Preserving Memories: Christmas ornaments and cards

Preserving Memories: Christmas ornaments and cards

Creative ways to save and share your family history.

Get It Together

If you’re still searching for a New Year’s resolution, take note: The National Association of Professional Organizers has declared January National Get Organized Month. Putting your scrapbooking supplies in order might be the jump-start you need to get your family photos into albums. These tips will help you corral your paper stash:

Sort paper by size and type so little pieces won’t get lost, and delicate papers won’t get torn.

Discard scraps you know you’l never use. The best place for wrinkled, ripped or discolored pieces is the recycling bin.

Arrange your papers into different categories (for example, by color or pattern type) that make sense to you. Then it’l be easier to find the subtle parchment-y beige you have in mind for Grandma’s wedding portrait.

Don’t spread everything out — storing your paper in upright file folders or binders saves space. Creative Memories’ <www.> DecoFile folders ($15 for six) hold 12-inch-square sheets. The MemoryMate Paper Accordion ($6) holds up to 18 DecoFile folders.

Make toting pages and papers easy in Cropper Hopper’s <> Paper Envelope ($1.75). For heavy-duty help, the Paper Organizer ($6.99) can handle up to 100 sheets and the 12×12 Expo ($13.99) takes up to 200.


Card your relatives

Here’s a prime project for pack rats and recyclers: Turn your holiday gifts into personalized thank-you notes that double as keepsakes. Save pieces of unblemished wrapping paper (a few folds and taped corners are OK) and use them to decorate blank note cards and envelopes. I like to arrange strips of bold-colored gift wrap on cards and use matching squares to frame envelope address labels. For even more sentimental value, tuck a photo from your family’s holiday gathering inside the card.

Packs of blank note cards with envelopes are available at craft stores and retailers such as Dick Blick Art Materials ($5.29 for six, <>). For adhesive, I use a plain old acid-free clear glue stick (about $1). Your wrapping paper probably isn’t archival, so increase your card’s longevity with an acid-neutralizing spray such as Krylon’s Make It Acid-Free ($13.09, available at most craft stores).

Safe Keeping: Christmas ornaments

Decorated Christmas trees — the crux of many childhood holiday memories — weren’t a parlor staple until the mid-1800s. In fact, they were still rare enough in 1870s America that newspapers would announce which families in town had them.

But once the tree trend caught on, trimmings were both fanciful and frugal, handmade and store-bought. Gaudy Victorian Christmas trees bore colorful glass ornaments and chromo-lithograph (early color print) collages. During World War II, paper caps and hangers replaced ornaments’ metal ones, and glass balls went unsilvered.

If your ancestors passed such holiday treasures to you, don’t trap them in a Tupperware container for 10 months of the year. Follow these guidelines to ensure your ornaments bring joy for many Christmases to come:

Display: Place cotton batting or foam padding under your tree in case an ornament falls (you can cover it with a sheet or tree skirt). Check ornaments’ caps and hooks before hanging them to make sure they’re strong and securely fastened. You can wrap thin hooks around branches for support, or add new wire hooks.

Clean: After you take down the tree, clean your ornaments. Gently dry-dust old glass baubles, since detergents and even plain water can remove paint. For paper or cardboard surfaces, wipe off dirt with a slightly damp cloth, but to prevent warping, clean a small area at a time and let dry.

Archivists advise against washing antique fabric ornaments, including stiffened velvet and crocheted decorations — take dirty ones to a professional conservator for treatment. It’s OK to polish metal ornaments if they’re color-fast (test a tiny area to be sure). You can clean wax ornaments with warm water and a soft cloth, and if they’re bent out of shape, use a hair dryer on low to soften the wax and reshape it.

Pack: Once your decorations are dust-free, store them with care. Wrap each one in acid-free tissue paper, then place ornaments in a single layer in an acid-free box. Keep the box on a sturdy shelf, and just in case, don’t store heavy objects above it. Avoid areas with moisture and extreme temperatures — glass can crack if it’s moved suddenly from a cold environment to a hot one.

Holiday Helpers

Safeguard your ornaments with archival packing materials from a local supplier or these online stores:

In a Pickle

On Christmas morning, kids dash toward the tree to spot a little glass pickle among the branches. Whoever finds it first receives an extra gift and opens presents first. It’s an old German tradition, right?

Well, glass ornament production did begin in Germany — around the mid-1800s — and vegetable and fruit forms were popular tree trimmings from the get-go. But despite widespread belief the celebrated pickle search started in Deutschland, the tradition is largely unknown there, according to the country’s “Tagesschau” TV news program.

The tradition’s real origins remain unclear, but you’ll find theories at’s German myth site <>.

From the January 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine

Related Products

No Comments

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>