Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

Putting up our Christmas decorations is a simple enough task. Bring in the boxes from the garage and spread their contents around the house. It should take a day at most. But it’s not so simple for me because of the memories evoked by the decorations and ornaments…

A sign posted by the front door welcomes visitors and wishes them joy. It was given to us by Russ’ godmother, someone we look forward to being reunited with in heaven.

Two wreaths hang on our double front doors, made by a friend. She’s not a sister by birth, but she’s a sister by choice. When we moved to Florida 13 years ago, it was mid-November and we knew we wouldn’t have a Christmas tree that year. She and her husband set up their tree right after Halloween so we could celebrate together before the move. They also gave us many of the ornaments that now hang on our tree.

Speaking of the tree, we have several handmade hardanger embroidery ornaments made by another friend. She and I met in junior high school. She’s a world-traveler. Her first overseas assignment with the State Department was in Romania the month Ceausescu’s regime toppled. She’s worked around the world. Now she’s in Ghana, and we’re both grateful we can keep in touch through email and Facebook.

A flamingo ornament hangs on our tree. That doesn’t sound strange, considering we live in Florida. But this one has a story, too. Northern friends sent it a few years ago. In NY, we enjoyed Trivial Pursuit game nights with 2 other couples. A booby prize – yup, a pink flamingo – went to the losing couple, who then brought it to the next game night. A Trivial Pursuit ornament hangs near the flamingo, sent by another one of the couples.

My very first ornament also hangs on our tree – an angel given to me by my godmother when I was 8 years old. Someday I’ll be reunited with this precious woman, too.

There are a few ornaments commemorating my career in NYC, including a miniature Staten Island ferryboat. Our first Christmas is commemorated by 2 ornaments – one of them given to us by a friend from college.

Several ornaments are souvenirs from our travels. Rather than purchase generic souvenirs, we brought back Christmas ornaments. Of course, there are also ornaments from family members, and several from my husband with backstories I’d rather not share publicly!

However, even before we set up the tree, the first Christmas decoration we display is always the nativity. Our set started when we purchased the manger and the holy family during a vacation in Colonial Williamsburg 20 years ago. The display has grown to about 50 pieces – the manger is now surrounded by the bustling town of Bethlehem.

A winter tableau takes up another table. There we have ceramic carolers handmade by a friend I met in junior high school. We’ve continued our friendship through today.

A small holiday chair made from a craft kit sits next to the carolers, made by a friend I’ve known for more than 40 years. I have her and her family to thank for introducing me to the Lord Jesus Christ. Other things from her adorn our home, as well. A candy cane afghan. A stuffed snowman. Nutcracker candlestick holders.

This list could continue for many more pages, but you get the idea. I almost didn’t write this post for fear of offending others because space limitations prevent me from mentioning all their gifts. So many ornaments and decorations remind me of a lifetime of relationships with family and friends. Some live across the county, some live across the country, some are no longer with us, but all have touched my life and are remembered with love.

Now that I write this, with all the memories, I’m surprised it takes us only 3 days to decorate for Christmas!

What Christmas memory do you associate with your decorations?

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