Monday, December 19, 2011

Of Christmases Past


As I’d creep down the basement stairs, a lifetime ago, it seems, I would spy the neatly arranged boxes on the shelf.  And even in the middle of the hot summer, a shiver would run down my spine.  Because I knew what those boxes contained.  Christmas!

The old glass ornaments, the team of white plastic reindeer, the Santa and Christmas caroler candles, the Advent wreath…

And  though it seemed like Christmas would never come, I was comforted by the thought that any time I needed assurance that the calendar was slowly, but surely turning it’s pages toward December 25th, I’d look at those boxes.

Years later, when I was on my own, and did not have many decorations yet, my mom got some new Christmas ornaments, and gave me a box of some of the old ones she was replacing.  The colorful glass kind-Shiny Brites.  And it was like she’d given me a piece of my childhood.

I still have those ornaments, too.  The one pictured above holds a special place in my heart. I remember gazing wistfully at it as a little girl, and even though there is nothing extraordinary about it, I remember I loved it more than any other.  It still even has the original piece of thread attached for hanging on the tree.

This year I was lucky to find a vintage Nativity set from the 1950s, at Goodwill, for $3.99. 

nativity set

It reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas poems-an English carol, actually.  The words were written in the 1920s by Robert Davis.

The Gift of the Animals

Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for a bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.


And this year Willow has added her own verse.

“I” said Willow, warm and soft,

With my wagging tail sent a glass ornament aloft…

Did I mention how cute Willow is?  It’s hard to stay mad at her for very long!

Do you have a favorite ornament?


  1. We left a box of my childhood ornaments behind in the attic when we moved from Houston. Broke my heart.

    What a great thrift store find! :-)

  2. Oh Lisa! That is heartbreaking! I would be sad if my moon and stars ornament ever broke. I hang it up high to be safe from Willow:)

    I'd always wanted a vintage Nativity set, and I was excited to find this one-with all of the pieces, Last year, I think Kona ate Joseph from my small set!

  3. Oh no! Please tell us it didn't break! I loved its shooting stars ... But really, how could you get angry at a cute face like Willow's :)

  4. Joanne-luckily Willow broke a newer ornament. I've got my favorite hung up high. But you are right-she's too cute to be mad at for long:)

  5. This has been on my mind lately, how magical everything was at Xmas as a child. I am *trying* to recapture some of that again.

    And I couldn't stay mad at Willow either, not with that sweet face.

  6. Tina-Christmas when I was a kid was really magical too. It seemed that the length of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas lasted forever and the waiting was so hard. Now, it flies by, and as much as I want to enjoy the season it just isn't the same as when I was little. I'd love to recapture that magical feeling-it's my hope every year:)

    Willow could not care less-as long as she gets a little left over turkey:)

  7. Oh, Willow! You silly pup! :-) I actually had a miniature Christmas tea set broken by Slick the cat yesterday. But yeah, it was hard to stay mad at him for long.

    My mom gave me several of the handmade ornaments I'd made from my childhood for my Christmas tree around the time I got married. I just love looking at them all. Now I have the handmade ornaments my daughter made to add to them!

  8. First of all, I enjoyed reading this post. I, too, remember when the Christmas decoration came down (in our case it was from the attic) and my mom turned our living room into a place of magic!

    My favorite ornaments are the various ones my kids made when they were little. I love looking at the crooked stars and other similar hand made ornaments. Some of them are rather faded now, but they still have a special place in my heart:~)

  9. Melissa-That Slick! It's a good thing we love our pets! I have some decorations I made in grade school that my mom gave back to me. For one-a red Santa boot that I thought was so amazingly good when I made it. Now it looks like a blob of red painted clay! I have several decorations Amy made-I love those so much!

    Sara-I love the way you tell how your mom transformed the living room into a place of magic. Exactly!! My mom too:) And the things our kids make really do hold a special place in our hearts:)

  10. One of my favorite ornaments is a decoration I made for my mom when I was five years old. I was in brownies, and we took some fabric and filled it with cloves and twisted it shut with a cinnamon stick. I still have the ornament, and it still has that magical smell that instantly takes me back to those very special Christmas' I had as a child.

    MELE KALIKIMAKA Valerie. Oh, and Brighton says to tell you that Willow is TOO ADORABLE! Did Kona's ball ever thaw out yet?

  11. Lisa-tell Bry that Willow says thanks for the compliment, and that poor Kona's soccer ball is still frozen. Yesterday she found an abandoned flip flop and tried to play with that:(

    I love the smell of cinnamon-to me it really says Christmas!

    MELE KALIKIMAKA to you too!!

  12. That is a beauty Valerie, I am in love with those (now considered) vintage bulbs. I've been struggling with trying to explain the Jesus aspect of Christmas to Deaglan. This poem says it so beautifully. I decided to let it go - let Deaglan enjoy the fun this year, incorporate the true meaning in simple terms when I could. It makes me feel guilty though, letting Christmas slide by with the focus on gifts when it should be much more than that.

  13. Kim, when Amy was about Deaglan's age, I bought her a toy nativity set to play with all year round. If she was misbehaving, all I had to do was tell her I was going to put Jesus on time out, and she would shape up:)
    And don't feel guilty, my friend. Deaglan will understand some day:)