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Marking the Year with Ornaments

by Joanna Gaines
Published on October 20, 2021

Nutcracker ornaments on a grey background.

There seems to be no limit to the nostalgia that the holiday season brings. Every year, I find myself entirely captivated by our family Christmas tree—despite the fact that the ornaments and decorations have changed very little over the years. Still, each season I let myself get lost in all the memories tied to each ornament that hangs on the tree—the ones commemorating our kids’ first birthday, their handmade ornaments from grade school, or vacations we’ve taken as a family.

Our family’s tradition of gifting ornaments each year began with Chip’s mom, Gayle. The first year that Chip and I were married, I wanted to decorate our Christmas tree based on a specific color story—and decided it would be an all-blue theme. That same year on Thanksgiving, Gayle gifted us a bright red Radko ornament. Truthfully, I hesitated putting it on the tree because I knew it would throw off my color theme. It makes me laugh now, but at the time I thought, “Where am I going to put this?” I finally convinced myself that the sentiment mattered more than the aesthetic, so I went ahead and placed it on the tree. What I learned to love was this: Though that ornament stuck out in stark contrast to my blue tree, that bright red ornament told a story. Not only was it a heartfelt gift from Chip’s mom, but the ornament signified our first Christmas together, and that made it worthy of the spotlight.

Every Thanksgiving since, Gayle has also gifted an ornament to all the grandkids, and I started doing the same as soon as we started having children of our own. Whatever happens to define the year they’ve had, I like to find an ornament to commemorate it—like a football for Drake the first year he started playing or a pair of skis to represent a family ski trip—and gradually, we had enough that it became clear I needed to designate one entire tree to house all those quirky, colorful, memory-filled ornaments. While there is still a part of me who will always love the simplicity of a beautifully lit, understated tree, my favorite tree—the one I can never walk past without smiling—is the one filled with all of our handmade keepsakes, including, of course, that bright red Radko ornament that Gayle gifted us. Those are the ones that tell the best story to me and my family.

Because we’ve established this rhythm of marking each year with ornaments, the unpacking of those specific boxes come holiday season has served as its own special tradition for us as a family. Opening each carefully wrapped ornament is like reliving that memory all over again. Stories are retold, and even if they’ve been shared for years now, no one seems to mind—the swapping of stories just brings us closer together. I wanted to share this tradition of ours because I’ve grown to realize over the years that the things we choose to bring into our homes for the holidays—whether it be ornaments, garland, wreaths or stockings—serve a greater purpose than mere decoration. It’s really our family’s history that we get to unwrap year after year.

Stack of books ornament on a Christmas tree.
Ballerina ornament on a Christmas tree.
Mushroom ornaments on a Christmas tree.

In our house, ornaments have become a hallmark of the holiday season, so naturally, it’s always among my favorite pieces to curate for our holiday collection at the shop.

I love what we pulled together this year—there are so many whimsical, nostalgic, and fun ornaments in this assortment. This may not come as a surprise, but I use butter every single day of my life. So when our team showed me a butter ornament, I thought it was hilarious—and perfect for me. There’s also a few new ones I added to the collection that remind me of my kids—the Srirahca sauce for Ella (she puts it on everything) and the hot dog for Crew. If you ask him, that’s his favorite food.

Each ornament is attached to a story, whether it’s an ode to someone’s love of the garden, a new hobby they’ve picked up, or a memory you don’t want to forget. I hope you’ll find an ornament or two that celebrates something or someone you love—now and for years to come.

Food ornaments in a circle on a white background.
shop ornaments