Is It Time to Hang Grandma's Ornaments Yet?

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My grandparents also had a storehouse in their basement with seemingly endless shelves of canned goods, no doubt bought at the opportune time these things were on sale. My brother and I learned to like mandarin oranges and olives a lot. We were sent home with bags of these, as well as broth and cranberry sauce. I am not sure it was because my grandparents had a glut of these items or if we just needed food. At the time it didn’t matter: it was just fun “shopping” in their basement.

I came to understand that the baby food can ornaments were an embarrassment to my grandmother, though initially, I couldn’t imagine why. When I was a kid and we traveled over the river and through the woods to celebrate Christmas, they were the first things I looked for on the tree. When the time came that we didn’t sleep over at my grandparents’ house on Christmas eve, my grandmother was only too happy to hand the ornaments down to my mother for our own tree. Here we are years later and I, as the matriarch of my family, am the keeper of the ornaments. They are among the first ones I put on our tree every year.

I understand now that my grandmother was ashamed of not being able to afford “real” ornaments; that hand-painted baby food cans symbolized hard times for her family. (Ironically, because of the value of scrap metal during World War II, they were probably worth more than “real” ornaments.) But to me, the ornaments represent assurance -- that Christmas would always be Christmas, no matter what; optimism -- that there is light at the end of the dark times; and most of all devotion -- that my family would stick together come what may, through thick and thin. There have been Christmases where I have wondered how I could afford the dog and pony show I thought I should put on for my boys to make their Christmas “magical” (never mind the gifts themselves), but regardless, we keep the faith in Christmas, hope for better times, and love our family and friends.

This year, because my boys started circling the same things in the toy catalogs (which had arrived in our mailbox prior to Halloween) that Santa had brought them in years past, I began to wonder if they could name any of the gifts they’d ever received at Christmas -- even just last year. I doubted it. So, I decided to ask them what makes Christmas Christmas-y and initiated a list of favorite traditions on our whiteboard. The boys not only more than doubled the list, but also developed a rating scheme. They all agreed unanimously on the chocolate advent calendars, gingerbread houses, festive movies, and spending time with family (this got five check marks next to it, as opposed to the previous line items receiving two apiece). Runners-up included making fudge, decorating, and listening to Christmas music. Giving and receiving gifts didn’t even make the list. While I know they’d feel “not that good” about relinquishing this part, I am happy to know that it’s not the sole focus and that “Christmas” to them is more than just the one day.

After hauling the bin of heirloom ornaments back up to the attic that day after Thanksgiving, I waded -- knee deep in decorations -- back through the fracas surrounding our Christmas tree, and noticed that someone else had already hung the baby-food can ornaments.

Boy to the World!


And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

~1 Corinthians 13:13



Caroline B. Poser <><

Photo Credit: ladydragonflyherworld.


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