I finally finished decorating our Christmas tree today. I started over a week ago, and I’ve been working at it steadily ever since. In a wave of nostalgia, I’ve managed to include most of our ornaments, although, I admit, there are still at least over 50 in the box. There are twice that many and more on the tree. And there are few that are exactly alike.

I’ve been collecting Christmas ornaments ever since our first child was born over 22 years ago, and even a bit before that thanks to my mother-in-law, who always included as a Christmas gift, an ornament chosen to reflect the personality of the lucky recipient. Although most of mine were quite lovely, there were a few that made me wonder just what she thought my personality said about me….but those are some of my favorites, and I laugh every time I hang one on the tree. And one of my very favorites is from my own parents. After a long, contentious election season three years ago, my parents bought me a Barack Obama Christmas ornament as a gesture of support. I know just how much that cost them, and I’m not talking about dollars!

Christmas ornaments are tiny treasures to me. Almost every one of ours has some meaning behind it. Either the ornament was purchased on a trip, received as a gift, commemorates an event, was given to one of our children, made by one of our children or another extended family member, or represents something meaningful in our lives. And then there are the photo ornaments! Of our pets, past and present, of our children, of our family (some with only 1 or 2 children, which seems odd now considering the final tableau includes 3). I guess I would have to say that my favorites are the ones that have a name and date scrawled on the back in little-kid handwriting.

The tree embodies our family’s history. Many phases and personal preferences are represented–Star Wars, Barbie, anything pink, dancing, baseball, music lessons, soccer, theater, college, candy, wine, cars, video games, tools, coffee, cooking…you name it. There are ornaments meant to hold small surprises. Each ornament ignites the spark of a memory. Breaking one is always sad.

We have every Hallmark cat and dog series ornaments going back at least 15 years; we have ornaments that move and make noise. In fact, every time you turn on the tree lights Santa says, “Ho, ho, ho” above the sounds of an alpine amusement park roller coaster and the quiet jingle of Jingle Bells. Cheesy? Most definitely.

Our tree doesn’t have a theme or a color scheme. It is not the most beautifully decorated tree and would not be found in a holiday department store display. But I love what it represents, and I love pulling those ornaments out one by one each year and relishing all over again the meaning and love behind them.

I’m a sucker for tradition. This is one of my favorites. When it comes time to take down the tree and pack away the ornaments for next year, there will be at least 3 new ones, maybe more. As the tradition continues and the collection grows, so does the story of our family. Our Christmas tree is a family tree. And its branches are adorned with living memories hung with care during this season of celebration.

I hope your season of celebration–whatever that celebration may be–is filled with tiny treasures, tradition, and memories that represent whatever means most to you.