There are few things from my childhood that bring back as many magical memories of the holidays as my grandma’s ceramic Christmas tree.
Every year after Thanksgiving, she would take a small box down from storage in the attic and carefully unwrap the decoration from its soft nest of tissue paper. She would check each delicately-painted branch to ensure nothing had been chipped or broken, and inspect each brightly-colored bulb. I remember touching the smooth, opaque green branches, marveling at their snowy tips, and counting each point of the star with my forefinger.
She always placed the tree as the centerpiece of her table, which was the perfect metaphor for where my grandma herself loved to spend the holiday season—right at the center of all the joy and excitement.
I will never forget the warmth of Christmas cheer I felt every time I glanced at that tree while rolling dough with her for sugar cookies, or caught the soft glow of its lights out of the corner of my eye while listening to her read The Polar Express to me and my sister during lunchtime.
The magic of her Christmas tree became inextricably connected to the magic of my grandma.
This year more than ever, I find myself drawn to the comfort and simplicity of family traditions, whether it’s my aunt’s recipe for the best Thanksgiving sausage stuffing, our annual Christmas Eve viewing of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated version, of course), or my mother-in-law’s decadent Danish pastries.
My grandma’s tree has been foremost in my mind for many reasons, not least of which is the overwhelming nostalgia I feel, as well as the uncertainty of whether I’ll get to experience the beauty of its magic—or hers—this Christmas season.
In light of so much uncertainty, I decided it was time to find a similar keepsake for my own family, and I recently did some searching into the history behind the original ceramic trees. I discovered they were actually a hallmark of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which explains why so many of us remember them as heirlooms from our grandmothers.
The trees were often handmade in ceramics shops (ceramic crafts were very popular at the time), and painted in a variety of colors, styles, and textures. Ceramic mold companies soon began to mass-produce and sell them commercially, however, many of the smaller companies have since gone out of business. Consequently, the older fired-clay vintage trees have become very expensive collector items, costing upwards of $100 in some cases.
Not to be deterred, I did a little more digging and was thrilled to find several companies now feature beautiful reproductions on their sites at much more reasonable prices.
These trees are nearly identical in size and design, budget-friendly, and available for Prime shipping!
After some initial comparisons, I settled on this one from Amazon, which most closely resembles the beloved tree from my childhood.
Christmas might look very different for your family in 2020. But in spite of the uncertainty and disappointment we all might be feeling right now, it’s comforting to know we can still enjoy many of the treasured traditions that bring joy to the season and remind us what it’s truly about.
My grandma’s Christmas tree remains one of my most cherished memories of her, and I’m so grateful to have a small piece of her magic to share with my own children for many years to come.
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