Creating and Preserving Heirloom Decorations With Children this Christmas
Do you have any heirloom holiday decorations? My mother, sister and I were all married in December and have kept the ornaments used to decorate the trees at our wedding receptions.
I also have a special advent calendar that my grandmother cross-stitched for me. Every year we tie candy or activity ideas to the advent calendar, just like my mother did when I was a little girl.
My husband’s stocking was lovingly created by his Grandmother. She made stockings for all of her children and grandchildren. When I married into the Dyer family, one of my husband’s sisters made a stocking for me after the style of Grandma Dyer. I’ve since made similar stockings for my children. I never knew Grandma Dyer, but I feel closer to her because of this tradition.
One of my favorite ornaments is a globe made by my husband’s mother. It shows the places that people in our family have served missions. You can see the gems she added to McAllen, Texas and Santiago, Chile.
I have a large pencil that was carved into Santa’s face and beard by one of our family’s home teachers when I was younger. Each of my siblings received one.
One of my sisters-in-law buys Christmas ornaments every time she travels. She is preserving the memories of her family’s trips and remembering them at the end of each year as she decorates her Christmas tree. When we went to the Queen Mine in Bisbee, Arizona with them last year, we picked out ornaments together. Now we both have one to remember the time they lived close for a year. (We are very sad they moved away).
Last year, I made several photo frame ornaments with Christmas memories of my parents and grandparents. Heirloom decorations are a delightful way to share family history and tell stories about the past with our children during the holiday season. They bring back beloved memories and help us remember people who made a difference in our lives.
An entertaining lead-in to conversations about Christmas heirlooms is Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas. While preparing for their Christmas Eve tradition of decorating the tree, Nancy’s mother explains that ornaments from her grandfather’s childhood are “heirlooms.”
When Nancy’s favorite tree topper breaks, she and her grandfather make a new tree topper using pom poms and other “fancy” items. Creating something together with her grandfather made her new tree topper even more special than the unique flashing and twirling angel she had bought with her own money. Nancy imagines that someday her new tree topper will be an heirloom too.
Splendiferous Christmas is a festive way to introduce family history, heirlooms, and holiday traditions. Here are some ideas for activities to do after reading the book.
3 Heirloom Decoration Activity Ideas
We have been decoration our home and making Christmas crafts all week. As I write this post, my son is creating an elf craft using a photo of his face and paper cutouts for the body, haha! The holidays are full of family time, traditions, crafts, and stories at our house.
1. Tell the stories behind special Christmas decorations and ornaments.
This ornament was given to me by Sister Beck, one of my primary teachers who was also a close family friend. Many of my childhood memories include the Becks. Sister Beck and my mother used to paint and do crafts together. I’m glad that I have this ornament to show my kids and tell them about an influential teacher in my growing up years.
Telling and re-telling the stories behind the heirlooms gives them a special meaning and helps us craft a the narrative that we want our children to adopt as part of their own identity. For example, my kids might think to themselves, “Mom’s primary teacher was special to her. I am also thankful for my teachers. I want to remember them and thank them.”
2. Create heirloom decorations together.
Maybe you don’t have any heirloom decorations. That doesn’t have to stop you from creating your own heirlooms to pass down someday. In years past, we have created several homemade ornaments – a painted nativity scene on a pre-made wood ornament from Michael’s, salt dough star decorated with markers, crystal snowflake made with pipe cleaners and borax, and air dry clay ornaments cut out with cookie cutters and decorated with rubber stamps and paint, and others. One year we participated in a Jesse Tree ornament exchange to learn about Old Testament prophesies of Jesus and another year we made the 25 Days of Christ ornaments to learn about Jesus’ New Testament ministry. Every year my children enjoy looking at these ornaments and putting them on the tree.
3. Capture and preserve your creations.
If your decorations won’t last long enough to become heirlooms, snap a photo of them and add a short description. You can use the FamilySearch Memories app (free) or the Keepy App (free and premium versions) using your phone.
I started keeping a catalog of my kids’ art using Keepy. It’s so easy to use. I added all crafts above and shared them with the grandparents in less than 20 minutes. After capturing the memories with Keepy you can view the gallery on your computer as well. To add more than 5 photos/videos per month, you need to purchase the premium version for $10/year. (I am not an affiliate).
I love Keepy! Not only does it allow me to share more with grandparents and other “fans,” I can reduce the piles of coloring pages and crafts in my home while preserving a copy of everything. You can backup your Keepy gallery to Dropbox and even create a photobook of your favorites to ensure your memories are saved forever. Now my kids’ art is more accessible – no longer will we have to dig out the file folders and boxes of their stuff to see what they made two years ago. We can view it anytime with the tap of a finger.
I reached out to Offir Gutelzon, Keepy CEO, and asked how he envisions Keepy will preserve items for future generations. He said,
My vision for Keepy that one day our kids’ grandkids will be able to come and research their “ancestors” data in Keepy. It could be their artwork, schoolwork, certificates and also important milestones of their lives.”We save all files in the general standard of JPG or mp4 for videos we expected those formats to be supported in the future (same formats google and apple are using). Even more, everyone can sync their Keepies to their own dropbox account so that they have extra backup and option to upload those files to other platforms. More and more families are using Keepy for collecting stories from grandparents and family using the voice and video narration. Here is an example:
Offir also provided a coupon for Family Locket readers for the Keepy Print Store: coupon code FAMILYLOCKET20 20% off all products till 12/12/16. In the Keepy App on your phone, go to the Keepy Store in the menu and you can make photos books and more.
There are many ways preserve heirlooms and record their provenances. Denise Levenick at The Family Curator offers many ideas for keeping our treasured artifacts safe through the ages. The Heirloom Registry website offers an online system for cataloging heirlooms and their stories.
What unique decorations and family traditions are you creating and preserving this Christmas? Like Fancy Nancy, I hope your family time this Christmas is “splendiferous!”
December: Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas
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