Homemaking Miscellaneous

Keeping Ornament Heirlooms

I have a florist friend who believes Christmas ornaments are as disposable as fast-food sporks. You don’t keep them for the next time you have need. You get new. So every year she decides what her color theme will be and uses her florist connections to buy unbreakable ornaments in bulk. I’ll hand it to her, her tree is always gorgeously lavish. (The lime and copper theme a few years ago was stunning.) But her trees are also completely devoid of sentimentality. They could be the holiday centerpiece in the lobby of a bank, and that’s just the way she likes them.

Most of us do not buy a completely new set of Christmas ornaments each year. Over the years we amass a nostalgic collection of varying quality baubles. There’s the green-painted-puzzle-pieces-glued-into-a-wreath-shape that your kid made in 2nd grade, and the plastic Hallmark Charlie Brown ornament that reminds you of your favorite annual holiday program. And let’s not forget the brass heart stamped with “Victoria’s Secret” we got for free because we spent $50 there one year.

But our collections include another sort: fragile heirloom ornaments passed down from grandparents or parents, delicate hand-painted treasures made by artistic friends, and glass souvenirs from far-away places. Here are my three simple tips to make sure cherished ornaments, of any quality, survive to be passed down to the next generation:

  • Invest in plastic storage bins with cardboard partitions. Repurposing cardboard wine boxes – normally, I’m all for repurposing – is a mistake in this case. Since no one can resist stacking boxes, you run the risk of crushing the ornaments as the boxes degrade or, heaven forbid, mildew.
  • Blow them off with a hairdryer on a cool setting before packing. Ornaments collect dust hanging for weeks on a tree.
  • Pack strategically. Place delicate ornaments in the middle compartments and fill empty spaces with tissue paper saved from opened presents. Place unbreakable ornaments around the more vulnerable edges. (Regarding dough ornaments popular in the 1980s: They fall apart over time. There’s nothing to be done but bid the pieces adieu and move on with life.)