Holiday Memories via Shrinky Dinks, an Elf, and Baby Jesus

The Holidays are here! In my household, that means putting up a Christmas tree, hanging stockings on the mantle, and decking the halls in a simple yet festive style. My favorite part of the decorating is placing the ornaments on the Christmas tree. For me, it is not merely a task, it is a process. Removing the stored ornaments from their newspaper husks is like thumbing through an old photo album. Like a photograph, each bauble calls forth a memory from a special moment in time.

These ornaments were the result of an impromptu activity with my daughter (who was a preschooler at the time). After losing her interest in using the holiday cookie cutters on her Play-Doh, I pulled out construction paper, markers, and safety scissors. We traced the cookie cutter shapes onto the paper, cut them out, embellished them with glitter and google eyes and – Voila! – our gingerbread people were born:

This next homemade ornament has adorned my family’s Christmas trees since the late 1970s. It is one of many that my mom made from bread dough. I remember how good they smelled as they baked, and thinking it was a shame to coat a perfectly edible delight with shellac. My dad, who was not home when they were made, nearly broke a tooth when he snatched one up from the counter and took, or rather, tried to take a bite.

Another crafty trinket that earns a place on the tree each year is this one I made in second grade. I can recall sitting at my desk drawing on the Shrinky Dink plastic like it was yesterday. Shrinky Dinks were (and are) SO COOL! If you’ve never experienced Shrinky Dink fun, I urge you to go out and get a pack and some colored pencils. Watching your creations morph in the heat of an oven will thrill your inner seven year old. 🙂

The oldest ornament I have is one that has been placed within the branches of my family’s Christmas trees since the 1920s. It was acquired when my grandfather was just a child.

You’re all probably familiar with the Elf on the Shelf, right? Well, this little sprite was around long before that phenomenon. Instead of hanging him on the tree, my grandmother would set him in a little nook beside bakelite telephone.

Finally, my favorite ornament of all is this tiny plastic Nativity scene. My parents purchased it for their very first Christmas tree. When I was a little kid, we would nestle it in the base of the tree. I use to lie on my belly and look at it, imagining the tiny scene coming to life — kind of like Thumbelina meets The Nativity of Jesus. Nowadays, it is placed at the top just beneath the crowning star. It is the first ornament hung and the last one taken off.

Be it by the light of a Christmas tree, menorah, or kinara, as the flurry of activities inspired by the season swell to a crescendo, may we each take time to reflect on our blessings.

Wishing peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Leave a comment


  1. Blake, this was so fun! I love all of these (I laughed at your dad trying to eat the one ornament — that’d SO be my dad, too). I really like the one from the 1920s, too. That is so great that you have it. All my family’s ornaments have a history, too, like yours. Thank you for sharing a bit of yours, here. I’m glad you did.

    Also, SHRINKY DINKS! (Or SHRINKS SINKS, if my autocorrect is to be believed. *wink*)

    • So glad you enjoyed it and that you like the ornaments. Yep, my dad came in very late from work and snagged one of those teddy bear ornaments. After he nearly broke a tooth, he woke my mom to her what in the world was wrong with those cookies. 🙂

      If you make yourself some “Shrink Sinks” ;), be sure to share pictures!

  2. On this issue, I think I can speak for dads everywhere: Shellacking a perfectly good Christmas cookie is a cruel trick. Our minds are trained to see it as a delicious honey/sugar glaze! Great post that brought back a lot memories! (Except my family’s ornaments were an eclectic, tacky collection accumulated over about 40 years with no consistent theme other than it-was-in-the-box.)

  3. yes Yes YES!!! We are the SAME!!! I mean, our ornaments are alike, our tree-decorating strategies are alike, our love or ornament memories are alike! THE SAME!
    OMG, Shrinky Dinks!! I’ll bet those things are expensive now. And they were such a common household-with-children item back then. And then remember the edible ones? I don’t think they were made by the Shrinky Dink company, but were a similar idea only edible.
    The fact that you have an heirloom ornament is SO cool. Like, amazingly cool!

    We also had one of those little Elf not on the Shelf dudes when I was little so when Elf on the Shelf came out, I was all, “That’s not new, people. I don’t know why you think this is new. That guy lived at my grandmother’s house. Why are you rubes so impressed with this? It’s been around forever!” And no one believed me. But you understand because you have one of those guys, too! THE SAME!!!

    Ah, I love this post. I love that you linked this post to my post so that they can be together. It’s very Christmasy. ❤

    • simplyblake

       /  December 14, 2013

      Hahaha, you said RUBES. We are the same! 🙂 And I’d forgotten all about those edible Shrinky Dinks.

      Glad you appreciated my “companion” post. Happy Holidays, twinsie! ❤


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