Ornamental Christmas tree

Instead of picking up some tchotchkey on our trips, every time we travel, we pick up a Christmas ornament. Rather than the clutter of items collected from travels throughout the house, we reminisce each year when we decorate our tree. We're the only people we know that can go to Europe for a week and come back with only a $7 ornament to declare.

To use this blog as one of its intended purposes - to make a personal record of something relevant to me - I have here a visual list of the ornaments we've collected to date. This is more a formal record for our daughter, than it is for you, but hope you enjoy anyway.

Some trips we never found an ornament. Some are not ornaments. Some places we could not find any and purchased magnets, key chains and other "found" objects - like a sommelier's cup from France - we use for ornaments.

Try and guess where they're from before you read the caption. For many it is obvious where they came from. For others, they'll make sense when you see where they came from.

Michigan and Mexico '06

Oslo, Norway '90 and Zermatt, Switzerland '89

Stockholm, Sweden '07 and French Guadeloupe '06 (contains nutmeg potpourri )

Paris, France '07 and Amagansett, NY '99

Key West, FL '06 and Mainz, Germany '94

Dutch St.Maarten '96 and Amsterdam, Holland

Houston, TX '85 and St. Thomas, USVI '05

Cologne, Germany '08 and Billy Bones/Norman Island

Geneva, Switzerland '89 and Anchorage, Alaska '99

Hamburg, Germany '06 and Provence, France

Shannon, Ireland and Aruba, Lesser Antilles '07

Nassau, Bahamas '08 and Cancun, Mexico '91

Waterford, Ireland and Paris, France '06

Bruges, Belgium '00 and Geneva, Switzerland '99

St Augustine, FL '95 and Stockholm, Sweden '07

San Juan, Puerto Rico '99 and Bar Harbor, Maine '95

New Orleans, LA '91 and Taliesin/Spring Green WI '99

Stowe, VT '05 and Key West, FL '06

Vatican City, Italy '08 and Disney/Orlando FL '00

Santa Fe, AZ '03 (we went horseback riding) and Antigua, BVI '05

Ben & Jerry's/Waterbury, VT '05 and Dusseldorf, Germany '00

Sedona, AZ '97 and Edinburgh, Scotland '06

Burgundy, France and Dutch St. Maarten '05

Windjammer (not sure what year, we've been on 12 of them!) and Virgin Gorda, BVI '98

St. Johns, USVI and Savannah, GA '04

Venice, Italy and San Francisco, CA '90

Antigua, BVI '06 and Bruges, Belgium '08

Burgundy, France '96 (a sommelier's cup from a winery visit) and Germany '94

Vatican City, Italy '00 and Paris, France '04

Honduras/Belize '99 and Amsterdam, Holland

Curacao, Netherlands Antilles '06 and Zermatt, Switzerland '89 (our honeymoon)

Dublin, Ireland and San Antonio, TX '91

Tel Aviv, Israel '06 and Washington, D.C. '08

Liberty Island, NY '08 and St. Kitts, West Indies '00

Rome, Italy and Cancun, Mexico '03

Amagansett, NY


  1. Jim,

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful ornaments with us. Very special and I can tell that you and your family cherish the memories of your travel.

    I used to do the same thing and then it became more difficult to find ornaments during the summer travels. Mine are all packed away since we downsized to a tabletop tree this year.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. That was delightful! We have a lot of my mother's and grandmother's ornaments as well as a few bought on vacations and our honeymoon. Also use a party favor from the baby shower when my first niece was born etc. It's really about what makes the memory for you — and there is nothing like unpacking Christmas ornaments to be flooded with recollections.

    (When you have a minute, check out my Buffalo-related post from today).

  3. Ok, I started out enjoying the lovely ornaments and the sweet reminder to cherish our family memories during the holidays, but by the end, I was just a crankypants, cuz I'm jealous you've been to so many interesting places! When do you have time to write your blog, let alone do any gardening??(Great post)

  4. You have a wonderful and extensive collection! Many of the ornaments on our tree were picked up during our travels but they'd never decorate an entire tree.

  5. I LOVE them - thanks!

  6. That is quite a collection of ornaments! I think it is great that you collect them from your travels.

  7. I like your collection, and I see you have the Alamo from your trip to San Antonio. Now you just need a bat from Austin.

    I don't shop much when I travel either. The only thing I brought home for myself from Tanzania were three beaded stars made by the Masai, which are hanging from my tree right now.

  8. Delightful! We lived in Europe several years and have a number of delicate ornaments from that time. And when our sons were young, we let them buy an ornament that was theirs each year. I wrote their initials and year on each somewhere that it wouldn't be noticed and then when they were on their own, gave them their "collections" as a start for their own trees. They have very fond memories of the various ornaments they collected over the years -- often connected to an interest at the time. I'm sure your daughter will enjoy what you've done, too.

  9. What a great idea! I wish I had though of that before I bought all those bottles of wine! LOL! Do you mind if I adopt this plan? What is the best memory?

  10. Every year when my son was growing up he made and gave an ornament as a gift to friends and family. Now when we visit during the holidays, their trees are the story of his childhood. Thanks for the story.

  11. Cameron,
    We've had trouble occasionally trying to find an ornament on some vacations. These don't cover all our travels. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there's a Christmas store in almost every major tourism stop in the world.

    Mr. Wis,
    These ornaments are special, as are the home-made ones our daughter's made for us over the years. Those are not documented here. I did read your Buffalo/Meet me in St. Louis post - I even commented on it, but the comment didn't show up. I'll try again.

    Susan (crankypants),
    The evil specter of the green monster of envy is not good for your karma. These are mementos travels of more than 20 years. Full disclosure: my wife works for an airline, so flying is easier for us (if you count standby as easy). We also put a priority on travel. We've never spent a week's vacation at home renovating a bathroom or something like that. We don't, nor eve will, own a second vacation home.

    Give it time, eventually you'll have enough to fill a tree. You might try getting a smaller tree.

    Thanks!Most of the ornaments were made by locals wherever we went. That's sustainability, right?

    We not only collect them as memories of great trips. We're also cheap and it's a great way to get souvenirs that are cheap.

    We've been all over Texas over the years. We've been to Austin - just for a day. We went to some bar up in the hills where they ring a bell at sunset and everyone toasts or something. It was years ago. Never got to see the bats in the evening.

    Judy Lowe,
    Delicate ornaments? That's not part of our M.O. They have to come back smushed in a suitcase. it's always a consideration. I love the idea of of providing you kids with "starter" ornaments that already have some memories attached. That's genius. A friend of ours, gave us a creche for our wedding gift. She gave creches to as wedding gifts, no matter what time of the year the wedding was. She'd say, "Every new family should have a good creche."

    Well, I could say we had a bottle of wine at each place we traveled to, and that would be the truth too. But we've got nothing to show for that. Adopt the plan, sure. Plan more vacations to get your ornament count up more quickly. Best memory? I'm 46. I can't remember anything.

    That's sweet. For Easter, when we were young, each of us kids (3) would blow out an egg and decorate it. It was for just a few years in the '70s. My mother still has them and drags them out every year.

  12. Uh, wow, I guess you like to travel! If I'd been 1/10 of those places, I'd feel pretty spiffy. Nice documentation and it was fun to guess! Merry Christmas a bit early!

  13. i love the idea, it's funny.
    You are a stunning man.

  14. Is there any place you 'haven't' visited?! They are all very unique and have so many memories attached. Have a very Merry Christmas! Jan

  15. Karen,
    We make travel a priority and that's where we out our time and money. We drive old paid-for cars, have no expensive habits or hobbies (well, there's garden stuff) & save for travel.

    Stunning? That's a word never used to describe me. Is there a word in French for stunning?

    Well, I haven't been to Virginia!

  16. Isn't it amazing how our trees are filled with precious memories. Your is especially unique.

  17. MNGarden,
    Thank you. And thanks for faving me on Blotanical!

  18. What a beautiful tradition! I love the little bells from Ireland because they remind me of my childhood. We had little bells like that but I have no idea where they came from. All of my grandparents came from Ireland so now I'm wondering if those came from there too.

    Whenever we travel I usually haul back food. Which means, once it's eaten there's nothing but memories of the country then! Perhaps ornaments are the way to go.

    Such a nice thing to pass on to your daughter!

  19. Jean,
    I/m sure if your Irish grandparents had bells on their tree, they were probably from Ireland. I love those bells.

    When we travel we eat all the food there. there's never any to haul back - and with customs the way it is now, not everything we'd want to bring back can be brought back.

  20. Come down to Australia sometime. Perhaps you can pick up a surfing Santa for your tree. It's hot here!

    Lovely post, so interesting to see all those ornaments and where they came from.

  21. FoxyMoron,
    Australia is on the list! It's just a good-sized time commitment with the travel involved. We'll get there eventually and get that surfing Santa.

  22. Hi Jim,

    That's a great collection of ornaments. Like the tree traveled the world and never moved an inch. Thanks for the interesting post.

    Happy Holidays,

    Lost In The Flowers

  23. What a great idea. Love the mix of iconic imagery and personal memories.

  24. Tammy,
    It is a pretty worldly tree. It was nice while it lasted - now it's sitting on the curb, not looking so worldly now.

    We are glad we started more than 20 years ago and stuck with it. Now it's a goal to find and ornament. Beats bringing home t-shirts and trinkets.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts