Vanessa Kelly
Vanessa Kelly


Holidays, Jaunty Post, Vanessa Kelly


Christmas tree 1

We all have traditions we celebrate over the holidays, right?  Some are cherished family rituals handed down from one generation to the next.  And others, unfortunately, are like bad kitchen smells–lingering year after year for no good reason or because nobody wants to get into a verbal brawl about ditching them.  We certainly had a few of those in my family when I was growing up. 

For instance, my mother hated cooking turkey, mostly because we always had at least sixteen people or more for Christmas dinner and it was a complicated and messy meal to cook.  But my dad loved turkey for the holidays, so my mother suffered–not in silence–most years to put on the big bird feed.  But one memorable year, Mom and Dad got into a verbal tussle over the damn thing, which almost ended with the turkey and roasting pan sailing into a snowbank in the back yard.  Fortunately, someone had the foresight to crack open a few more bottles of champagne and we eventually managed to get dinner on the table.  But it was a close call and the following year my father willingly opted for a Christmas ham instead of the bird.

Then there was the relative who insisted on preparing the appetizer and first course EVERY year, and EVERY year that person was at least an hour late for dinner.

Ah, yes.  The holidays, a time when families come together to…fight.

But we had a lot of great holiday traditions, too.  My mother had a real knack for decorating.  Every year our house looked like a Christmas wonderland, and we invariably had the most spectacular tree in the neighborhood.  We were fanatic about our Christmas decorations, collecting and hoarding them, storing them carefully from year to year and always on the look-out for new ones to add to the tree.  

Over time, our Christmas tree became a record of our family history.  It would take hours to decorate as we carefully unpacked and hung ornaments, and I loved every minute of it.  My siblings and I still carry on these traditions.  Not matter what time of year it is, I’m always on the lookout for good ornaments.  One of my best finds in recent years is this Nancy Drew ornament, which I really love.

 Nancy Drew

Pretty cute, isn’t it?  I also have a small but growing collection of Star Trek ornaments (my fave is the doctor from Voyager), a beautiful group of White House Christmas ornaments, and some genuinely tacky ones like my Surfer Santa. 

To this day, putting up the tree remains my favorite holiday tradition.  Yes, it can be a total pain in the ass when I’m crawling around on the floor trying to get strings of lights to work, but it’s worth it.  Because when it’s finished and I flip on those lights, it’s like stepping into Mr. Peabody’s Way-Back Machine.  For a few minutes I’m a kid again, waiting for all that Christmas magic to arrive.

What family traditions do you like to observe?  Are there any you wish you could get rid of?  One person who comments will win a copy of my Christmas historical romance, His Mistletoe Bride.

 His Mistletoe Bride

48 thoughts on “Oh, Christmas Tree…

  1. Tin says:

    Hi, Vanessa!

    When I saw the Nancy Drew ornament, my eyes grew wide in awe. I love Nancy Drew and that is an amazing find!

    My kids paint their own Christmas decorations and we’ve done it for 2 years straight. We buy these moulded plaster Santas and let them paint them any way they like. Though they are really just white plaster with glops of paint on them, it’s a great way for them to see how far they’ve come with each year that passes. ^_^

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      It’s a great ornament, Tin! We also painted decorations when we were kids. My mom would get the plaster Santas and other holiday motifs, and we’d paint them up. It was a lot of fun!

  2. Sue Gorman says:

    I live in small beach community. A tree lighting ceremony is held each year the weekend after Thanksgiving. Before the ceremony, there is Christmas caroling, hay rides, cider and donuts. Lots of small town charm. My husband and I have attended the festivities for over twenty years. For many years, we stood in the freezing cold and listened to our daughter sing carols with her Brownie troop and watched her smile as Santa arrived via fire truck. We attended this year and our now twenty year old daughter loved seeing how excited everyone was to participate in the annual event .

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      That’s great, Sue! We also spend the winter in a small beach community – they have the same kinds of activities. I missed it this year, but they also have a holiday dog parade – doggies dressed up – which I’m determined to make!

  3. Ellen Wood says:

    For me its all about the ornaments to evoke the fond memories of my childhood as well as all of the ones my kids have made; each one is its own memory on display.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Christmas trees are really memory trees, aren’t they, Ellen?

      1. Ellen Wood says:

        They certainly are and the best part about the season! :)

  4. Cerian Halford says:

    I love that ornament!
    I still live at home (I’m a student) so my Christmases are the same as ever. My sister and I always share a room on Christmas eve and stay up watching Christmas movies, then we open out stockings together in the morning. Thinking about it now, I guess there’s not many years left of this tradition, so I’m making the most of it whilst I can!

    Thanks for the giveaway, and Happy Christmas!

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Sounds lovely, Cerian – enjoy your holiday, and Merry Christmas!

  5. Angela D. says:

    Hi Vanessa,

    Very nice article. I love the Nancy Drew ornament. The colors are fantastic.
    My favorite tradition is lights. The more the merrier (think Griswolds). We always drive around neighborhoods to see who has the best (most) lights. Very fun.
    Merry Christmas.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Angela, I think lights are so important at this time of year, when it gets so dark and cold. It really lifts the spirits.

  6. Erin F says:

    Thanks for the fun post!!! Thanks for sharing! I’d have to say making sugar cookies with my mom :)

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Gotta love the cookies, Erin!

  7. Rosemary Jelovic Huelsebusch says:

    Love the Nancy Drew ornament. Those books are the best memories from childhood. Would walk to the library and couldn’t wait to read the next one. Same with the Cherry Ames series. Actually found a couple of the originals at an an antique shop.
    Putting ornaments on the tree from our travels and the ones the children and now grand kids have made.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Isn’t it great, Nancy? I also have a wonderful Grinch Who Stole Christmas ornament, too.

  8. Linda Thum says:

    It’s all about food in my house! The big dinner with everyone around the table & of course baking cakes & cookies before that.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      I’m half-Italian, Linda, so food is a big part of our holidays, too.

  9. jcp says:

    Great post. I would love to simplify the holidays…

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      It can get out of hand, jcp!

  10. girlygirlhoosier52 says:

    Driving thru our awesome downtown that has amazing lights strung around all the trees !

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      We do that too, girlygirl!

  11. Shana Galen Shana Galen says:

    That’s an adorable ornament. We always make cookies when we decorate and listen to Christmas music. Baby Galen wanted to decorate at 8 a.m. today so she could have cookies. We are a little late this year since I was traveling, but we’re catching up!

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      I think doing stuff with kids makes the holidays, Shana!

  12. catslady says:

    Oh, we think alike. I started the tradition of having a tree trimming party. I too collect ornaments from travels, family, homemade ones, friends and they all mean so much to me. I must admit after 40 years I no longer put each one back in their box because friends and family get impatient lol. I have lost a few but it does make things easier. My oldest daughter now has a party too and is like me with the ornaments. Everyone always gets at least one new one every year so we have quite the collection lol. I just had my party and I overcooked the lasagna and ham because I paid too much attention to the tree lol. But I had tons of food and drink so it was a wonderful day. And I understand about that turkey. I do all the cooking and it isn’t easy lol.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      It sounds like a great day, catslady! We usually started our holiday dinners with homemade lasagne or ravioli. Then on the the blasted turkey!

  13. Connie Terpstra Dowell says:

    Started my life with Nancy Drew. Your ornament is a treasure~! Our favorite tradition was the Christmas drive. We would go around our whole town to see everyones beautiful light displays and all would oooh & aaah! Of course it would have to be repeated night after night~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Isn’t it great, Connie?

  14. Virginia says:

    We always have big huge dinners at Christmas time. Your book looks really good and I will have check it out.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Thank you, Virginia!

  15. Cindy Kirk Cindy Kirk says:

    I love to find unique ornaments. The trick is finding an empty spot on the tree!

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      My tree is getting like that, too, Cindy!

  16. Hannah Roberson says:

    I was a Jehovah’s Witness until I was 12 and even afterwards when we started celebrating we only really had one; open one present Christmas Eve and making sugar cookies together. When I got married my husbands family didn’t have any set traditions either, in the (soon to be) ten years we have been married we really haven’t made any of our own. Our Christmas tree (fake unfortunately due to allergies) is definitely a kids tree with Pokemon, Adventure Time, SpongeBob. My little touches are the snowmen and NASCAR for my husband. We also have little jingle bells for special events, First Christmases (Babies, new house, newly married), one each with our names and the kids art work from school. Lastly I probably won’t take it all down until March, never fails it all goes up at once and goes down in stages.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      It sounds like a lovely tree, Hanna! I have a fake one, too. Real trees are just so messy, and the artificial ones look really nice these days.

  17. Erica Monroe says:

    I totally have the Star Trek doctor ornament! I love it so much. I want your Nancy Drew ornament! Read all of those books as a kid. We used to do the whole ornament a year thing in my family, and I love that because it reminds me of my childhood.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Erica, I also have an ornament of Khan and one of Tripp, from the rather ill-fated series. I love them!

  18. Kristan Higgins says:

    The holidays are all about tradition, aren’t they, Vanessa? Either keeping them, or making new ones. My favorite tradition is making Hungarian cookies. It’s a huge undertaking, but worth every minute. I’d love to see pictures of your tree! It sounds glorious.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      I wish I had more patience/talent for baking, Kristan. My stepmother holds down that department, fortunately!

  19. May says:

    I like eating Christmas cookies and putting up the trees. Not sure about putting the tree away though… It is always a chore to put everything back!

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Yeah, it’s a big chore, May. I stay up late New Year’s Eve and do it by myself. That way I start the New Year fresh.

  20. Barbara E. says:

    The tradition I love is driving around on Christmas evening after dinner, to see all the lights and decorations, then coming back and having pumpkin pie. The tradition I’d like to see less of is the emphasis on gifts, and the panic over what to get, etc.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      We do that too, Barbara!

  21. MaureenE says:

    When my kids were younger we had more traditions such as all of us decorating together while having eggnog but nowadays things are flexible but I do insist on going to Christmas Eve service.

    1. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

      Maureen, I wish I had the discipline to go to Midnight Mass, but I usually don’t!

  22. Gretchen says:

    LOVE the Nancy Drew ornament! And our whole family loves the big turkey. Even with Thanksgiving only a month behind us, we are all looking forward to more turkey!

  23. Michelle Fidler says:

    I like the Nancy Drew ornament, but then again I’m a mystery reader. There was recently an article in the paper about an auction of Nancy Drew stuff from the estate of Mildred Wirt Benson’s daughter. Mildred wrote some of the original Nancy Drews back in the 30′s or so. She was from here in Toledo and worked for the newspaper.
    We used to open presents on Christmas Eve.

  24. Glenda says:

    My favorite tradition is decorating the tree with the kids. I’m slightly depress with the realization that we only have a coulle years left since my youngest is almost college aged.

  25. Lisa Hutson says:

    The tree decorating has always been pretty much my thing. I enjoy it. But for family traditions that I love, we started about 13 years ago. On Christmas eve, we go to the drive thru light place. We take bags of canned foods and we pay for the car behind us. They will never know who or why. I love that. We all enjoy sneaking peeks in the van at the car behind us. haha And why we will always have to keep buying a van. haha

  26. Adaffern says:

    Until the kids left home my parents read the story of Jesus’ birth and discussed the reason we celebrate Christmas and why we give gifts. I still read the story even though I don’t have children and my sister has kept up the tradition with her own family.

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