Christmas Ornament Tradition

Nationality: American
Primary language: English
Age: 18-22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA


Before Christmas every year, each person in EB’s immediate family buys an ornament that represents their year. For example, when she graduated high school, her ornament was a graduation cap. There was one year where she played soccer all year, so she got a soccer themed ornament. After EB and her family decorate the Christmas tree, they all get their new ornaments and hang them together as a family.


EB isn’t sure when her family started this tradition, but knows her parents have a wedding ornament to represent the year they got married. She thinks this might be the start of it, but it’s possible that her mom did this with her family before that. EB believes that the ornaments represent the passage of time. The tradition makes her happy and maybe a little nostalgic, especially when she looks at ornaments from when she was young (simpler times). EB thinks that having all the ornaments on the tree together seems to represent their collective experience as a family and what they’ve gone through together. It’s a tree that celebrates accomplishments and what they’ve done with their lives so far. Doing this together shows that they go through life together as a family and are celebrating each other’s accomplishments.


I support EB’s analysis of her family’s tradition, especially in regards to the passage of time. “Rites of passage” and change are important in all communities, and one extremely common instance of this is the transition into a new year. Christmas is the last major holiday for families to come together before New Year’s Eve, and as such, it offers up an opportunity for reflection on the year. Boiling all of one’s experiences down into a single object–in this case an ornament–can help people quantify their experiences, understand them, and represent them. For example, in our in-class exercise where everyone brought a tourist object, many people expressed the object’s importance in terms of how it reminded them of a happy trip/experience. In the same way, EB’s family’s ornaments serve this purpose, but instead of reminding them of one trip, they remind them of a whole year! Furthermore, as EB mentioned, this exercise brings them together as a family unit. They’re all living their own years, but they can come together and celebrate them as a whole by partaking in this tradition together. This reemphasizes the importance of their folk group (a family unit) while still celebrating individual experience and change.