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Dec 232013
 December 23, 2013  Posted by  Expired

There’s a part of me that’s envious when I go visiting for the holidays, and see the gorgeous, meticulously decorated, color-coordinated Christmas trees. Perfectly symmetrical placement of shiny, glittering ornaments complement the color scheme of the room, dazzling lights, and sometimes, topped off with a giant bow, and sometimes a toy train runs around the bottom.

When I get back home, however, I realize that none of these holiday card-worthy masterpieces have anything on my family’s tree. That’s because each haphazardly hung ornament comes with its own story, and has been placed by one of my children (except the few that they let me hang on the high branches so the tree isn’t too bottom heavy). We have their handmade creations from every year of school, photo ornaments that show how they’ve grown from tiny sugarplums into little elves. Hand-stitched ornaments from my wonderful great aunt are scattered about as well.

There are lots of store-bought ornaments, too (although, most of them were picked up at day-after-Christmas 50% off sales), but those have special meaning for someone in the family as well. There’s the Michael Scott and Dunkin’ Donuts cup ornaments that my husband bought for me, and the Elvis and NY Jets ornaments I bought for him. Many milestone ornaments bring back memories (first Christmas together, new home, the pregnant Snowwoman, etc.), as do keepsakes from our honeymoon, and trips we’ve taken with and without the kids. Since our children are both boys, it’s probably no surprise that there are a few superheroes protecting our tree as well, along with Harry Potter, The Grinch, and Mickey Mouse.

It’s definitely a step above Charlie Brown’s tree, but an outsider might not think it’s Instagram-worthy. To us, though, because of all of the family memories that hang from each misshapen branch, it shines brighter than the big tree in Rockefeller Center.

Dawn Papandrea

Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance, parenting, and women's lifestyle topics. She's been a journalist for nearly 15 years, doing everything from editing to writing to blogging to social media management. Her work has appeared in, Family Circle,,, Parents,, The Huffington Post, and other national publications. She lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband and two sons. You can read her personal blog at, or follow her on Twitter: @dawnpapandrea.

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