Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar - Christmas Tree Ornaments

My mom is really creative, so growing up we crafted a variety of homemade Christmas Tree ornaments. We put a few on our tree, but we gave most of them as Christmas presents. My mom's mother and grandmother were usually the recipients of these gifts.

Mom's grandmother passed away when I was in grade school and Mom's mother passed away a few years ago. When we went through Grandma's things, we found she had kept everything we had made for her. She also had everything we had made for her mom.

One of the ornaments was Baby Jesus in a Manager. It was made from a walnut shell, cotton ball and a match. A piece of flannel was wrapped around the match and it became the baby when we added eyes with an ink pen. You can tell from the picture that a preschooler made the eyes.

The cotton ball and the walnut shell formed the manger. We decorated it with plastic chips and coated it with Mod Podge. It is still shiny and has lost a chip or two, but it's in good shape for being over forty years old.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Advent Calendar - Holiday Food - Honey Baked Ham

When I was about twelve, my dad discovered HoneyBaked Ham. Ham was always the centerpiece of our Christmas dinner. Before the advent of the HoneyBaked Ham, I remember a canned ham, scored, stuck with cloves and a pineapple slice or two. But that all changed with the HoneyBaked Ham.

I don't know how my dad first heard about HoneyBaked Ham, but he was always the kind of person who was on the quest for the newest, best, most unique of everything. He had a calculator before anyone else we knew, when they were still very expensive and on the cutting edge of technology. So, it was not surprising that dad decided the centerpiece of our holiday meal would be a ham that could not be purchased in our local grocery store.

My dad was always a last-minute person, and on this first HoneyBaked Ham holiday, he proved to be no different. On Christmas eve he announced we were traveling 50 miles north to the capital city of Columbus to purchase our holiday ham.

It was snowy as we piled into the old yellow VW bug to make the trip North. The temperature had dropped to well below freezing and the drive to Columbus was chilly because the Volkswagen's heater wasn't working. Good thing we were bundled up and four of us in the little car provided a lot of body heat.

When we arrived at the HoneyBaked Ham store we were shocked to see a long line trailing out of the store, down the sidewalk and wrapping around the little strip mall. My dad, my sisters and I took turns standing in line entertaining each other with stories until finally it was our turn to pick out our ham. After nearly 4 hours, we left with a football sized ham wrapped in festive purple and gold foil.

That ham cost a small fortune. On Christmas day it commanded special attention in the middle of the festive holiday table. It sat in a special HoneyBaked holder that allowed the meat to be pulled away from the bone neatly. Everyone at Christmas dinner believed it was worth every penny my dad had spent on it. The adults did, anyway - as kids we really didn't notice the difference.

Today, I can go to my local Kroger's store during the holidays and purchase a HoneyBaked Ham, not as memorable as our Christmas Eve trip - but the taste of HoneyBaked does bring back memories.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar - Our Aluminum Christmas Tree

"Whether you decorate with blue or red balls . . . or use the tree without ornaments - this exquisite tree is sure to be the talk of your neighborhood. High luster aluminum gives a dazzling brilliance. Shimmering silvery branches are swirled and tapered to a handsome realistic fullness. It's really durable . . needles are glued and mechanically locked on. Fireproof . . you can use it year after year."--Sears 1963 Christmas Book

My first memory of a Christmas tree is from when I was a preschooler. The tree was bright shiny silver and made from aluminum tinsel. It sat in our living room in front of one of the windows by the tiny black and white TV. The tree in the picture is very much like the one I remember. 
Aluminum Tinsel-Tree
I couldn't tell you what kind, if any, ornaments were hanging on the tinsel tree. They weren't the magical part of it - the magic was in the special way the tree was lit. Because the tree was aluminum, traditional Christmas lights couldn't be used due to the possibility of creating a short-circuit and causing a fire. So, the tree was lit from below by a color-wheel. 

Vintage Color-Wheel

The color-wheel was a special fixture that projected light on the tree. A circle made from different colored plastic rotated in front of the light, casting colors onto the aluminum branches. My little sister and I would sit in front of the tree and watch as the tree changed from red, to green, to yellow, then blue. It was hypnotic, and we were a captive audience.