Sometimes I see photos of gorgeous Christmas trees with color themes or collections of exquisitely-designed ornaments and I think maybe someday I’ll get one little extra tree, maybe hide it away in the bedroom or something, and hang it with sapphire glass balls and white lights and some sort of topper purchased from the Garnett Hill catalog and it will be SO PRETTY but also untouchable and delicate and oh who am I kidding I’ll never really do this.

Our actual Christmas tree is best viewed from afar because once you get close enough to identify all the objects on the branches it sort of looks like we decorated it by dragging it through a thrift store.

For instance, this classy plastic keychain:

orn_keychain

The back says “Harbour Cruise-Bauhinia Hong Kong” and we got it as a tourist tchotchke when we toured Victoria Harbour by boat ten years ago or so.

There’s this goofy photo:

orn_2003

All I know is that it’s from 2003, but I can’t remember why we were dressed up or had our picture taken. Company holiday party, maybe? (Say, what do you like better, the giant skunk stripe through my hair, or JB’s chops?)

These ornaments remind me of the tiny Orcas Island church we got married in:

orn_church

I don’t know why I love this weird fungus-house thing, but I do:

orn_house

Did you know that if someone gives you a “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament, you are contractually obligated to hang it?

orn_1st

Even if the photo you include is terrible and the ornament itself is painfully hideous?

Poor Dog. Not only did she get stuck in a blindingly cheesy array of plastic crystals, the clumsy Photoshop job I did on her years ago makes her look like Ghost Dog, Peering Sorrowfully from the Great Beyond.

orn_dog

Flimsy sharp-edged vanity license plates for the kids purchased on a business trip to San Francisco?

orn_license

Check.

Awkward family photo that I clearly stuffed in the frame before the printer ink had completely dried?

orn_2008

Check.

And, of course, the tree topper that’s never been a star or an angel but rather, a compass:

orn_compass

Do you have oddball things on your Christmas tree? Tell me all about them, please. I love those immaculately-styled trees but I love the slightly-hoopty family memento trees even more.

PS: Just for my friend Jennifer, a brief appearance from the Holiday Pooping Sheep:

sheep

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g~
g~
11 years ago

Yes. YES! Dragging it through the thrift store=perfect description of my tree. Cheap hate-Mart fugly-ass bear ornaments from when we were broke and couldn’t afford more? CHECK. Hand-crocheted (by my grandma) photo-frame ornaments with a picture of me mostly naked as a baby? CHECK. Foam-crap ornaments made by my (then) preschoolers? CHECK. Love them all.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

Unfortunately, we have zilch in the kiddo department so no “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornaments. We have cats, so I actually have an ornament to remember each of their first Christmas’s with the family and also these salt ornaments with their paw print smashed in it. Other than that, just a hodge podge of crap collected over the years.

Michelle M.
Michelle M.
11 years ago

My favorite (and most odd) things on our tree have all been handmade by one of the children. We’ve got a spider made out of a spool and some pipe cleaner that is pretty awesome. And the tree topper is a glitter encrusted paper star glued to an empty toilet paper roll. My parents STILL hang on their tree a picture of my brother running down the hallway naked and a picture of me and my date on prom night. So weird just runs in my family.

Michelle M.
Michelle M.
11 years ago

Perhaps I should have clarified the picture of my naked brother was taken when he was very small. Because I just read my comment and it gave “weird family” a whole new level of ick. Ha!

Tessa
Tessa
11 years ago

We have ornaments I bought for the tree I hoped to have with my first husband but we never got to have one of our own before he passed away, sesame street characters crocheted by my grandma 30 years ago, and a Troy Aikman figurine.

Bruja
Bruja
11 years ago

I love trees like yours. There is a story behind each ornament, and no one else has them. The trees you see that are color coordinated and “tasteful” are pretty, but completely uninteresting because they are devoid of personality.

Leah
Leah
11 years ago

We didn’t think about a tree topper when we bought our first tree, so we ended up with a plastic white rat with red hearts painted on him ( a weird Valentine’s day gift that happened to still be on the bookcase next to the tree come December), and now every year, ‘Love Rat’ has continued to be our topper, and probably will be in perpetuity. Our cat stares at him in disgust and consternation all throughout December.

Margaret
Margaret
11 years ago

Oh, our tree is All Hoopty, All The Time, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Lots of handmade-by-the-kid stuff, or quirky stuff I’ve found at after-Christmas sales.

sooboo
11 years ago

Ghost dog is the saddest/funniest thing I’ve seen this holiday. I have one ornament that a photo of my nephew dressed up as a Christmas tree looking super pissed.

Wizzie
Wizzie
11 years ago

I remember when my husband and I decorated our first Christmas tree together- he was reassure of my insanity! The mish-mash of items I pulled out astounded him. My favorites- a styrofoam cup with a piece of ribbon wrapped around it and a pipe cleaner looped at the top to somewhat make it look like a bell that I; a plastic apple core that I got out of a bubble gum machine as a kid and used to wear ALL THE TIME as a necklace; a tea strainer painted with red nail polish and decorated with green felt to look like a strawberry. We used to make ornaments each year when I was growing up so our tree is covered with random odd things.

Angella
11 years ago

I have a weird fungus-house thing that I love, too. I’m pretty sure there’s a photo or five of it on Flickr.

Aimee
11 years ago

Ours are all sentimental – handmade by kids, or reeking of the 70’s, birds with broken tails…many nice ones, too, but none of them match!

Laura
Laura
11 years ago

About six or seven years ago my Mom started doing colour themes on our Christmas trees, alternating between red/gold and blue/silver. Of course, once you get within two feet of the tree you can see the myriad of ornaments from my and my sister’s childhood that absolutely have to go on the tree every year and which never ever match the colour scheme. Poor Mom.

souphead
11 years ago

for the longest time we used my stuffed Opus from Bloom County as a tree topper. Then one year it was just gone. We still have lots of old ornaments from our childhood at mom’s, but nothing super special.
(I can’t believe I found this – http://www.gasolinealleyantiques.com/cartoon/images/opus/opus-xmasballs.JPG)

This year we got our first tree of our own for the baby (5 months old) and I realized i had about a half dozen assorted ornaments we’d gotten as gifts from the year we got married. i got a “baby’s first xmas” ornament made and someone bought us one. then i had to go to the wholesale club and buy a giant vat of matching ornaments to fill the tree. it’s not horrible, but i hope to fill it with more memories as the years pass.

Sheryl
Sheryl
11 years ago

We always position a mummy ornament (WTF?) so that it looks like it’s standing over a jesus-in-a-manger ornament my daughter made when she was 4.

Francesca
11 years ago

Oy. We had popsicle-stick sleighs, various created-by-me works of “art”, and my mom’s favorite: a red styrofoam apple ornament with a tiny ring of teeth marks gnashed into it because apparently at age 3, I didn’t know what a real apple looked like.

Jenny
11 years ago

We have a plastic canvas mailbox from my childhood. I have no idea where it came from. But my now six-year-old daughter thinks it’s the shiznit. She lovers to open the door and stuff notes inside. Which is probably exactly what I used to do.

Courtney
11 years ago

The first year of their marriage, my parents realized that they had no Christmas ornaments. Since then, they’ve purchased an ornament for my sister and I every year. I received my collection, gift wrapped and all, as a wedding gift in 2010.

My husband and I try to buy an ornament as a souvenir when we travel. And I still give an ornament to all of my family members over the holidays. I like trees with stories.

H
H
11 years ago

Our tree is also a random mixture of ornaments. Some are a “collection” (a rather ugly one, at that) of birds that I received as gifts each Christmas when I was young. My kids have a love-hate relationship with those. We also hang the sprayed-macaroni ornaments, the ugly cheap gifted ornaments including some crocheted snowflakes that I received as a gift in 1977, the stuffed Happy Meal ornaments that play music if you squeeze them — you get the idea. Our tree has no topper because nothing fits (we have a pre-lit artificial tree that always goes in the same spot in the living room). I love knowing that others have trees like ours.

Oh, we also have some of those Hallmark sports ornaments my mom gave our son — Joe Montana, Magic Johnson, etc.

kim
kim
11 years ago

We have an assortment of handmade ornaments from when we couldn’t afford to buy nice ones. We also used a Pittsburgh Steelers logo ornament as our tree topper this year. Fancy we are not, but I like it!

Betsy
11 years ago

Our tree topper is the elf hat I made for our son when he was a baby. It totally doesn’t fit the rest of the tree, but that’s why I like it there.

Gigi
11 years ago

Check to all of those. We actually have about 4 or 5 Baby’s First Christmas ornaments. . . .we only had one baby. They are all pretty bad – especially the pink one….since we had a boy. But they all go one the tree every year.

Belle
Belle
11 years ago

After 40 years of marriage and having a mother that saved everything, our tree has bits of assorted ornaments that represent my whole life, and our children’s lives. Adult daughter looks every year to make sure I hang those weird Avon gingerbread men that had pink fake icing on them that my Grandmother gave us when she was a baby.

Hodge-podge, yes, but all in all, the tree still looks great. The only thing I’ve never done is have ornaments with our photos, like you do, and I have no idea why I never thought of that.

I think those beautifully decorated ones are great for the mall, but not in my house. Yet. :)

NancyJ
NancyJ
11 years ago

My favorite items on my tree include the cardboard star painted gold with gold elbow macaronis on it and attached to the back is a toilet paper tube to stick it on the top of the tree and any ornament ,y son mad when he was young.

Di
Di
11 years ago

At my wedding shower, my mother gave me a box of all the Christmas ornaments from her tree that she knew I liked best. Some are genuinely lovely – like some of my grandmother’s depression-era ones, or hand-beaded by my great aunt. Others are ones we just loved, like Captain Picard. The rest are ones my husband and I have collected with the holes filled in by plain colored bulbs we bought when a local discount chain went belly up.

chelsea
chelsea
11 years ago

Heh. That card behind the sheep was the layout we used this year too, except ours was the horizontal view. Costco ftw.

Kristin
Kristin
11 years ago

Dog looks like she could be in A Christmas Carol. Love your tree!

alyn
alyn
11 years ago

I have a fantasy about one day having a totally matchy-matchy Christmas tree – WITH A THEME!

Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.

Jennifer
Jennifer
11 years ago

Hoopty trees are the best! We have a baby’s first Christmas also, as well as handmade wooden bones with our dogs’ names painted on them. Love it all!

nonsoccermom
11 years ago

We have an obscene amount of personalized ornaments. Ornaments with caricatures depicting the whole family (including the pets), several for each of my two children, one that commemorates our first Christmas as a married couple…it is really quite absurd. My mother-in-law has some sort of an obsession and while all of the ornaments are quite lovely (and pricey, I am sure) our tree is not 12 feet tall. We barely had room for them all this year. It’s a nice gesture, but WHO needs 5 different “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments – for EACH kid? I’m sure each of us will receive one (or more) this Christmas as well. Stop the madness, lady. Seriously.

Krista
Krista
11 years ago

Our favorite ornament is the tail (and only the tail) of our sock monkey. It’s hanging by its own string that used to attach it to itself.

Sharon
Sharon
11 years ago

I have a Fimo Clay (you know craft story harden in the oven clay) in the shape of a red Gumby pinhead (as in Hellraiser) that my husband made while we were dating at one of my college drinking/ornament making parties, an amazing Sierra Nevada bottle cap Christmas Ball that my friend Charles made and Jimi Hendrix! I love them all to death along with the lovely Chili Pepper ornaments my kids make at school every year!

KateMac
KateMac
11 years ago

I have some beautiful ornaments, but also some random ones, and I like it that way. I wouldn’t want one of those matchy-matchy trees, as beautiful as they are.

My best friend and I exchange ugly ornaments every year, so now my tree has several truly hideous ornaments. I think this year she outdid herself, though: it’s a big, pink fluffy poodle with crazy eyes. Words do not do this thing justice. I love it.

When I was at home, though, my favorite thing was the star my dad would make every year for the tree topper. He’d cut it out of cardboard and we’d cover it with foil. The first time he did it, I think we just couldn’t find the real star, but I loved it so much and he did such a beautiful job, that it became a tradition after that.

I was actually just thinking this year that I’d love to have one of my dad’s homemade stars as a tree-topper again. Ah, nostalgia.

Thursday
11 years ago

I adore your fungus house thing.
In my single, had-no-money days, I used to decorate my tree with all sorts of nonsense – crappy earrings I’d never wear, spoons, forks, small crackers I’d made out of the stack of film camera pots I’d collected over years of dope-smoking and all manner of tacky plastic stuff ripped off gift-wrappings. In recent years I’ve got a little (alot) precious about the tree, buying fancy glass baubles and am horrified if my husband even suggests he helps me decorate the tree. The fairy on top of the tree is, however, a true classic – she has a ragdoll air about her and has cardboard wings.

Jen_Ann_W
11 years ago

Our tree totally has a theme — if you consider “childhood memories” a theme. Not only things we’d made but miniatures of our favorite toys (and sometimes the toys themselves!). We have almost all of the Fisher Price ornaments that Hallmark has been doing, plus GI Joe action figures, Strawberry Shortcakes, both Beaker and the Swedish Chef… it’s so much fun! Our topper in years past has been the ugly-ass plastic angel that my Mom passed down to me that was the one from my childhood, but it finally gave up the ghost during the unpacking process this year (“accidentally” of course) so we just have a big red bow. But I’m totally making a Super Mario Invincibility Star for next year.

lonek8
11 years ago

when my parents first got married my mom cut a star out of cardboard and covered it with tinfoil for their tree topper. now, 39 years later we still use it, and it still looks pretty good!

Karen
Karen
11 years ago

Ditto.
Even if I did want a more colour coordinated tree, I wouldn’t trade the fun of listening to the kids (now teenagers) decorating the tree together… laughing about when a certain angel was badly constructed in preschool, or the pine cones we spray painted in the no income years…. they have already started bickering over who gets what piece of tackiness when we shove off…. such Christmas spirit!

Christine
Christine
11 years ago

We just have a tee tiny tree currently decorated with fugly ass ornaments from Rite Aid, since we’re lazy and we don’t usually have Christmas.

Our tree growing up was much like yours though. Lots and lots of random ornaments. My favorites were always these old German made mushrooms…I don’t know why or where we got them but I loved them as a kid and I still do.

I can’t decide if ghost Dog is funny or heartbreaking, or just both. I hope you have a picture of her smiling face up there too!

Hope you and the family have a wonderful holiday!

Redbecca
Redbecca
11 years ago

We have one of those infant bath mitts as our tree-topper because it is Cookie Monster, and Kiddo LOVES all things Cookie Monster. http://www.bonanza.com/listings/Sesame-Street-Bath-Set-Wash-Mitt-Washcloths-Cookie-Monster/36410979
We’ve had it there for the last 2-3 years. When I go into stores and look at other tree toppers I think “I should find something classier than this” but alas, I think I’m starting to prefer the bath mitt!
I also have enough Duran Duran ornaments (yes, you read that correctly) to decorate a small tree but don’t trust my family or cats enough to decorate with them yet!

MRW
MRW
11 years ago

I always wonder if any “real” people have Christmas trees that look like the ones in catalogues. I grew up in a house with a hoopty tree and my kids are doing the same. Tons of our ornaments were made by my mom and I made when I was 3. They are made of felt and sequins and are virtually indestructible. Many more of our ornaments are the contractually obligated Baby’s First Christmas and things made by the kids kind. Some of our ornaments are very lovely classy ones that my MIL gives us every year (probably in an effort to class up our tree) but when space is limited, we end up putting up the sentimental if silly ornaments rather than the classy ones.

Christie
11 years ago

We have quite a mix. For a few years I had a lovely silver and red themed tree. Now? Still have the silver/red thing going, along with my husband’s granny’s antique glass ornaments, along with whatever people have given us over the years, along with stuff the kids have made (pipecleaner ornaments FTW!), and as a special addition this year… the kids have made lego ornaments. I especially enjoy the foot long lego santa in his lego sleigh, being pulled by all his lego reindeer, and led triumphantly by lego rudolph! We have a small tree this year, but we fully loaded it with every darn ornament and light we could find. I say it every year, but I really think this year’s tree is my favourite!

Kath
11 years ago

All my ornaments are in storage and we are without a tree this year. We have the assortment of weird ornaments that have been collected over the years, but my favourite is the old fashioned key tied with a red ribbon. It is the key to our long gone cottage. I love it.

Rachel
Rachel
11 years ago

My tree topper for years was a bright red fez with a yellow tassel, it was weird, but I liked it and I kind of miss it. Our topper now is a much classier antique brass star.

We have ornaments from my great-grandmother and my parents, some are treasures, like the beaded bell my great-grandmother made and the blown glass balls that still get stored in their increasingly decrepit box from 1960-whatever. Others are plastic crap from the 70s and 80s which, though cheap, I am still passionately sentimental about. Most of them have moving parts and necessitate complex safety arrangements to keep them from cats and small children. They are dime-store ugly, but they bring me back to some good years from my early childhood before my dad got sick and we stopped celebrating occasions.

Rebecca (Bearca)
11 years ago

We have seriously the most hoopty-ass tree EVER but I love it. It’s like a preschool art class threw up in a pine forest!

But in all seriousness, my faves are the handprint ornament that my 3yo’s daycare made, and the hand-crocheted snowflakes that my grandmother made before she died. I have kept the original box and the note she wrote when she sent them, and I read it every year and think of her.

Amelia
Amelia
11 years ago

Years ago, my parents owned a seaside motel and some marketing consultant convinced them to choose a “theme” around which to build their marketing campaign – and that theme was rubber duckies. They put them in the rooms, on the breakfast bar, at the front desk… everywhere. And so, people started gifting them and the ENTIRE FAMILY (because we all loved duckies by proxy, right?) rubber duckies of all sorts. I cannot convey the sheer depth to which the duckies invaded our lives, and I was glad when they outlined a new campaign with significantly less kitsch. However, I still have at least three small duckies-with-santa hats ornaments on my tree to this day.

Dana
11 years ago

Dog looks like an homage to Rudolph.

Sad Rudolph.

telegirl
telegirl
11 years ago

Our tree is also a mish-mash of many different items, but I love it. I’ve always thought the carefully thought-out, well-designed, thematic trees were beautiful but, honestly, do you think they bring a tear to anyone’s eyes when they look at the ornaments? Or a laugh for all the memories? My Mom has gifted us an ornament every year since as far back as I can remember and we always open it on Christmas Eve. What was really touching is that she picked an ornament that truly meant something so I can see them and say, “That squirrel holding a jingle bell was to commemorate when I ran my first Seattle Jingle Bell Run” or some tropical fish to remember my first (and only… sigh) trip to Kauai with my now husband. I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I do the same for my children now. And, it has the added advantage that when they move out on their own, they have their own sentimental ornaments that they can enjoy with their families and tell all the stories of their childhood.

Boy, do the holidays make me sappy! :)

Mary
Mary
11 years ago

My daughter’s birthday is right before Christmas, and when her party’s over, she likes to hang her party hats on the tree. This year’s theme: Monkeys!

Andrea
11 years ago

Wish I could post pics of our hoopty tree. Crafts from daycare, R2D2, various nursing-theme ornaments from coworkers and way back in nursing school. A felt TARDIS and a felt Dalek, I think it may even have glitter on it. Some felt Santa heads I don’t remember where they came from but they’re in the Xmas box so on the tree they go. There’s a glass pickle, and various ornaments of characters from A Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (I like the Bumble.)

We’re fixing to add some hand-painted and glittered salt-dough ornaments later today courtesy of my three-year-old.