Friday, November 28, 2014
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Are you ready for Christmas? Or if you’re not ready, hope you're at least enjoying a fun Friday, looking forward to the celebration of our Savior’s birth.
For children, the joy of Christmas comes from the wonder and anticipation of the season. Older people more often find joy in memories that settle deep into the soul, built layer upon layer. Christmas heirlooms are the catalyst guaranteed to recall those memories of Christmases past, and all the joy they hold.
Every family has its own unique heirlooms. One of the most enduring is the crèche.
According to tradition, Saint Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene in 1223 as a live representation of the Holy Birth. The Nativity scene inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.
As the centuries progressed, figurines of clay, terra cotta, and porcelain were produced to display in public and in homes. Besides Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus, shepherds, sheep, angels, and the Magi were added to the setting. Displaying the crèche became almost as popular as the Christmas tree. Customs evolved, such as assigning the honor of placing the baby Jesus to the family’s youngest child.
The family crèche was a prized heirloom passed down from generation to generation, but it's not the only Christmas keepsake.
Whether store-bought or hand-made, ornaments are popular heirlooms. As the custom of decorating a Christmas tree grew, the need for ornaments naturally increased.
Victorians made most of their ornaments, and the instructions for constructing them were included the magazines of the day. Balls, bird nests, cones, and framed pictures were made of wood, fabric, paper, and whatever nature provided.
The late 1800s saw the rise of tin pressed ornaments, but the most prized ornaments were of blown glass, usually imported from Germany. These were so expensive a household would probably possess only one or two. Then sometime between the two world wars, American companies began manufacturing glass ornaments. After WWII, F. W. Woolworth made these ornaments available in his five and dime stores.
As the cheaper ornaments became available, hand-crafted heirlooms fell out of popularity. A shame in my opinion, because it’s the school projects brought in by grade-schoolers or things intricately stitched, embroidered, crocheted, and glued by mothers that hold the best memories.
When I was growing up we had a box of heirloom ornaments. A house fire destroyed them years ago, and only one of my crafts has endured to become a true heirloom. During a particularly lean year, I didn’t have enough in the Christmas budget to buy a nice Christmas tree skirt, so I looked through my left-over yarn. Not much was available in the colors I needed, but I started crocheting and this is it.
Half a lifetime later it still wraps around the trunk of our Christmas tree. Cats and puppies have played under it. Babies have chewed on it. Children have lain on it, playing games. Toys have snagged it. Large and small piles of packages have rested on top of it. After a wash, it’s good as new. I can’t imagine a Christmas without it.
That’s what an heirloom is—enduring through the years, bringing back the memories.Does your family have a Christmas heirloom that means a lot to you?