My Mother tells the story of my first Christmas tree every year.
I was a little over 2 years old, and she, wanting to provide me with the most amazing first memorable Christmas ever, stayed up ’till the wee hours decorating my first Christmas tree. She expected me to be thrilled and amazed at how stunning it was. I didn’t quite have that reaction of awe-struck wonderment that she was expecting. Instead, when I looked over her decorating…I proceded immediately to correct all her mistakes. I removed every ornament I could reach, I was only 2 after all, and rehung them in what was certainly a much more pleasing configuration.
My mother had no idea that would want to help decorate. She knew then that I was “different” and should probably be included in the ritual of the Christmas tree decorating.
And from then on, I was.
Eventually, I appointed myself “Chief Executor” of the family tree; deciding when to erect her (the day after Thanksgiving, of course), where the best placement in the family living room was (in front of the windows so the neighbors could enjoy her as well), and most importantly, where each individual ornament was hung. Last year I posted about the job of putting-up the family Christmas tree.
It’s 40 years later and it still means the world to me to assemble/arrange/install/decorate my Christmas tree…..and to layer it with the memories I’ve collected all my life.
Here is that process shared with you kind folks.
She looks like a pear-shaped corpse about to be dumped in a ravine by the mob when we first pull her out of the garage and stand her up in the whiskey barrel.
Yepp! Whiskey Barrel this year…we thought we’d take a break for the galvanized wash tub, and try something new.
Something else new this year is the topper.
Target had these cool retro-ish light-up star toppers for 5 bucks each.
We thought they were kinda fun. So we bought 2 red ones, one for the front…..and one for the back. Since we set her up in the living room window this year, I thought passers-by would see the back side of the tree top through the window.
Obviously I was wrong.
She looks more like a proper tree once she is fluffed and all the burned out bulbs are replaced…….
There is a bubbler on the tip of every branch. I buy a few replacement bubblers packs every year. I used to find them cheap at Target (The “Grand PooBah” of necessity stores), but not anymore, only online, and 20 bucks a pack. SHeeesh
This year I found them online at Boscov’s. I’ve never heard of them either. But they have bubblers, and cheaper than Target. They are also available at Ace Hardware, same price.
Glass bead garlands are draped, and draped, and draped….
Last year Jamie restrung some garlands that we picked up at Restoration Hardware after Christmas the year before. He added bugle beads and mixed the colors on every strand. SO we have plenty.
The ornaments take the longest time.
I’ve been collecting German, Polish, Czech and Italian glass ornaments for about 20 years now. Most of them are Christopher Radko. He revived the dead industry of European glass ornament making and I’m pretty drawn to the ornaments that use vintage molds. I mostly find them on eBay all year long, when they are the cheapest. When they arrive I quickly stash them away. Pulling everything out the day after Thanksgiving is always a treat to see which ones are new.
Mosly there are Santas, snowmen, Mickey & Minnie, cowboys, indians, story book characters, bears and dogs.
As I unbox each one, and unwrap it from the bubble wrap cocoon, I fill mixing bowls with them to load on the tree….squeezing the biggest ones into the branches.
…and adding more,
and even more,
The top gets a headdress of vintage glass bead spikes….I’m not really sure what they are, but they go on top.
The final step ia a layer of tinsel icicles. That’s right. Tinsel Icicles.
“Do they even make that stuff anymore?”, you may ask.
Yes, yes they do.
Here’s a shot of the seldom seen living room…
you are AMAZING Mr. Jim! I’m so impressed by your tree every single year. I love love love it!
AAWWWW, thanks Joni.
Aww shucks, wish we had the height you have!!! THAT is stunning
I found your blog recently and so far, I love everything you do. Your tree does not disappoint! It is stunning. Looks like the professional desplays I see in NYC department stores.
Awww, you are so sweet! Thanks! 20 years ago I worked for Macy’s and we had a team of Polish professional tree trimmers – they showed me quite a few pointers that have used ever since. Glad we aren’t disappointing you!
How fabulous! But then, it would be! I love the whiskey barrel idea. Wow.
I’m diggin the whisky barrel too, not sure where to keep it the rest of the year…it’s been in the back of my Jeep since August
I adore your tree! I’m extra partial, because growing up we had a retro star tree topper like that, and we always had bubble lights (which are still so nostalgic for me, nothing like them!) and my Mom also collected German glass ornaments ( I just picked up a pair of cowboy boots to send to her). Your tree is like coming home! Although I love your addition of the whiskey barrel and the silver tinsel, truly beautiful!!
AAAWWW Thanks Ashlee, My friend Toni has a pretty similar tree to mine…she grew up with all those things too (she’s the one who got me hooked on the tinsel)
Absolutely Amazing!!! You can come decorate my tree whenever you wish……..:)
Thanks Karen, I’ll be right over , right after I finish all our projects…probably in January (hehe)
AMAZING! Love it! What a spectacular tree. 🙂
Aww stop! Wait 20 years and yours will be covered with more ornaments than you know what to do with too…..BTW…LOVE your little “Readers Digest” tree! I think they would make excelent gifts!
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That is so gorgeous!!!!!
I just found your blog and I love your tree!! I can’t say I am anywhere near the amount of Radko ornaments you have. Can I ask how many strands of beaded garland you use to get that look? I would love to have this full look on my own tree this year.
Hi Kevin. I’ve been collecting Radkos for over 25 years now. I still pick up about 10 a year, although there’s hardly anyplace to hang them now. I think I have about 40 garlands, most about 6 foot long. I restring vintage glass beads with newer beads all the time, some are even plastic. I’m going for a look, not a pedigree.
Wait till you see it this year. I’ll post a house tour if I get my ass in gear in time.