Collecting Christmas ornaments

Last week, I wrote about setting up our Christmas tree. Because it’s a smallish tree, we have plenty of ornaments to fill it up that we’ve slowly collected over the years.

When you’re first on your own and you don’t have any holiday decorations, it can be tempting to go to a big-box store and purchase bulk packages of inexpensive ornaments. Unfortunately, you might not feel like these ornaments have any sentimental or personal meaning, so you may be tempted to throw them away in future years.

Instead, why not build up a collection slowly, over time? This will give you a chance to build an ornament assortment that is meaningful to you and your family. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Use a smaller tree. I know it’s very tempting to choose a big tree, but remember that not only does the tree itself cost more, all the decorations also cost more than if you choose a smaller tree at first. In later years, as your ornament collection grows, you can start to use taller, fuller trees.

Make ornaments. I’ve made ornaments over the years and now these decorations have sentimental value because they remind me of my and my husband’s early years together. One year we purchased inexpensive clear glass ball ornaments, blue and white paint, and glitter. We swirled the paint around inside the ornaments, let them dry, and covered the tops in glitter. This was probably seven years ago and we still use these every year.

Another simple and inexpensive ornament to make is decorated pine cones. Just go find some sturdy smallish pine cones outside, use a little paintbrush to cover the tips of the cones in regular school glue, and sprinkle glitter on the glue, tapping off the excess. We have some of these that we made a long time ago. I used to put them on our tree, but now I display them all together in a bowl instead.

Start an ornament exchange. Every year, my husband and I give one another a new ornament in our stockings. This little tradition has really helped us slowly build a meaningful collection over time. I know other people who do an ornament exchange with friends each year. You can purchase a pack of sweet ornaments and give one to each member of the exchange group, or make your own to share. Here are a few I’ve given the Mr. over the years:

And some he’s given to me.

Pick up ornaments while on vacation. This is a little tradition I just love. I try to pick up ornaments when we travel and vacation. It spreads the cost out because it’s just an ornament here and there and they serve as little souvenirs. We think about all the fun times we’ve had whenever we see these little cuties. Here is a snowman made from white sea urchins we got in York Beach, Maine and a glass otter we got at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Shop after-Christmas sales. Now, don’t go crazy with this one. It would be super easy to load up on cheap ornaments that you’re not really going to love in the long run. Just see if you find a few here and there on sale that you’d like to use forever. I picked up these at an after-Christmas sale years ago and I love them.

Ask family members for childhood ornaments. Maybe you can get some of the ornaments you received when you were little, or other family heirlooms that your parents and grandparents would be glad to pass on to you. I actually need to get some ornaments from my mom that were mine when I was little. I live far away, so it makes it difficult but she could probably ship them to me over time.

Look for second-hand ornaments all year. Antique and thrift stores sometimes have ornaments for sale all year. You may even be able to find nice ones at garage sales. Keep your eyes peeled and be choosy!

How have you collected ornaments over the years? Do you make your own? Participate in an exchange?

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