Armorial Bearings granted to Robert Lord alias Laward of London in 1510; College of Arms MS L10 folio 105b; copyright of the College of Arms, London. Used by permission.

"Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree"

The wooden angel.


This wooden angel was carved for the Christmas tree, but what follows are ornaments carved from the Christmas trees of Christmases past.


For over half a century now I have enjoyed the wonderful experience of the Christmas tree. Each mid-winter season we adopt an anonymous evergreen as part of the family, if only for a few brief days, and it takes on a magical nature of its own in the process.

It begins with the gathering - whether it was the drive to a neighboring farm with my father in the 1950s to select one cut on the local woodlot, for the grand cost of a dollar or two, or more recently paying twenty times that to cut one off a tree farm a few miles away. Once the thing has entered the house and is upright in its base, the magic begins. The lights are strung and all the heirloom ornaments are brought out - wonderful objects seen but once a year, and not for all these twelve months past.

Then the first evening comes, the lights are turned on, and what was a few days ago just another little tree in the woods is now the very essence of Christmas. Unnumbered are the nights I have spent staring into that fathomless depth of branches, sparkling colored lights and deep, mysterious shadow to imagine the images of Christmas Past. In the end the tree becomes part of the house and of another unique Christmas the family will always remember as special for whatever year it is.

And so it has often seemed so tragic, if not brutal, to in the end strip the tree of its ornamentation and banish it from the house. While we carefully wrap and box each of the ornaments to preserve them for the next year, we just drag the naked tree unceremoniously off to the curbside, or into the woods to lay unwanted and forgotten.

Finally, in 1979, coincidental with the birth of our daughter, I discovered a remedy for the inevitable transience of these wonderful trees. That year, as the tree was taken outside to be tossed into the woods, I took my saw and cut off about six inches of the bottom of the trunk. This piece I carefully set aside on a cellar shelf, where it quietly dried the year long. Then in the days before the next Christmas, I took that stump and split and cut and sanded the wood it offered until an ornament had been created for the new tree about to arrive.

The wooden moon.
A moon I carved for the tree a while back, using some stock lumber I had left over in my shop.

Of course I had been known to carve up an ornament or two before from scraps of boards I had saved from some project or another. The angel and moon above are some of these. But they were not of the same association as these bits made from the trees of Christmases past.

These ornaments trended a bit toward the country or folk style, being chopped out of a chunk of pine that would not normally be considered suitable for anything but the woodstove. But that is perhaps part of the charm; that something as mundane as a tree stump could in the end be transformed into something of some marginal beauty.

And when each is finished, I carve or paint on the bottom the date. It would be understood that the date was the year it was made, the wood being taken from the tree of the Christmas previous.

And so the tradition was begun, and I have kept faithfully to it ever since. My daughter is all grown now, and we have a collection of over 30 ornaments and one stump. Someday this collection will be hers, and I guess the very last of the collection will just remain as a stump; me not being able to finish it myself.

So I thought I would create this webage as an exhibit of the collection, which may yet be of some interest to anyone who comes across this collection.


1980

The first ornament of this project, it celebrates the birth of our daughter the previous year - in 1979.

1981

A duplicate of some toy soldiers made on my lathe as toys for my daughter, and now mysteriously disappeared.

1982

A miniature version of our old farmhouse in Hoags Corners.

1983

An angel's trumpet of no particular signifiance that year.

1984

A folk art angel, probably inspired by visits to early America museum like Sturbridge Village.

1985

A model of folk art hand made checkerboards I was making as a craft project that year to sell, but they didn't.

1986

A primitve Santa figure... first of several.

1987

A toy block reflecting the childhood of our daughter.

1988

A toy boat celebrating the making of some model ships that year.

1989

A Shaker hand symbolic of our interest in all things Shaker that year and visits to the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts.

1990

Santa rescued from a chip of wood, which is what I ended up with after hacking at the old stump and not having much of an idea.

1991

This folk art sheep commemorates our annual trips to the sheep farm nearby to cut our own Christmas trees, while a flock of sheep watched.

1992

A folk art fish....maybe to celebrate the creek by our old house and times sitting on the bank watching the water.

1993

An Irish thatched cottage to celebrate our first trip to England and Northern Ireland and exploring the Irish countryside. Plus we had moved that fall to our new house in Averill Park.

1994

We had some good times building snowmen that winter.

1995

A folk art horse to commemorate the horses in the pasture behind the new house, that came up to the fence to visit.

1996

A Celtic cross to celebrate our trip that year back to Northern Ireland and exploring the ancient ruins and sites there.

1997

This celebrates the many birds that came to our feeders in the new house, where woods were right behind the house.

1998

Meant to represent Roman coins to celebrate my obsession with Roman coin collecting that year.

1999

A replica of the house our daughter lived in at Syracuse, complete with her bird and two pet mice, and the damaged corner where she hit it with her car once.

2000

This commemorates the used canoe we got and fixed up so we could go canoeing on local lakes and ponds; a great choice for $200.

2001

This celebrates the kayak I got and the many trips with my friend to lakes in the region for many days of great kayaking. Had to give it up later due to arthritis.

2002

This symbolizes my retirement from the State Museum after nearly 30 years...the idea is the present is my time off and the dog was to be my companion, but he didn't live long after that.

2003

This commemorates the passing of my dog Henry and a capsule on the back contains a curl of his hair.

2004

This celbrates the graduation of our daughter as an LPN and start of her career.

2005

Celebrating work on the trains set layout in the bassement and our trip to Paris that year.

2006

Celebrating the birth of our granddaughter with this exploding Jack-in-the-Box.

2007

A wise man carrying a sack of items symbolic of the year past.

2008

A Christmas tree of the Chrsitmas tree. I went for the minimalist idea here.

2009

Santa trying to get his tree and gifts down the chimney, including a lighthouse, which celebrates trips to Rockport, Cape Ann and Cape Cod.

2010

My favorite: he may be an elf or gnome, or Santa...he holds symbols of the year...a wedding ring for daughter's marriage, a diploma for her becoming an RN, a book and pencil... I forget what for...and a clock symbolizing me getting old!

2011

Nobody likes this one....it is me getting old, looking uncertainly into the future, holding a lantern to see the future better, while the sand in the hourglass is running out!

2012

Symbolic of me and my granddaughter working on some new sections of the model railroad layout. And then we moved and had to take it all apart!

2013

Recalling the traditonal electric train around the Christmas tree in the old days, this ornament celebrates the rebuilding of our model railroad layout in the basement of the new house during the past year.

2014

This ornament has no particular theme from the past year, just recalling childhood memories of Santa at the North Pole.

2015

This is just to commemorate our grandchild's favorite bird - the snowy owl.


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