Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition

I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I'm married to Mr. Christmas. He loves all aspects of this holiday season and, according to his mom, he's been that way since he was a little boy.

The first Christmas after we started dating we were just seventeen and I wasn't sure what to get him for a present, so when I found this cute little Santa Claus ornament I knew it was perfect for him. He loved it.

The following Christmas we went on a school trip to London and I came across this Santa Claus.

As we walked the streets of London, with this tin Santa in my backpack, a tradition was birthed - one that has lasted more than fourteen years. We decided that wherever we go we will find a Santa Claus ornament to remember the trip and add to our tree.

Since then we've bought many fun Santas and we try to find ones that represent the place we're visiting. Sometimes the best memories come from the hunt for the ornament - and then discovering a perfect one. Here are just a few.

This beautiful blown glass Santa
is one of my favorite. It came from
New York City in 2000 and sits
at the WAYYYYY top of the tree
where my little people can't reach!
It's actually the second one. The original
fell out of my bag in Central Park
and David went all the way back
to the store for a second one.

This Santa came from Decorah,
Iowa in 2000 and reminded us of
the strong Norwegian influence
in the city and region
A rodeo Santa from one of our many
trips to Colorado to visit my sister
From Washington, D.C. in 2001

From a Caribbean Cruise in 2006
This Santa is made out of sea shells
from Barbados in 2004

Sometimes we've gone to places that don't have Santas and so we've become creative. That was how this Santa came to be on our tree.

I carved it from a piece of pine that we  found when we went to Quetico Provincial Park on a camping trip in 2000. I colored his hat and cheeks with berries. For 13 years I've wanted to take a wood carving class, but I haven't had time!

Over the years we've been blessed to travel to many fun places, but we aren't always successful in finding a Santa, so we've bought other ornaments, instead.

This is an acorn from The Breakers
Mansion in Newport, RI in 2006.
The Breakers is decorated with
acorns because they represent
good luck & prosperity

Other times Dave or I have gone on a trip alone, but even if we're not together we still buy a Santa or an ornament that represents the place.

Dave bought this charming doll
during a mission trip to Burkina
Faso, Africa in 2008 and we turned
it into an ornament
I think you can guess where
this one came from! My trip
to Paris in 2009.
Every year, as we decorate the tree, we reminisce about the places we have gone and the things we have done - and dream about where we will go next.

What about you? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? Do you collect ornaments from the places you travel? 


  1. What a fun tradition, Gabrielle. I loved seeing your collection of special ornaments from your travels. Did you get one from Dallas when you were there for ACFW?

  2. Keli - as we were putting ornaments up this year I realized in all the excitement of the trip to ACFW I forgot to buy an ornament! I've been thinking about hanging my name badge on the tree! :)

  3. Great tradition, Gabrielle!! My favorite Christmas tradition is Christmas movie marathon with hot chocolate and cookies. Unfortunately, we haven't collected ornaments from everywhere we've been...but we have a TON of ornaments from our college (Texas A&M)! We also have picture ornaments of the kids each year. Fun to see them grow!

  4. Angie - I love the idea of a picture ornament from every year, what a great idea! I love hearing about people's traditions. The hot chocolate and cookies sound so yummy right now!

  5. Oh, how fun to get a close-up glimpse of your Christmas tree, Gabrielle!
    My husband and I give our children ornaments each year--usually themed in some way to the past year. Sometimes they get the same ones, sometimes they are different. And we knew they would take them with them when they established their own homes ... which has now happened with 3 of our children.
    It's both sweet and a little, well, I can't say bitter so I'll say tearful, to see the tradition expand to include their new family trees ... but it was what we planned for all along.

  6. What a FUN tradition!! I need to start some traditions now that we have little ones ... hmmmmm ... :)

  7. Beth - my parents also gave us ornaments every year, but we've all chosen to keep them at my parents' house. Each year they continue to buy us a new ornament, and they also buy one for each in-law and grandchild. That's a total of 19 new ornaments on their tree this year! It is so loaded down, but we all love the tradition. We are responsible for our own ornaments, so they don't go on the tree until we can get to my parents' and hang them ourselves, so my sisters' family ornaments don't go up until a couple days before Christmas when they come home from Colorado.

    Jaime - there are so many cool ideas out there! Have fun researching some to find the perfect tradition for your family. :)

  8. Oh fun!! The London one stuck out to me simply because of my fascination and own travels there--sadly, I've never been there over Christmas, though.

    I haven't really collected ornaments in the past, though I'm sure it'd be a neat thing to start. I'd have to say one of my favorite Christmas traditions is watching Christmasy movies with family. :)

  9. That's so fun!!! I love seeing all of the different one. I always collected spoons from the places I traveled, not ornaments (my mom had a bunch so I just continued the tradition).

  10. Melissa - I thought of you when I posted that picture! I loved London and tell my girls all the time about how much I want to bring them there. And I love your Christmas movie tradition! We used to enjoy more movied before the kids came along, but I can forsee watching more as they grow older. :)

    Lindsay - while working at the Lindbergh House I can't tell you how many people bought spoons when they visited there! It's a fun tradition and a great way to remember all the fun places your mom (and now you!) have gone. :)

  11. Oh wow! I was just talking about that London trip with a customer who came into Best Buy, who is actually from England! Ironically we talked about Christmas traditions and how she and her husband come to America every year to spend time with their son who lives here with his family.

    As far as Christmas traditions go, I don't have any specific quirky or cute ones, I just make sure that my daughter and I get together with my family. Family is very important to me, even extended family (which I have a lot of!) and I want to instill that into her.

  12. What a fun tradition, Gabrielle! We've collected ornaments from places where we've lived. I have a cotton girl from Alabama, as well as a long narrow pine cone, as well as an ornament made of red clay that has the Nativity embossed on it. We've also purchased ornaments for our kids for each year. They seem to like that. :) One day our tree will look almost bare once they move out and start their own families. :)

    We pull out Christmas stories and read them each year. I cry my way through some of them. We also pull out a big jigsaw puzzle to put together-together. That's fun! We have some movie traditions too. :)

  13. Luke - I have so many wonderful memories from that trip to London - and lots of pictures to go with them. :) I can't believe it's been 14 years already! I have a lot of memories of you and your parents - especially your dad taking us under his wing and treating us to some good food on more than one occasion. I still remember the day we took off on our own, without the whole group, and spent the day roaming London. I can't wait to go back. I hope you and your daughter have a great Christmas!

    Jeanne - your ornaments sound like so much fun and I'm sure they bring back a lot of great memories for your family. I love that you're making new memories with the kids, too. Christmas stories are so beautiful. I know I cry through a few, too. :)

  14. I love that your ornaments have such meaning. Mine is a mix of stuff I just think is pretty and ornaments with more history including a few from childhood. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I try to collect pewter ornaments, and I LOVE camels, Wise Men and anything Bethlehem-y. My dad grew up about an hour from Bethlehem.

  16. Sarah - it sounds like your ornaments have meaning, too! If they're beautiful and have family history, they sound pretty special to me. :)

    Jennifer - wow, how awesome that your dad grew up so close to Bethlehem! I'd love to visit there one day. Have you ever been there?

  17. Gabe, nope, I've never been there. And the town he grew up in isn't so friendly right now. But we were always so proud that our dad has been to Bethlehem. Then he reminded us that there aren't shepherds watching on the fields by night anymore, and they'd wear parkas now anyway. My parents have an enormous olive wood Nativity scene, oooohhhh, it is SO beautiful!!!

    1. I've often wanted to go to Israel, but I would have to remind myself that it's not quite the same way as it once was! Thoughts of shepherds wearing parkas doesn't line up with my idea of the Nativity story! :)


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