Sandy Sacks beautifully decorated tree.

This month we are talking about traditions. Sharing stories about family and friend traditions are rich with flavor and love and there is no better time to celebrate traditions than during the holidays. For our Christmas Tree blog, we decided we wanted to not only share our traditions, but some of yours too. It’s always fun to hear of others traditions and maybe incorporate some of them into our own. 

By Rachel J. Trotter

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love a beautifully lit and decorated tree in their home every Christmas. Sure some of us dread getting all the stuff out, (my living room is always filled with boxes!) And putting it up can be a task, but once it’s done, it’s a thing of wonder and beauty. The best part? The memories it brings with each ornament on the tree.  I think my cousin-in-law, Sandy Sacks, said it best when she said, “It fills the house with family both far away and gone.” She doesn’t live close by a lot of her family and so for her, those ornaments make her feel close and I think we all feel that in one way or another. Sandy noted that she could go on and on with her decorations and telling a story about each one.

That’s exactly how I feel about our tree. When Mat and I were first married I was determined to have a fancy and uniform tree. I spent a great deal of time creating these little wrapped packages that I would fix to almost every branch and I was very particular about where each ornament went. I would look at the tree and move things around so they were in just the right spot. Then one year it all changed. I’m not sure why or what happened, but once I became a mom, my tree became a thing of beauty in another way – in a kid’s way. The tree started filling up with little kid ornaments. Plus, we started collecting ornaments when we went on vacations and as we would hang the ornaments we would talk about our trips and why we picked the ones we did.

Lisa Peterson has a similar kid and memory tree. Hers is filled with ornaments her four

Lisa Peterson's beautiful "kids and memories" tree.
Lisa Peterson’s beautiful “kids and memories” tree.

children have made throughout the years. She admits her tree has filled up fast between her four kids, but she loves the memories they evoke now that they are growing so quickly. They love it too. “They love looking at them and telling memories about that time in their life. A lot of the ornaments have a picture of them on it,” Lisa said.

Jenni Kozak also has a “child-decorated” tree as she calls it. She has passed many of her children’s ornaments to them as they have moved out, but she is now carrying on the tradition with her grandchildren, letting them have special ornaments on her tree. She also has an ornament that’s a pickle that she hides on the tree – whoever finds it gets a special prize.

We bought an ornament with each year on it and then let our kids pick ornaments. As we got more kids we started this tradition of having our kids line up and as Mat would unwrap each ornament he tells the story of the ornament. I love hearing the stories, even though they are mostly the same every year. We have this fancy Goofy ornament and my oldest broke it when he was about 3. Every year

The Trotter tree line-up. Waiting patiently while Mat tells ornament stories. Our baby Eliza continually cuts in front of everyone. We let her.
The Trotter tree line-up. Waiting patiently while Mat tells ornament stories. Our baby Eliza continually cuts in front of everyone. We let her.

we tell the story of the broken ornament and (now) we can laugh about it. He’s 21 – so let’s hope we can laugh about it. We tease how our oldest has about 10 baby’s first Christmas ornaments and how with each child we bought less and less, kind of like snapping pictures.  This year he created his own spot on the tree with all “his ornaments.” When he moves away with his own family he will take those ornaments with him.

Dave Hulme and his wife have a homemade ornament tradition that has been passed down from Dave’s family. “With five kids the tree is pretty full,” he said. The tradition comes from when his aunt would send her handmade ornaments to him and his siblings when he was a child. He loves that his wife has continued that handmade ornament tradition.

Lulelila Spraycar’s tradition is one I’ve never heard of, but it is something unique and sweet that involves her children throughout the Christmas season. She has six children and like me, when her kids were tiny she gave up on the idea of a fancy tree. “So I boxed up all my Christmas decor and put it into a deep dark closet, of which it has yet to see the light of day,” she said. Now, each year she puts her tree up on December 1 and it sits empty. Every other day from there she and her children make an ornament to be hung on the tree. She has a variety of ornament – some super fancy, some cutouts from a coloring book. On crazy days she pulls out the boxes of candy canes or things that can be easily strung and hung. “By the time Christmas comes along the tree is laden with all kinds of things and each has a precious memory attached to it. As my kids have got older I asked them if they would like to pull out the boxes and decorate the tree, I have got a unanimous no.” What fun! I love this idea.

Our tree is such a hodgepodge of different things and sometimes I think I should take a step back, maybe add another tree or something, but then I always decide against it.

We also have ornaments from grandparents that both Mat and I cherish. He has these cool whirly-gig ornaments that spin when placed on top of a hot light – with the invention of LEDs, there’s not much spinning, but the memory is still sweet for both of us. I have some old Ogden temple ornaments that my grandma gave to me and then there’s the star. My grandma gave it to Mat and me our first Christmas as a married couple. It came from a trip to London she went on and she bought it for her tree and decided it didn’t go and knew we were poor college students and wanted us to have it. It will top my tree forever because it reminds me of her.

I love my friend Melani Anderson’s tree philosophy. She loves a beautiful tree and loves creating that beauty for her family. Instead of having her children fill her tree with handmade ornaments wherever and whenever, she has a fancy tree that she decorates for her family to enjoy and then she started putting trees in their own rooms for them to decorate how they like it.  “As they’ve gotten older and life has become busier, I’d attempt

Melani Anderson's two "gift" trees for her family. What a talent she has!
Melani Anderson’s two “gift” trees for her family. What a talent she has!

to simplify my festive efforts. It’s been interesting how important those traditions are to my children! They each have their favorite detail and express a desire that I not forget it. It’s become the gift I give them…my talent I share,” she said. She has a fairy tree because of the Fablehaven book series that her kids love and then a Santa tree, the one that has become beloved. “Because even my oldest know if you don’t believe, you don’t receive.”

We at the Trotter house are fake tree all the way. In our first years of marriage we tried real trees, but I was always nervous about fires (I know, WEIRD.) I often feel a little envious of the pictures I see of people going to tree farms and picking out awesome trees, but then I remember I am OCD about the fire thing and I need to be able to sleep at night.  Dave and his family get a tree permit and hit the mountains to find a perfect tree. He said they “drag” it across the snow, afix to the to the top of the van and all is well – except for that broken finger a few years back from trying to save a branch from an automatic van door. The things we do in the name of tradition, right?


The reality I’ve found is that everyone’s tree is a thing of beauty. I’ve not seen many trees I don’t think are beautiful to be honest. Because, just like people, they all have that unique something-special that brings out the beauty.

We would still love to hear more of your tree traditions. Don’t hesitate to comment and share. We love the ideas and the sweet stories behind your tree traditions!

The picture after. Another Trotter tree tradition. Mat is snapping the photo.
The picture after. Another Trotter tree tradition. Mat is snapping the photo.
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2 thoughts on “Christmas Tree Traditions

  • December 3, 2016 at 3:07 am

    Rachel, I really enjoyed this. We also have a “Memory” tree. Almost every ornament has a story behind it. Some were gifts from friends and family, some were made by our boys when they were young, a few were purchased to remind us of special events. Everyone of them has a story behind it. Some of the stories are family jokes such as the model plane ornament I bought for my husband when he decided to take flying lessons.

    No matter where the ornament came from or why it was purchased, we are able to remember friends and family as we tell the stories and hang the ornaments on our tree.

    • December 3, 2016 at 5:48 am

      Thanks for sharing this. Those are my favorite kind of trees. I love the fact that it is easy to find ornaments for all the things we do in life so we can attach great memories to them!

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