the sluiter tree

This past weekend we pulled out the four tubs of Christmas decor and got down to it.

I was pretty excited because this is really the first year Eddie “gets” holidays and birthdays and all those fun things.  So when we started talking about Christmas, he started getting just as excited as I always do.

After all the other stuff around the house was in place, Eddie begged to also put up the tree.

With that much excitement, you can’t turn the three-year-old down.  So Cort got our fake tree out (after 32 years of having a real tree, we broke down and bought a fake one last year.  Best decision ever when you have tiny people in the house) and I started sorting the lights.

Growing up, we didn’t have a themed tree–even though my mom desperately wanted one.  In fact, she keeps threatening to ditch the giant colored lights for tiny white ones.  It was full of homemade ornaments and stuff we made in school and Sunday school.  It still is.  My parents’ tree still gets my Baby’s First Christmas ornament hung on it.

Cort’s mom didn’t theme their tree either, but she did start a tradition that I have carried on with my boys.

When Cort and I got married, his mom handed him a shoe box with his  name on it.  Inside were all his ornaments.  His mom had a tradition of buying the kids ornaments each year.  If she couldn’t get one with their name on it, she would put their name on it somewhere along with the year.

I’ll admit, I found it weird that she just handed him his ornaments.  Didn’t she want them for her own tree?

But since having my own kids, I have grown to adore this tradition she created.  In fact, three years ago, I made and Eddie box and this year I will get to make a Charlie box.

Eddie’s very first ornament

Our tree is covered in personalized ornaments.  Currently there are three Baby’s First ornaments.  Two from 1978 and one from 2009.  This year, a 2012 will be added.

Cort’s first Christmas

My first Christmas

Eddie was so excited to see what was in his box.  Like I said, this is the first year he really gets it, so seeing what ornaments have been collected for him made him so happy.

Two ornaments that were made in daycare with his little hand.

When Eddie found this little hand, he thought it was Charlie’s.  I told him, no.  Miss Amy made this with you when you were as little as Charlie.  Last year when I put this on the tree I cried.  This year, we put it up against Eddie’s hand to see how much he had grown.  My heart grew three sizes when he said, “wow. that is awesome, mom.”

18 month old Eddie

Yup, we have a homemade themed Christmas tree.  Someday my kids will laugh as i hang old Popsicle stick frames and paper stars with glitter on my tree.

They won’t remember how excited they were to give me these treasures.  How their faces lit up with pride that this is the gift they created just for me and their dad.

But I will remember.

How can I throw away treasures that remind me of how small these boys once were?

So our tree is covered in paper and paint and glitter and sticks.  It is also covered in little treasures that remind us of our unique personalities and interests.

one from the Cortney box

And each year we will add a new ornament to the tree for the boys.  In fact, I made a little trip to Hallmark earlier this week for the 2012 ornaments…but you will have to wait until Christmas to see those because Santa brings the new ornaments.

The 2011 Eddie ornament

Does your tree have a theme?

Do you get your kids ornaments every year?  Will you send their ornaments on with them when they leave your nest?

I think I will.  But I might keep their Baby’s First Christmas ornaments for myself or maybe I will keep the ones they made as gifts to me.  Because I am selfish that way.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. My kids usually get 2-3 new personalized ornaments every year-one from us and my sister and mother in law often get the one as well. When Big Yankee and I were dating we started a tradition of getting an ornament whenever we went on a trip. Decorating our tree is a trip down memory lane.

  2. I’m not a Christmas celebrator, but Katie, i LOVE the idea of your tree and its beautiful, meaningful ornaments. Each one is a story. Love that.

  3. My kids have their own tree just for their ornaments. I have 3 and each one I can tell you the story behind. There are the ones they painfully painted at home as part of a kit, paint smeared and gooped but in their eyes it was a masterpiece, so it became one in mine. The ones from school, the ones we have bought and yes when they start their own families they will gain their boxes of ornaments, and my tree will be lonely and empty.

  4. I have mine! My mom buys ornaments every year for us, still (and now the grandkids). I will send them along with my babies when they leave and have their own trees 🙂

    Of course I also tell myself that one day Ryan will think it makes sense to have TWO trees – one with all of the ornaments and one I can decorate in themes. So far he just laughs and rolls his eyes at that idea.

  5. My kids get a new ornament every year that reflects something about them. They will take their ornaments with them when they go as I did when I left my parents’ home. We also have a small tree that holds all of their homemade ornaments from years past. Those, they will have to fight me for.

  6. Now that my mom lives by herself, she doesn’t put a tree up at Christmas and has passed all of mine and my brother’s ornaments on to us. Most years she still buys the 2 of us and my husband an ornament to add to the collection, and has purchased all of my girls’ milestone ornaments. Right now, we only have one sentimentally decorated tree. One day, my husband wants to be able to theme a tree, so sometime in the next few years (probably after we move, we’re busting at the seams here) we will probably add a 2nd themed tree. I also hope that once the girls’ dresser is no longer covered in diapering paraphernalia that they can have their own tree. Kinda looking forward to it. 🙂

  7. I love every inch of it.
    OUrs looks like a turkish bazzare.

  8. This is such a sweet tradition. I just love all the tradition that surrounds Christmas time. I need to get my butt in gear and get our stuff out.

  9. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing it.You totally got me thinking about doing this with my kids. I’ve always loved seeing personalized trees when I see them at the store or other people’s houses. I really want to do this this year! 😀

  10. Our tree is up and we’re decorating this weekend! Love that your ornaments tell your family’s story. That’s one of my favorite Christmas moments – pulling out memories and finding homes for them on our tree.

  11. My family never had a themed tree growing up either. And as beautiful as themed trees can be, I would never want one. Just the simple attachment I have to all the home made ornaments! The pictures from when I was young, the guady 70s ornaments (ok, maybe only a couple of those ha!), and the ones I gave my parents…they all have so much personal meaning. I know when I decorate my tree 50 years from now, they will mean so much more than store bought themed decorations.

    Love the story about your little boy being impressed by how much bigger his hand is now. So stinkin’ adorable!

  12. We have the exact same tradition and we LOVE it. My mom started it for us when we were small and it’s carried over. Best Christmas trees ever are those with homemade ornaments!

  13. This is how our tree always was growing up. I loved it.

    While I think themed trees are lovely I can’t imagine trading our mix matched tree for a perfectly done one. I can’t wait to buy my baby’s first Christmas ornament… to go with the our first Christmas together ornament… and puppy’s first Christmas ornament. Oh! And homemade ornaments. I know it’s a few years out but I’m seriously looking forward to those.

  14. I love that you have a homemade themed Christmas tree. I think that is the best kind of tree to have because it is filled with so many memories and each year as you pull the ornaments out you will recall those special moments.

  15. I love this! I love how whimsical and fun your tree is. It’s a lot like ours. And I really like the idea of creating boxes for each of your kids. What a cool idea.

    I wrote about our tree in a post going up tomorrow.

  16. I’ve always admired the themed trees but have not been able to do one yet because I treasure the homemade ornaments and the new ones we add each year too much!!! 🙂