It’s just a week before Christmas, and I’m getting excited! My husband and I spent yesterday finishing up our holiday shopping. I’ve spent the previous week trying out cookie recipes to make for my family when my husband and I drive to my parents’ house on Wednesday. I love this time of year!

We also got our very first Christmas tree last week. It’s just a four-foot-tall baby tree, but it’s just the right size to fit my ornament collection. Every year since I can remember, my parents have given my siblings and me an ornament in our Christmas stockings. Here’s a sampling:


The nutcracker is from 1988, the Santa is from 1990, the stocking was handmade by my mother a few years ago, and the snail is my collection’s most recent addition.

Unpacking my ornaments every year is like taking a walk down memory lane. I love seeing recent acquisitions alongside the ornaments I’ve had since childhood. It makes for an eclectic tree, but one in which each piece has a history and reminds me of home and family.

It’s also the time of year when I break out my favorite Christmas book: The Story of Holly & Ivy, written by Rumer Godden and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It’s a picture book that my mom read to us every year when we were kids. Because it’s on the longer side, she would split the story up over several nights. I enjoyed the lovely illustrations, the familiar story, and the anticipation of the drawn-out reading year after year. Not long ago my mother bought me my own copy of The Story of Holly and Ivy, which I now read each Christmas.

The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden (cover)The Story of Holly and Ivy, written in 1958, is about a little girl named Ivy and a doll named Holly. Ivy, who lives in an orphanage, has nowhere to go for Christmas. The head of the orphanage arranges a place for Ivy to spend the holidays, but Ivy wants to visit her “grandmother,” who does not actually exist. Ivy gets off the train on which she’s been sent and wanders the town’s streets, searching for her grandma and wishing she could find her. Meanwhile, Holly watches the Christmas shoppers from her shelf in the toy store, wishing for a little girl of her own. And across town, a childless couple decorates a Christmas tree even though they have no children to enjoy it.

Through a lovely sequence of crossed wires and coincidences, wishes come true and everyone finds his or her place in time for Christmas morning. I always loved the way the story ended, with all the loose ends tied up and everyone happy. I still smile each time I read my favorite childhood Christmas story. If you’ve not yet experienced The Story of Holly and Ivy, I highly recommend it!

Today I’ll be listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents. When I’m done, I plan to spend the afternoon relaxing, most likely lost in a book!

What plans do you have for today? What holiday rituals do you participate in each year?

Join the Conversation


  1. Today, we (my family and myself) should be on a plane to NYC but, due to bad weather conditions here in Paris, we’re still stuck in the airport and are waiting for our plane to take off ! Hopefully, we’ll be back to celebrate Xmas with our extended family on the 25th !

    1. Oh no! I hope the weather improves and you are able to depart soon! Hopefully you at least have a good book to keep you company πŸ™‚ Have a lovely visit with your extended family!

  2. Every year, we get to choose our own ornament in my family. And this year, my mom is apparently getting rid of a lot of the old ornaments and has asked us to look through them and take what we want! It’s funny, because some of them are nothing more than raisin boxes wrapped in wrapping paper to look like packages, with ribbon around them, made into ornaments. My parents were both students when I was born and very poor, so they made all their Christmas ornaments. Those boxes are over 30 years old and even though they’re essentially junk, I can’t let my mom throw them away!!

    1. Aww, that would be the kind of ornament I wouldn’t be able to get rid of either! There’s not another like it anywhere. What cool additions to your own holiday decorations πŸ™‚

  3. Some peoples’ trees are so nice with their unified themes and stuff, but I love trees like yours (and mine!) that are more eclectic and all about nostalgia. Decorating our tree is the same way, seems like every ornament we’ve got comes with a memory. That’s what makes the decorating *really* fun!

    I’m planning to tackle the wrapping today, too. Hope I can get mine done and have reading time to spare. =)

    1. I agree! I don’t think decorating would be the same without getting to unwrap the miscellaneous ornaments and all the memories that come with them. I hope you got your reading done and had a little time left over for yourself πŸ™‚

    1. Aw, that’s lovely! After Christmas last year, my mom gave me my box of ornaments and told me to take it with me so that my husband and I could decorate our first tree when we got one. When I go home, I know I’ll get to help decorate the family tree as well (we always wait until the last moment!), so I’ll get to see my siblings’ ornaments (I’m the oldest, so theirs are all still at home) as well as the family ones. So much fun!

      Have a wonderful holiday, full of good memories πŸ™‚

  4. We’re baking and decorating today. I love your ornament collection – my girls get an ornament every year, too. We love talking about the memories as we put them on the tree each year!

    1. I hope you had a wonderful time decorating and baking! I’m very pleasantly surprised by how many people have an ornament tradition. I think it’s a great one!

    1. I’m glad someone else has heard of it! I always loved the names, as well as the illustrations and the story. It embodies Christmas for me!

  5. What a wonderful tradition of giving ornaments each year–one I think I’ll have to adopt for the future! πŸ˜‰

    I’m pretty behind this year but I think I’m almost done with my Christmas shopping. But wrapping presents? Ha! Not even going to think about it until next week. Kudos to you for being so on top of it!

    Hope you have a lovely week!

    1. I think that’s a great thing to adopt — just in time for your new addition, too! πŸ™‚

      I dropped cards this year (oops), and I only have the gifts for my family to wrap. Once I get home and start helping with the madness there, I’m sure I’ll be much busier!

      Have a great week and a wonderful holiday!

  6. My mom does the same thing with ornaments. Each year she chooses one that has to do with some of the stuff I’ve been doing that year, so opening them reminds me of the person I was that year. The recent few have had a lot of books and or computers, since she knows how much time I spend blogging. But, my ornaments are all still at my parents house, since I’ve been moving apartment to apartment and don’t have my own Christmas tree.

    1. Oh, I love the idea of tying the ornament in with something happening in your life! That must take a lot of planning. This is the first year I’ve had my own ornaments; until now, they’ve always been part of my family’s Christmas tree. My mom sent mine with me after last Christmas in case my husband and I wanted to get our first tree this year…which we did! My younger siblings’ ornaments are all still at my parents’ house, so I’ll get to see all of those when I go home. I hope you get to visit yours this holiday, too!

  7. The Story of Holly and Ivy was recommended to me last Christmas (by Jenny I think) and I never got around to reading it. I should do something about that!

    Also, eclectic but very personal Christmas trees are my favourite kind πŸ™‚

    1. It’s quite lovely! Of course I have a lingering childhood attachment to it, but I think it’s a good story aside from that πŸ™‚

  8. My mom always gave us ornaments when we were kids and when we moved out, we got our collection of ornaments. When I met Mr. Jenners, he didn’t have his own so we started building a collection together. Now we get a few each year for our son to remember the places we traveled together and the things he was into that year. Each year, it is such a treat to see the ornaments and remember where they all came from. I love trees that have these kinds of personalities. And when we put up our tree, it did help me get into the spirit of the season.

    1. You guys must have a great ornament collection! I really like the idea of the ornament tying into something that’s happened that year. Seeing my ornaments every year definitely helps me get into the Christmas spirit.

  9. We’re pretty traditionless in my family. The only thing my brother and I insist on is corn casserole with Christmas dinner (which isn’t even on Christmas anymore), and then we whine if there are no leftovers.

    1. Hey, corn casserole is a tradition! As is whining if you find yourself leftover-less. Heck, even having Christmas dinner not on Christmas is kind of a tradition!

    1. It does! I need baking in there somewhere as well, but those three activities embody Christmas for me. I hope you get to do lots of both πŸ™‚

  10. My parents have also given me an ornament each year. Usually they connected to something my brother and I did (hockey, ballet, skiing) or were interested in (all of the American Girl doll ornaments, Star Wars). We used to have a 6 ft tree in our living room, but our new house is so small that we have a baby tree too. Not enough space to hang nineteen years worth of ornaments plus all the ones my parents and brother have collected over the years.

    1. I really like the idea of linking the yearly ornament to something that’s happened that year or an interest. That’s disappointing not to be able to put out all the ornaments you’ve amassed! Perhaps there’s another way they could be displayed.

  11. those ornaments are lovely and i love your family’s holiday tradition. things i do every year? bake, make an ornament or two, go to see christmas lights, go to particular holiday fairs, and go to see IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE in the same theater. I’ve been doing that every year since I was 17! I had a major anniversary with that this year but I’m not telling you which one!

    1. Your traditions are making me feel all holiday-ish just reading about them! That’s so cool about the movie — what an amazing tradition to keep every year!

  12. We’ve a couple of Christmas books that were rituals and the other day, hearing my mother say she was going to read one to my nephew, brought memories back. And something that’s become common in the last few years is deciding where to put up lights. I don’t know why we do it because they tend to end up where they were last year, but it’s fun trying out new designs all the same. We usually tend to watch the same movies too.

    Merry Christmas, Erin!

    1. It’s nice that your family traditions are getting passed on to the younger ones! Lights in my family are a bit of a tradition too, but more because we never put them up until the last possible second. I love when they start playing Christmas movies on TV — it’s easy to make sure you get all the good ones in!

      Merry Christmas to you as well πŸ™‚

    1. It’s so lovely! Definitely enjoyable around the holidays. I’ll have to check out your seasonal favorites, since I’ve not heard of either one!

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