Nutcracker Ornaments on the Tree

Background information: AH is a 21-year-old raised in the Bay Area. Her parents are African-American and white, and she has one younger brother. She shared a Christmas tradition she remembers from when she was a child, that she still practices today when she’s home for Winter Break.

AH: My brother and I always take turns choosing from our nutcracker ornaments to put on the tree. I always kinda thought that we considered it bad luck to not put them up, uh, but now that I think about it I’m sure it just started because my mom didn’t want my brother and I to fight over who got to put what ornament on the tree (laughs). They’re like made of glass and come in a wooden box with a certificate of authenticity and I know she got them as like a family heirloom type thing, probably because she had a bunch of ornaments my grandma gave to her. Anyways, I don’t really know the origin or anything…but it’s fun! It’s just something that I always think of fondly when I think of Christmas, which is cute. We always do it as the last thing too, so like, once we’re both done taking turns it feels like it’s officially the holidays.

Me: Do you still do this every year?

AH: Yes (laughs), even though we’re all older now it’s just for fun. It is a kind of ritual for us, probably.

This piece of folklore is one that is very specific to AH’s family, however, as she was telling me this, I realized that my brothers and I also did something similar as kids, probably for the same reason of my parents not wanting us to fight over who got to do what. It’s very cute that something that may begin in childhood like this can become so significant in a person’s memories. The fact that AH created her own sort of superstition related to this practice (connecting bad luck to the ritual of putting up ornaments) shows us how significant these traditions become over time.