My Dad has been making a new Christmas ornament in his little workshop every year for the last 35+ years. He actually makes about 80 of one design, all by hand. He used to make about 90-100 copies, but a few years ago, he decided to downsize a bit and cap his output to 80.
These are not sold in any store; Dad has given them all away as gifts since he started making them. The idea is incredible to think of, in this day and age where everyone is monetizing in some way. My sister and I joke that Dad is like the family Santa.
This year’s ornament is a tiny sled made from individually cut and stained pieces of wood. To make the curve in the sled, Dad wrapped the end around a PVC pipe. Every one of his ornaments has a little Dad magic in it, too – I’m always shocked that he can churn out dozens of these mini works of art, and still do his day job.
To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact year he started the ornament tradition, but I do remember the first two years it was a family affair. The very first year (before my sister was born), we used old-fashioned clothes pins, and made soldiers, complete with pom-poms on top. I enjoyed painting them like British redcoats. The following year, we made sleds out of popsicle sticks, and painted them. Those were rudimentary compared to this year’s model.
In the subsequent years, Dad took over the operation (the details on why are murky), but it meant that he was able to let his creativity shine, and use all the fancy tools in his workshop. He and Mom consulted on design ideas before he settled on one, and he kept it secret all year until the big reveal.
I have every one of his ornaments, of course; but many of the early ones are in the U.S., while I am here in Korea with the most recent 12-13 years’ worth of his creations.
All the subjects of his ornaments are secular – you won’t find a baby Jesus, Wise Men, or Biblical references among them. They are wholly accessible ideas regardless of religious affiliation; many of them are nostalgic, and some are adorably imbued with Californian flavor, such as the wine-cork bird of 2016, and the Santa deck chair of 2018.
I remember one year (at least 20 years back), he went a little crazy and whittled a set of flying geese, and hand-painted them all. I know it took him ages, because whittling is seriously old-school crafting genius. If I find a photo of it, I will post.
I also remember about ten years ago Dad suggested he might make just one more ornament that year, and then quit the operation. He may’ve felt overwhelmed, which is understandable, since he was making more than ever and there was some pressure to come up with a novel idea. The family protested mightily, so he decided to keep it up. It’s lucky for all of us, but especially my nieces, who are now at the age where Christmas is still something magical.
It takes a special kind of love to keep up this tradition year after year, with the only true reward for him being the gratitude and joy it creates in his circle of friends and family. I think of all our family traditions, this one most truly reflects the spirit of Christmas.
My tiny, plastic Christmas tree has been elevated to something special with Dad’s handmade ornaments. Primavera Yoda is presiding at the front this year.
My sister lives closer to my parents now, so I will have to have my details corrected about which ornaments were made in which year. When I get things straight, I’ll update the post.
Warm holiday wishes to all! And to all, a goodnight.