by the other theo


The Missus and I loves us some blown glass Christmas ornaments.   For her, I believe it’s at least partially about finding better, more interesting ways to decorate for the holiday.  For me, it’s about my childhood; my Mom had some beautiful blown glass ornaments handed down from her parents when I was growing up.   A lot of them gradually broke as I got older (sadly, some with my “help”), but the memory of them lingered.

It’s a memory that I’ve been lucky enough to be able to recreate as an adult.   Fancy Christmas ornaments seemed to fall out of fashion through much of the 1970’s and 80’s, though I have no idea whether that’s due to changing tastes or Cold War tensions.   I had the good fortune to turn 20 about the time that the Berlin Wall fell.  That proved to be a boon for Christmas ornaments: former Eastern Bloc countries where they were traditionally made (East Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic) were loosed from atheistic Communism, suddenly opened to the United States and Western Europe, and needed to trade for hard currency.   It took a few years, but it’s been fairly easy get nice glass ornaments for 10 or more years now.

The Missus and I try to get a couple of them a year, generally when we travel or to commemorate events in our lives.   We have more than we can put on one tree unless it’s a large tree.   It certainly makes decorating the tree into an event.

Most years have been good regarding losses, but a few have been bad.  We have a few boxed assortments that are only half full now because the boxes fell and ornaments smashed.   The first year in our house was a bad one; we moved from an apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting to a house with hardwood floors in the living room and dining room.   We lost an ornament nearly every time one came loose from the tree, until I found a $25 circular area rug on eBay to put under the tree that’s saved many ornaments in the years since.

The arrival of the Peanut has forced us consciously think about what our ornament policy will be on a year to year basis.   We put up a protective fence around the tree for a couple years.   We refrained hanging too many nice ornaments on lower parts of the tree last year.

This brings me to the central paradox of Christmas ornaments: they must be used to be appreciated and using them always brings the risk of breakage.   Branches bend, trees can fall, and people knock into ornaments.   Putting up a Christmas tree is an inherently risky operation for glass ornaments.   To do otherwise is to treat them like a museum collection, and that defeats the point in my opinion.

I say all of this because of three things:

  1. We put up our Christmas tree yesterday.
  2. I only realized afterward that we put ornaments on the tree that we haven’t used in a few years because of their size and sentimental value without worrying too much about what might happen to them.
  3. The Peanut took a header into the side of the tree this morning when he leaned too far over the arm of the orange chair next to the tree (no ornaments broken — the rug did its work again.)

It should be an interesting Christmas season.