Stuff I like about my parents’ house #6: seventy years’ worth of Christmas tree decorations

On Wednesday, as I mentioned, I was up in Edinburgh decorating Mum and Dad’s house for Christmas.  My favourite part of doing Christmas decorations is always the tree, and Mum and Dad’s tree is extra especially awesome because the decorations are so old.  I love old things!

Christmas tree 2018
Seventy years in the making.

It is beyond argument that I get my hoarding tendencies from Dad’s side of the family.  Mum actually chucks things out.  Thankfully for this post, Christmas tree decorations are an exception, and so we have an entire family collection going back to the 1940s.  This means that, barring unforeseen circumstances, when I’m in my sixties I will own an entire century’s worth of Christmas tree decorations!  I feel slightly giddy at the prospect.

Let’s go through some of the collection!

1940s

These pretty baubles with the indents were on Granny and Grandad MacLeod’s tree for Mum’s first Christmas in 1949.  We have three of them.  We did have four, but I ate one in 1986.  I will tell you the fantastic story of this tasty, tasty bauble another time!

1950s

Our tree topper is a bride doll called Myra, which Mum received as a fourth birthday present in 1953.  Her bouquet is a cake decoration, her veil is a handkerchief, and her hair is a bit of Granny MacLeod’s old hairnet!  She’s not looking too shabby considering her age.

Most of the decorated glass baubles on the tree date from Mum’s childhood in the 1950s.  The decoration on them is really gorgeous and intricate in a way that’s not really done anymore, and there are some really interesting shapes.

1960s

These two large baubles were bought by Granny MacLeod when Mum was a teenager.  I always hang them on the top branches ’cause they balance out the sparser bit of the tree nicely.

1970s

These silver and red glitterball baubles were a later addition to Granny MacLeod’s collection.

These cellophane baubles were bought by Dad when he moved into his first flat in Edinburgh in 1978.  Most of them are a bit worse for wear, because when we had our cat, José, I used to put them at the bottom of the tree so he’d have ornaments to rip down that weren’t the precious mid-century glass baubles.  Cats and Christmas trees aren’t the greatest of mixtures.

1980s

We’ve had these cloth octagons with angels on since probably the early ’80s, since I don’t remember a Christmas without them.  They’re not much to look at, but they’re perfumed, and the perfume is absolutely DIVINE – it’s the ultimate smell of Christmas for me, really primal, as it’s been a scent associated with our Christmas tree since I was born.  Dad doesn’t like them, so I always put them round the back of the tree where I know I can go have a sniff whenever I like!

This wooden teddy bear was a gift from Sheila and Jim next door for my first Christmas in 1985.

Every year in the late ’80s, my Cooke grandparents, Grandad and Anne, would bring a homemade decoration each for me and my brother Malcolm, either knitted or embroidered by Anne.  I always still put these on the ‘correct’ side of the tree – we each had a side of the tree that was our own when we were little!

Mum’s friend Judy sent this gorgeous metal decoration in 1989.

1990s

We’ve had a bit of a Canadian theme going with our tree decorations since long before we acquired my Canadian sister-in-law Steff.  This teddy bear decoration was one we bought on a trip to New Brunswick in 1994.  It was the first time any of us had ever seen an all-year-round Christmas shop, so we had to go in and buy a decoration!

My step-auntie Elaine gave us this pretty delicate gold ornament from Turkey some time in the ’90s.  There’s also a rectangular one in the same material with a heart pattern.

This globe bauble – another nice big bauble for near the top of the tree – was a gift from Grandad and Anne.  I can’t remember exactly where in the world it came from though!

I bought this glitterball bauble in Jenners in Princes Street in 1999 for the small artificial tree in my bedroom, which was all silver that year for the Y2K theme.  One of the many endearing things about the 20th century was that silver = the future.  When I think of 1999, I just remember all my makeup being silver and plum and ice blue, and every piece of clothing I bought that year being shiny and metallic and in similarly cool colours.

2000s

Our family friend Billy brought us this souvenir from the Empire State Building in the early ’00s.

We have oodles of these felt things – they were an advent calendar gift from Mum’s friend Elisabet in 2006.  There were so many that Mum gave some to me for my own tree and so I’ll be putting them up in Newcastle this weekend!

I bought this ‘gift’ for José in the late ’00s.  It didn’t have catnip in it, so he wasn’t that interested.  There’s also a ‘Special Dad’ one for Dad that matches it!

We have quite a lot of wooden ornaments from more recent times.  This one was bought by Mum and Dad in the Munich Christmas market in 2009.

2010s

Continuing with the Canadian theme, Geth brought this maple leaf back from Toronto in 2010.

Geth and I brought this Guinness bauble back from a trip to Dublin in 2012.  It has its own fancy box!  It’s another one that I hang at the top of the tree.

Mum and Dad bought this pretty wooden snowman ornament in Liverpool in 2014.

Also in 2014, Anne gave Steff this owl ornament (Steff likes owls).  Steff keeps it in Edinburgh as her ‘Edinburgh owl’.

In 2017, Dad, who has really got into Scandi stuff in the last few years, bought this ‘tomten’ in Sweden – apparently it’s a traditional Christmas decoration there.

Also in 2017, Steff’s parents Mike and Antoniette gave us a couple of silver decorations, including this pretty treble clef.

There are so many more, but this is a good selection of highlights!  If the family acquires any more during Christmas 2018, I’ll make sure to tell you about them.

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