought for me to celebrate December 1987. There are the handmade Lutheridge ornaments I got each summer I worked at camp. Each ornament, all 200 of them, is incredibly special to me.. a collection that was started before I was old enough to even say the word Christmas.
I’ve never shared this holiday with anyone but my family. I’ve never been in a relationship serious enough to pick out a tree with another person, to shop for each other’s families, to wrap and ship the gifts to other states. Sharing traditions is new to me.
This week I learned that Russ writes Christmas cards to his family. I’ve never done that. I know about mailing Christmas cards, but I’ve never known that some people give Christmas cards with the gifts, like one would give a birthday card.
So earlier this week Russ and I picked out Christmas cards to give each other. And when we opened the shipment of gifts from his parents, there were cards inside. Russ asked me if we could put them on the tree, and after some brief confusion I learned he meant actually sitting the envelopes on branches of the tree — another thing that is new to me.
Russ has learned that I am a little holiday crazy. I’ve filled his December with Christmas music at all hours of the day, and obscene amounts of baked goods. He’s watched as I obsessed over wrapping gifts, and getting the hand-tied bows just right. He’s seen all elements of my Christmas crazy, and he’s letting it become his tradition too (or at least pretending not to mind it).
So this Christmas, along with all of the food, gifts, ornaments, and traditions I already know, there’s more love in my world than I’ve ever had, and that’s a good enough reason to make space for a few envelopes in the tree.