Favorite Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of the perks of being an artist married to an artist is that we sometimes make cool stuff for each other. After 28 years of marriage, plus 5 kids making things around Christmastime, I used to think we  had the most Christmassy Christmas tree in the history of Christmas. But then, our German exchange student told me that they still use real, lit candles on Christmas trees in Germany. So now I have German Christmas tree envy. I think it’s a plus anytime one can involve actual fire in a holiday celebration. In fact, just a few weeks ago when I was cooking our Thanksgiving turkey, I was visited by the Loveland Fire Department.
But I digress…

Following are a few of my favorite homemade Christmas ornaments. You may even find some gift ideas if you enjoy making your own gifts. If so, have fun and let me know how they turned out!

Deer Mollie

This is an ornament I made for Mollie out of paper mache. This was a particularly eventful year in our early marriage, so I made the deer autobiographical: Using an extremely tiny paintbrush (the likes which I will never use again,) I wrote a significant event for each month of the year, using tapered strokes that were supposed to resemble hair. For instance: ...”September – Our first wedding anniversary…October – Surprise! We made our first baby! And how’bout those Royals…, and so on. Notice the nose has the year – 1985.

Xmas Handprints

When each of our 5 children were still small, I put his or her hand print in white on a big red ornament, (which was more difficult than it sounds.) This was their gift to Mollie for those years. I can still remember the reactions of each of our very different children as I brushed paint on their tiny hands:

Caleb, who is legally blind and very tactile got a big grin on his face

Lee became very serious about the importance of the task, and did his best to carry it out perfectly

Sierra giggled and said it tickled, and that the paint was cold

Joel kept making a fist, once he figured out I didn’t want him to make a fist

Renee freaked out because she thought it was gross, and I had to reassure her that the paint would wash off

Found Object Angels

I really like found-object art, though I don’t think I’m very good at it. These angels were made while I still worked at Hallmark. Part of the fun is identifying what the objects actually are. The blue angel’s body is an antique bottle I found, with a fake pearl necklace stuffed inside. The head is an old glass bottle stopper. The small angel’s body is a curtain-pull-thingy. I think the depiction of spirit-beings in human junk has an interesting irony.

Indian-House-Turned

Mollie likes dolls, so I gave her the ornament on the left a couple of years ago. It’s made from a cheesy souvenir that I found in a thrift store. There was a second, scarier-looking figure, along with a chunk of wood bearing the name of some tourist destination, all glued onto a little wooden platform. I really liked this little figure though, so I threw everything else away, gave her a make-over, and made her hang-able.

The house is a replica of our first home in inner-city Kansas City, MO. Cool house, nasty neighborhood. We have stories. Inside the house is a little hand-cranked music box that plays I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

On the right is an ornament made at a wood-turning (lathe) workshop I took when I worked at Hallmark. It’s about 6 inches high.

Bell Dancer

One of our daughters has been dancing since age 4, so every Christmas we’ve given her a ballerina/dance ornament. This is one Mollie made for her. Made out of sculpey. About 2 inches high. This is one of my all time favorites.

Joel-Renee

Left: Riding a bike was too normal for Joel, so he became obsessed with unicycling, and became quite a skilled rider. However, unicycle tree ornaments are pretty hard to find, so I made this one for him.

Right: One year Renee wanted a chinchilla for a pet. So I made one for her. It’s still cute, but it doesn’t poop, pee, bite people, or die. Next year she’s getting a car for Christmas. Heh, heh.

Fabric ornaments

One year Mollie made stuffed ornaments out of fabric for everyone, and hand-painted them. I think these are cooler than snot. Our dancer got the dancer. The middle one was for  me, because I collect angel ornaments….

Kid Angels

…Here are some that she helped the kids to make.

Nativity

OK…I realize this is not a tree ornament, but it’s close enough.

As I’ve become increasingly interested in the ancient Jewish culture into which Jesus was born, I’ve also become a bit bugged by traditional Nativity scenes. Bugged because Jesus was born into a devoutly Jewish family, and was Himself an observant Jew, and I have pretty much never seen a commercially produced American Nativity scene that didn’t look like a family of wealthy Greek philosophers. Or, if it’s a Kenyan Nativity scene, then everyone looks African. If it’s made in Mexico, then they all look Mexican, with little Sombreros, or whatever. I get it – Jesus is for everyone, and different cultures want to make Him relatable. Nonetheless, the fact that Jesus was born into Judaism in fulfillment of Hebrew prophecy is a detail that matters. If you go re-contextualizing the story, a great deal of content and meaning is lost. I’m not losing any sleep over ethnically incorrect Nativity scenes, but I just wanted to make one that would make me happy, and hopefully make the idea of a Jewish Jesus seem normal to my children. Someday I’d like to add more figures, but for now, this is all I have, due to lack of time.

Thanks for viewing part of what makes the season meaningful for our family. I hope this wasn’t too much like watching someone else’s family vacation videos!

Angel Moon

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2 comments on “Favorite Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments

  1. ladylinchpin says:

    Wow, beautiful yet very time-consuming! I work full-time, so these would be highly impractical to achieve!

    • Thank you. Yes, for most of these there was a chunk of time involved. We certainly haven’t been doing this each and every year. I noticed that on the deer ornament, December says, “Xmas in St. Louis, this year we made our presents, still unemployed”… I do remember that trying to make gifts for all of my parents and siblings that year just about made me crazy. I think we’re more balanced now.

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