Decoration Nation

I always make a big deal of this time of year. I suppose I adopted it from my grandmother, who spoiled my family, year after year, with more gifts and goodies than we knew what to do with. In a selfless attempt to make up for what she didn’t have as a child, my Nannee played the role of Santa better than anyone I’ve ever known.

Each year, as an annual tradition, my brother, cousin and I scavenged through her Bible-sized, Sears catalog and circled the toys, books, candies and electronics we wanted. Next to these felt pen markings, we wrote our names and prioritized which presents we wanted most. Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

We waited nearly two months before we discovered what was underneath the tree on Christmas morning. Every year, we were never disappointed. With little money and lots of credit, my Nannee bought bounds of presents for the entire family, which I know made her happier than I’ll ever understand. For her, the gift was truly in giving.

Over the years, the way I celebrate the Holiday season has changed. Growing up and moving out, naturally changes everything, but even through all the transitions, my family puts aside our issues and makes the most of the season.

Earlier this week, my adult family brought out our own Christmas decorations and toasted the holiday season. Much to my enjoyment, up went the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the garland, and even the two turtle doves.

We didn’t spend the time hassling with buying a fresh tree because, we thought, it’s too much of an ordeal. Traveling to the lot, shelling out $75 dollars, lugging it home, watering it daily, yet still worrying about it drying out, we opted to put up a fake tree.

I admit, I do miss the smell; and even though its snow isn’t real, our tree is just as beautiful as those from years gone by!

Tis the season!



18 thoughts on “Decoration Nation

  1. Such good memories. 🙂 We put up our tree after thanksgiving. the kids help decorate it, which means the bulk of the ornaments are on the bottom half of the tree. I hope it’s something that they will always remember.


  2. I am seventy and I still have the little snowman candle, still unlit, from my childhood that we placed on the mantle along with a cardboard snow village. The snowman’s eyes and nose are a bit faded but he brings back so many happy memories of decorating for Christmas. Also another tradition that I still keep up is the making of Snowball cookies each year. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.


    1. Annie – I love your memories, I love your traditions. Keep the alive and pass them on.

      And to Randomability, I know your children will remember what you do for them. Don’t we all have fond memories from our childhood?

      Tis the season.


  3. LOL! Ryan, Random, and Annie: Aren’t the little idiosyncratic family Christmas traditions the best! Ours revolve around food. My Dad and Mom always make shortbread cookies that are to die for. My Aunt used to supply her family and her brothers’ with moist delicious Christmas cake, chock full of dried fruits. And my grandmother always supplied a plum pudding for Christmas dinner.

    Alas, the years take their toll. My grandmother died back in the 80’s, and the plum pudding tradition is gone. My aunt long since gave over Christmas cake duties to her daughter, until SHE was killed by a drunk driver about a decade ago. My sister has taken up the slack there.

    Moral: Cherish the family traditions, and they family members most associated with them, while you can! They are precious.

    Thanks, Ryan, for another beautifully written blog on the subject!


  4. Great memories!

    I was at my mom’s house this past weekend. She talked about putting up our Xmas tree and my sister and I sort of suggested that she didn’t. Why? Well, we are all going to be out of town before Xmas and won’t be back until January so it didn’t make sense to put up the tree.

    But my mom insisted and I am glad that she did. We found ornaments that my sister and I had made and shared many laughs while decorating. We talked about previous Christmases and I realized how blessed I really am.

    Happy Holidays to you and yours!


  5. I didn’t really have such great memories of Christmas growing up. I’m not sure why.
    Although now that I am a Mom I feel it is my obligation to create anew. He is four this year so I think this is the first year he really is understanding what Christmas is all about. I downloaded a bunch of my favorite Christmas songs and made a Christmas CD for us to listen to as we put up the tree. He didn’t really care about the tree but was excited to finally get it decorated so we could set up the train set that circled around the base of the tree. Although he was a little PO’d the first night we set it up that his Dad turned the christmas lights off and Santa didn’t bring him any presents. I guess he thought that once the tree was up you got presents!!He is learning. Part of his nightly ritual is to shut off all of the lights in the house, turn on the christmas tree and play with his train.

    P.S. Annie if you are willing to share your snowball cookie recipe we’d love to give it a go 🙂


  6. Here you go Chriann, have fun making them. I bet your little boy can help making the dough balls.

    Snow Ball Cookies

    1 cup butter
    2 ½ cups sifted powdered Sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon nutmeg
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
    2 cups finely chopped walnuts

    Cream butter until soft, add ½ cup of the powdered sugar, salt, nutmeg and vanilla, and continue creaming until thoroughly mixed. Stir in flour and nuts. Shape dough into small balls. Place baking sheet and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and quickly roll the hot cookies in the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar. Cool then roll again in the powdered sugar. Store fully cooled cookies in an air tight container. This recipe makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies about 1 inch in diameter.

    Tip: Make sure you pack the balls tightly other wise they will crack and fall apart during baking or when you roll them in the sugar.

    Of course even after all these years I have one or two that crumble, but that is the cook’s treat, yummy. These cookies keep really well and can be make well ahead of the holidays and also are great cookies to mail.

    In different parts of the country different type of nuts are used, like pecans or almonds. I have always used walnuts. I have seen this basic recipe called Mexican Wedding Cakes and Pecan Balls in the south.

    Funny story…when I was a child my mother would make these cookies well ahead of Christmas and store them in a large pickle jar and hide them in the linen closet behind the sheets. Of course I found the hiding place and would sneek several from the jar over the weeks preceding Christmas… always leaving a trail of powdered sugar behind. Nothing was ever said about the missing cookies and each year the jar of cookies would be hidden in the exact same spot.


  7. Ryan, first time I have visited your blog and love reading it! I wish you the best over the holidays and a happy new year! You have given me much to think about to make sure my own time in the following year is reflective…I have been putting that off for sixty years!


  8. I just read this blog Ryan and it brought back so many memories! Of all the people in my life I miss my grandma the most. She died when I was a teenager and now I’am 54 and still miss her.

    She was Norwegian and everytime we’d go to visit she would always have open faced sandwiches made up for us. My sister and I loved to go up in the attic and snoop around. She had all these antique irons sitting behind a curtain. Every time we walked the floors creeked.

    Her whole backyard was full of gladiolas, it was beautiful & to this my favorite flower.

    So thanks for sharing your story……memory is the greatest gift!

    ps: I only use to comment on Ross’s blog but now I look forward to your stories, thank you


  9. Ryan, it’s February 10th….almost Valentine’s Day — time to take the Christmas decorations down. LOL

    Good news about your and Ross’s new adventure.



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