Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Traveller's Tree: the yearly tradition of hanging our ornaments

When I was a kid, I collected teddy bears.  Once family got wind of it, I was the lucky recipient of stuffed teddy bears, teddy bear blankets, teddy bear figurines, teddy bear mugs.  When I left for college I had a lot of bears to pack up.  I think I gave most of them away, save for a few select bears that are stored away for my grandkids.

In High School, I collected Goofy (from Disney) items.  Goofy baseball hat, Goofy t-shirt, Goofy slippers, Goofy telephone.  I still have the slippers.

Collections can be fun, they can give a person a sort of "mission" in which they are always on the hunt for something to add.  They can also be expensive, take up too much room, and give too many well-meaning relatives a reason to add less-desirable items to your shelves.

As a family who like to travel, we notice a lot of traveller collector items.  Early in our marriage, Ryan and I needed to make the important decision..."what do we collect on our travels?"  In every airport and gift shop in the world, there are plenty of options - sweatshirts, hats, silver spoons, snow globes, and little figures.  There is local handiwork, wines, jewelry, patches, pins, foodstuffs.  And of course, the shot glass.  What to do?  After retiring my bear and Goofy collections for good, I really wasn't ready for anything big or clutter-adding.  So we came up with the idea of collecting Christmas tree ornaments.

This has become one of my most favorite traditions of the season.  Ornaments are small, get packed up for eleven months a year, and serve a very practical purpose for the month of December.  Everyone needs something to hang on their tree, and these ornaments provide a large amount of nostalgia to go with their practicality.

Every year, as we decorate our tree, Ryan, the boys and I talk about the stories that go along with each ornament we hang.

We have an ornament from San Francisco Ry and I got on our first anniversary trip.  We have Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons, one from a lodge we stayed at in Washington State.  Leavenworth, the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, Durango, and the Redwood Forest.  We have a glass bell from Petra, Jordan and a beautiful camel ornament from Cairo.  Florida was ba-humbug the year we were there, so we have a giant sand-dollar we found on the beach, tied up with ribbon and hung on the tree each year.

When Ryan travels alone he brings home ornaments so we can somehow relive his memories with him.  Places like Sweden, Norway, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Bosnia.  In Greece, the first time there we couldn't find an ornament so we bought a little clay pot to hang.  Our second time, we were there in November and found a hand-painted ornament to add to our collection.  Of course we have our olive wood ornaments bought in Bethlehem (we love cliches in our family).

No town or trip is too small or too big for us.  We pick up ornaments on road trips as well as missions trips, anniversary trips, and bigger family vacations (like Maui).  We are a blessed family to be sure.  Ryan and I made the decision early on to value travel and experience over stuff, and we have been lucky enough to have those experiences on a fairly modest income (by US standards, large by the rest of the world).

Christmas is such a fun time to celebrate memories and traditions.  Some of our ornaments are not from our travels, but are still meaningful - the photo ornaments of the kids with Santa over the years, the ornament Ryan gave me on one of our first ever "dates" back in college.  The first year of marriage ornaments and the "baby's first Christmas" ornaments.  No one can ever accuse me of NOT being sentimental.  Every December we get to remember the experiences and the places we have been blessed to see and to experience.  In a little collection of memories, snapshots of times and places, all hung on our tree.  I look forward to future travels and opportunities to add to our collection (Lord willing!).

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