Christmas Ornament Expedition

We’ve just returned from our annual holiday trek to the German town of Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s a Christmas tradition we started when the kids were, well, babies really. We usually make the trip in the fall when the kids have one of those random “why are they off from school again?” days. They had one of those on Monday, so we hit the road early that morning.

Frankenmuth, Michigan is most famous for its Christmas store, Bronner's. The store is open all year and sells anything and everything Christmas. It’s a magical, sparkling fairyland to walk through, and we literally spend hours looking at everything each year.

Our tradition includes the opportunity for each child (& parent!) to select one and only one ornament to purchase for their very own. By the time our children are adults, they will each have at least 18 ornaments with which to decorate their own Christmas trees.

We were inspired to start the tradition when my husband and I were first married. We were about to celebrate our first Christmas together as a married couple, and we realized we didn’t own a single Christmas ornament between us. My in-laws were kind enough to share their abundant assortment. But if they hadn’t, we literally would have had nothing with which to decorate our first Christmas tree except some popcorn string.

I clearly recall our first family trip to Frankenmuth, and the very first ornament our daughter ever selected. It was (is) this hideous mouse lady dressed in a pink fluffy dress, Santa hat, and high heels. We all look at it now and laugh as we remember how her father and I tried so hard to talk her out of it, but she was not to be dissuaded. (A sign of that strong will which continues to flex its muscles today!)

When we started the tradition, we didn’t realize how the collection of ornaments for each child would ultimately be such a reflection of them. A chronicle of their transitioning interests as they’ve grown. Our daughter has moved from ballerina slipper ornaments to soccer cleats to colorful artistic fusions of blown glass. And our son’s choices have covered every sport he’s ever played, to airplanes, motorcycles, and cars he dreams of owning in the future.

We have other traditions to celebrate the holidays. But I love starting out the Christmas season with this one. And I love knowing that by the time our children are ready to leave home, they will each have a beautiful, meaningful array of ornaments with which to decorate their very own first Christmas trees.

What holiday traditions do you keep each year?

Image by: RcktmanIL


Unknown said...

I grew up and live in Frankenmuth... in fact I worked for Wally Bronner at one time. I think you have started a wonderful family tradition that will be treasured in years to come by your children. Great idea! Take it further and make a Heritage Makers book about the experience.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

What a small world, Jean! You actually worked for Wally Bronner--how cool! I'll have to check out the website you mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I heard one tradition where a a family had their kids make two ornaments a year. One, they put in a box. When the child became of age to have their own family, the parents gave the other ornament to the child to begin their tree. I thought it was a good idea.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Ooooh! I love that idea because the parents still get to have one ornament from their child for their own tree. Rats! Wish I would have heard of that one sooner.