Nothing Christmas-y is allowed in my house until the day after Thanksgiving, there isn’t any huge great reason behind this aside from the fact that I feel bad that Thanksgiving gets the cold shoulder each year. Thanksgiving always gives us 4 day weekends. Christmas is on Sunday this year which means, well, nothing.

The Christmas season officially starts when we’re all headed out the door on the Friday after Thanksgiving to the Hallmark store to pick out our annual ornaments. This tradition started many, many years ago when we received an “Our First Christmas Together” ornament in 2001 from our neighbors (who just happened to be one of my ex boyfriend’s parents. Small world right?) We added a new ornament every year, one that meant something to us, a highlight of the previous year.

I bought John Elway for Cody our first year together and our same neighbors gave us Addie’s first Hallmark ornament when I came home from the hospital with her (December 16th, 2004.) As soon as Addie was able to pick out her own ornaments our tree slowly turned pink with ballgowns and ruffles. This year she chose Blair from Barbie Charm School as her ornament.

Last year Cody and I chose The Corpse Bride ornament, there’s a long story behind this one and it’s very sentimental to me…but you probably wouldn’t get it. No offense, just know that in 2010 we celebrated Christmas by hanging a dead chick playing a coffin piano on our tree.

When it came time to pick our our ornament this year none really seemed to fit, which was a first. Cody then pointed up and said “There’s that guy.” By that guy he meant Carl.

Perhaps you’re all aware with my litmus test for the human race, if not, I judge all people I come across by how they feel during the first 15 minutes of the movie ‘Up.’ So when I saw Carl with his hand around Russel as he proudly shows off his Ellie badge, I knew I had found our ornament. I got weepy in the store and I’m getting weepy now.

Best movie ever.

Vivi ended up with the requisite “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament which I promptly filled with a picture of her.

(Confession, Addie’s “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament didn’t actually have a picture of her in it until last year.)

Our tree also holds ornaments that Addie has made, ornaments my daddy has made, ornaments Cody and I made when we were kids and ones we have collected here and there in our travels. We even have Agent P on our tree.

I could never have a “themed” tree. The ones that are all one color with no flair. I love pulling out each ornament the weekend after Thanksgiving and talking about each one with Addie, feeling the flood of emotions that come back with certain ones. John Elway is always hung up first and my dad’s are always the last. It’s an ornament free for all between the two.

When I wrote about my dad’s etsy shop I never could have imagined how many of you would add the ornaments he made in his shop to your tree. That they are *your* ornament for 2011. That your kids will be able to hang them on their own tree someday when they are grown and married. It means a lot to me and even more to my dad. For those of you who ordered them, added his shop to your favorites or even just clicked over there? Thank you for supporting my dad. And thank you from him, you blew him away with your kindness.

Do you have an ornament tradition? What’s your favorite on your tree? (My all time favorite on mine is a glass star painted like Santa. I have no idea why I love it so much, I just do.)

bokeh tree.


DISCLOSURE: A special thanks to Hallmark for sponsoring this post as part of their “Life is a Special Occasion” campaign. While I wasn’t asked to write about ornaments specifically, they are so much a part of our life I can’t not write about them. All ornaments were purchased by me. Keepsake ornaments are available for purchase in store and online if you wanted to start a little tradition of your own.



  1. You have a wonderful tradition going there!

    My (extended)family is huge. I have 6 brothers, 1 sister and everyone is married and/or has children, some of them grown with children! That is a lot of gift giving, and since we are spread all over the country, it can be challenging. Years ago one of my sisters-in-law suggested instead of gifts we exchange ornaments. It has been a huge hit, cuts back on the expense, and has SO much more meaning! Some are homemade, some made in countries someone has visited, others special for various reasons. Its like a story book on every tree.

    Every year I get new family ornaments and I’m always excited to see what comes.

    I always get myself a new ornament too, dated, hopefully representing something wonderful that happened that year.

    Honestly, I think its one of the best traditions ever!

    Casey Reply:

    @3jaysmom, It would be a fun tradition to start with the rest of our family as well with all the traveling they do.

  2. OMG!

    The first time I ever watched UP I bawled my eyes out. My husband came into the room and asked why I was crying at a cartoon. I think I might have screamed at him and he ran away confused and scared.

    Yes, I think we’d be friends. Maybe we already are ;)

    Casey Reply:

    @molly, We are. Up just cements it.

  3. I just wrote an entire post about ornaments and memories and decorating our tree. We are synced xo

    Casey Reply:

    @Rachel – A Southern Fairytale, ’tis true. you can tell a true lady by her tree. :)

  4. When my husband and I got married that December I started buying an ornament for us much like you do. I didn’t know the next year I’d have a new baby, so the focus shifted to him. I buy him an ornament that signifies what his favorite thing was that year (Wiggles, Toy Story, Batman, etc). I’m excited for the day he can start picking out his own. I already have the baby’s first Christmas one for my girl hanging on the tree, just awaiting her arrival next week

    Casey Reply:

    @Amber, Let me know when the Barbies start filling your tree in 4 years!

  5. Oh, you are SO much nicer than I will be when kids + ornaments come along. I will be that totally crazy mom with “rules” regarding their ornament selection. Strictly white, red, green, and gold color scheme.

    I wish I was kidding ;)

    Casey Reply:

    @Erika @ Bird E, I said it yesterday, but my tree would make you twitch. Bad.

  6. Jessica V. says:

    My favorite ornament is one that my son made in pre school. It is a peanut baby Jesus laying in a popsicle stick manger. The little peanut is cute. I love that ornament. *SQUIRREL*!

    Casey Reply:

    @Jessica V., I want to have a kid, raise him and put him in preschool just so I can get a peanut baby Jesus in a Popsicle stick manger.

  7. Aww! We do the same thing. I love a tree full of memories!

    Casey Reply:

    @Shan, I couldn’t have a fancy tree if my life depended on it.

  8. I grew up with a Christmas tree decorated with all of the homemade ornaments and such. Then I married my husband who grew up with “theme” trees. Since then our tree has always been a “theme” tree. Until this year. I put my foot down. With our children making ornaments and my box of childhood ornaments just sitting in a box each year we NEEDED a “real” tree. So we compromised. I let him have his “theme” tree, and the boys and I decorated a smaller “memory” tree. I love ornaments. I love the memories they bring back!

    Casey Reply:

    @Kassandra, We’re going to need two trees in the next few years. Good for you for putting up with his boring tree for so many years!

  9. Squee, I love ornaments! We are so lucky to have a beautiful collection of handmade snowflakes made by both my grandma and my husband’s grandma. We also have stuff we made, a few things our son made at nursery school or Sunday school, our requisite “First Christmas together” ornament, a baby’s 1st which is STILL without a picture (FAIL)and my favorite, the conch shell ornament. That one’s from our honeymoon in Key West and hangs proudly next to my second favorite, the singing Elvis ornament.

    Casey Reply:

    @Jen L., There’s a joke in there somewhere, “So an Elvis and a Conch were hanging on a tree…”

  10. The first time I watched Up, I turned it off after the first 15 minutes, turned and looked at my husband and asked, “Why do you hate me and want me to cry all the time?”

    (I watched it from beginning to later of course.)

    My husband and I get a new ornament every year also, but we have a Penguin theme.

    Casey Reply:

    @Untypically Jia, You may need to paint Russell like a penguin.

  11. Us too! We’re heading to Hallmark on Saturday to pick out our ornaments. We let the kids pick theirs with no interference, which means a lot of Barbies (5 daughters’ll do that).

    My favorite touch to our tree might be Batman dropping, cape flying out above and behind him – he always goes near the top. (That one my husband picked out.)

    Casey Reply:

    @Stephanie, Our husbands both have their places of honor at the top of the tree!

  12. Tree full of memories here too. I love unwrapping the ornaments every year and remembering who gave it and why.

    Fellow Up cryer here too. My kids think it is hysterical that the movie makes me cry. I tell them one day they will understand why that movie is sooooo sad!

    Casey Reply:

    @Lisa, I can just picture Addie calling me in 20 years saying “MOOOM I JUST WATCHED UP AND WAAAH.”
    That will be a sweet “I told you so.”

  13. Every year my Mom gets me an ornament (and I get her one). She took over the tradition when my Grandmother died, because before that my Grammie got me and my brother an ornament every Christmas. Most of them are the old, glass, painted ones that have the year on it (and creepy children, if we’re honest) but they mean the world to me. When my husband (also Casey) and I go home for Christmas, my Mom saves the tree decorating so we can help her. I love re-visiting those ornaments every year. This year, I bought two ornaments for your Dad to give to two little boys that belong to one of my best friends from high school. I hope it is the start of their tradition.

    Casey Reply:

    @Jenn, That makes me so happy. I really like those old glass ornaments, my GG has a bunch of them.

  14. btw, that should be that I bought two ornaments FROM your Dad, not FOR your Dad. Uhm. Awkward. Sorry :)

    Casey Reply:

    @Jenn, It’s cool, I texted him and told him how impressed people were with his work only impressed autocorrected to imposed.

  15. we have the same tradition. i have the ornaments from each year of my childhood and have now added one for each year of my life with hero husband and one for each of our children’s christmases. we end up decorating the tree with them remembering every special reason behind every one. *sigh*

    Casey Reply:

    @Shannonannon, It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the yeeear…

  16. My great aunt got my brother and I each a Christmas ornament every year so I am continuing that tradition with my kids. Of course so is my mom… and my mother in law… so we have a ton already.
    I could never have a themed tree either due to this! But the first year we were married we didn’t have that many ornaments so I picked up a box of blue and white shaped bulbs at Wally world and with blue and white lights I kind of had a theme. It was pretty, but also the only year we had a full size tree!

    Casey Reply:

    @Krista, I think Cody’s and my first tree was just red and white lights with John Elway. I forgot about that!

  17. Your tradition is similar to mine. My mom bought us all a new one each year. When we moved out, she gave them to us. I’m 31 and she still buys me one. My kids in turn get one from me and one from her. On occasion I’ll buy a few others, but they have to be cool.

    I love nothing more than pulling them all out each year and having my kids ask me when this one and this one and mom when was this one from. :)

    Casey Reply:

    @Issa, Addie is going to have Barbies on her tree until she dies.

  18. I too am a big fan of eclectic ornaments on the tree. My dad gave me this one … I made that in school … that was from my parents’ first Christmas (Dad, whose family was Jewish, got a can of fake snow and sprayed the whole tree; Mom was livid, but now you can tell which ornaments were on the tree in 1964). The theme ones look pretty, but they aren’t real family trees.

    And I totally love Up, but the beginning is grueling. So wonderful, and so painful!

    Casey Reply:

    @ccr in MA, That is some old flocking.

  19. So funny that you did this post. I’m currently getting ready to do something very similar. I love our ornaments and also a big fan of Hallmark ones. My mother n law turned me into a Hallmark Ornament loving member a few years ago. I have so many faves….probably the star/snowflake series with each year displayed on it. I’ve gotten one every year since we got married and so far, something significant has happened each year that those ornaments remind me of.
    Love your ornaments! And we love the movie Up also……big fans!
    Merry Christmas!

    Casey Reply:

    @C, I fell in love with their ornaments through a commercial. Whoever made that commercial should win an award.

  20. Keri Always says:

    Our tree is like yours, beautiful with ornaments collected and made over the years.

    My favorite ornament always makes me cry. It is the Christmas Nail. First on and last off, it reminds us that without His sacrifical death on the cross, Christmas would be just a birthday celebration.

    Casey Reply:

    @Keri Always, That’s a good one. Although it made me think of the Christmas Pickle I grew up with.
    Reverence? I Have it.

  21. I agree with you regarding the family tree and the movie Up. Like you, fertility is not my best friend. I was totally unprepared for Up. I wept big, fat, silent crocodile tears in that movie.

    I love my mash of new/old/fancy and fugly ornaments. They are treasures that I love to open and put away each year.

    Casey Reply:

    @Jenny, The goofier ones may end up at the bottom near the wall. But they’re on there!

  22. Totally teared up the instant I saw Carl! I really really want to start a tradition like this. I did get stuff for the kids to make their own ornaments this year, but it’s not the same. Love your collection. Also today I was driving and just really missing you.


    Casey Reply:

    @Adventures In Babywearing, Aw shucks. We should meet up in Lafayette or something. So strange we’re in the same state but SO FAR.

  23. AMEN about giving Thanksgiving its due! Except I wait until the beginning of December to decorate. It just feels weird to have Christmas in November to me. We got our tree tonight, and I’ll start decorating tomorrow. I’m also totally with you about the family tree and sentimental ornaments. My new ornament last year was Troy Polomalu, and my husband has gotten Star Wars stuff two years in a row. By the way, we bought our “First Christmas Together” ornament three years ago…after a month and a half of dating. I knew he was the one! Good thing that worked out, it would have been a real downer to take that out of the box the year after we broke up, haha!

    Casey Reply:

    @Anna, The day after Thanksgiving is my compromise with Cody. It works.
    Hey, and when you know? You know.

  24. We do pretty much the same thing! We each pick out an ornament and then when we get home we mark it with the name and year somehow. I have so many favorites… the handprints molds from the first year, the (fake) diamond ring in a box that a dear friend gave me the year we got married… so so many. I think you’ve just inspired a post for me… I hope you don’t mind!?

    Casey Reply:

    @Jamie, Of course! ‘Tis the season to write about your tree!

  25. I love, love LOVE your tree! It so reminds me of my tree and everything I love about it! So many of my friends’ families have themed trees with generic ornaments – it makes me so sad! Happy to know that there are other, awesome sentimental trees out there!

    Casey Reply:

    @ClassyFabSarah, Kitschy trees ‘r’ us.

  26. Cort’s mom did this for him when he was a kid. A new ornament every year for him and his siblings. They each had their own shoebox filled with “their” ornaments. Cort’s shoebox now lives at our house. And I loved the tradition so much that I started it for Eddie. And Charlie will have one too.

    And an ornament by your dad arrived yesterday to be Eddie’s 2011 ornament. I wrote his name and ’11 on the bottom. It is his.

    Casey Reply:

    @Katie, *sigh* that makes me so happy.

  27. OMG we do the exact same thing! Okay maybe not exact because we wait until December 6th (St. Nickolas Day in Poland) to exchange our ornaments. It’s something my husband and I started when we were dating and continued on now that we have kids. We have so many awesome ornaments now with great memories. This year Ben’s getting a scooby doo one that sings the theme song!

    Casey Reply:

    @Marta, I did a report on Poland in 6th grade and have always wanted to be Polish since.

  28. My tradition is much the same way but I pick the ornaments of what I believe fits my 4 children each year. I wrap them and on Christmas Eve they get to open that gift and hang their ornament. When my daughter married last year she took her collection with her.

  29. i love the movie Up so much that I have the Ellie badge tattooed on my upper inner arm.

  30. Bought ornaments for the sports my kids played. When they moved out, they got them as a gift. I still love the ones they made in preschool and now have started collecting grandchildren ornaments. Hate to take them down.

  31. Jeff Frantz says:

    We put up 3 trees. Our main tree is not really a theme tree but could be labled a Hallmark tree. It is not entirely Hallmark but close. We have been married 36 years and add a Hallmark ornament every year. Early ones varied but more recently they are Frosty Freinds. We have 3 daughters, 30, 26, and 24. There is a Hallmark ornament for every one of their years starting with 3 different baby’s first Christmas ornaments. Their collections have varied over the years but include the crayola series, the candy series, the little mice series, the Grinch series, and various other series. So this year that tree had a minimum of 116 Hallmark ornaments. My favorite, and one of our first, is Santa in his sleigh with some reindeer in front. That is the first ornament on the tree, in the front, at the top just under the Angel. Another tree is decorated with ornaments received as gifts and the third tree is decorated with ornaments from early in our marriage before kids. There are some Hallmark ornaments mixed in on these trees. That is just a little about our traditions. Thank you for allowing me to share.

  32. Susan Murphy says:

    I wanted to chime in as an “older” person here:) I was exactly like you, having ornaments for every year, always picked up travel ornaments, do our Christmas Together still for my adult children, cherish the ones my
    Mom gave every year (she gave my children the first of those little angels for her last mad in 1988) and I just bought this year’s Viola for a new member of our family:) just to give you perspective…..I gave my four children all their ornaments when they grew up and still give my 8 grandsons a Hallmark every year:) BUT have to share that when you get to be 67:) you can also enjoy doing a themed tree.,… that I mean that I have soooo many ornaments at this age that I can sort then and have enough for a theme… this year was all travel, last year was patriotic, have had a red and white tree, a Victorian tree with old family pictures added……and still cherish each and every one:) just a little word in defense of a theme…….it is all in perspective:) NOW I have to go and rent UP……I think I am going to like it:)