For the past decade, my sister and I have been churning out Christmas Cheer at a surprising rate, creating one of my absolute favorite holiday traditions. This tradition is handmade ornaments, and it usually starts right after Thanksgiving and sometimes goes up until Christmas Day. It started with one handmade ornament back in 1999, and then it led to just a few more every year. Now our Christmas Cheer output is surprisingly massive, even though we both are quite a bit busier now than we were over a decade ago. Unfortunately, a good deal of our Christmas Cheer is also nearly impossible for me to part with, which means my Christmas bins runneth over each and every December. Since my sister has never owned a Christmas tree, it means that I also am storing all of her handmade ornaments in my collection and get to hang them on my tree each year. Of course, this also means that my tree has an alarming number of ornaments on it, and each one is incredibly special to me. In fact, I remember a time in which I dearly loved my Hallmark ornaments and cherished each one from my childhood. Now, I’m at the point where there are a few beloved store-bought ornaments on my tree and the rest are exclusively handmade. Not only does this make decorating and admiring the tree that much more special, it also means that you really can’t help but pass it without a great memory coming to you. This is especially true in the past few years when we graduated from the basic ornaments we used to create and began to create ornaments that represented something important from the year prior. As a mother, this means that I now have dozens and dozens of ornaments dedicated to my children and their favorite things each Christmas, which, as you can imagine, makes them impossible to even consider parting with. This year I focused on some toys that my daughter played with all year long, including her Step2 Workbench and a suction cup bobble head alien (AKA “Kooky Guy”) that we got out of the grab bin at a local restaurant. For my son I created his special Steiff Dragon that he came home from the hospital with. Besides being really fun to make miniature versions of their favorite things and then to show to my adoring daughter (“look, it’s my____! Good job, mama!”) these ornaments also have a very practical function as well – they make me less sentimental about the actual life-sized toy. This means she can lose her “Kooky Guy” or outgrow her workbench and I can still have the memories of her playing with those toys during her childhood. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory. I still know that it’s going to be hard to part with some of their toys, the ones that I have the best memories of them adoring especially, but I figure that having a miniature version should make it easier. Of course, this doesn’t apply to really sentimental things like the Steiff Dragon, because in cases like that both the ornament and the item become keepsakes. But, for big and bulky items, it certainly would be easier to store a 2″ ornament than a child-sized play kitchen! I’m still assuming the toy donation process will be painful for all, but at least our memories will always have a place of honor every Christmas on our tree. … Or, should I say “trees”, because there is absolutely no way that we are going to ever be able to fit all our ornaments on one single tree after a few more years of ornament making! If you would like to start this tradition, you can pick up oven baked clay at just about any craft store. We’ve started adding beads, marbles, small metal do-dads, and other accessories to our ornaments a few years back and I really like including materials that you don’t pick up and think “ornament” automatically. Every year we usually pick up one or two items at the craft store when we replenish our clay collection and that’s what helps kick-start the creative process. One side note: The traditional clay compound is a brand called FIMO, but I found that the softer and more pliable Scupley is easier to work with. There are also many generic forms of oven baked clay to choose from, so you can often find it on sale during the year. If you are creating with kiddos (and you should! They love it!) the more pliable clay is also better for them to work with because it doesn’t crumble as easily.