As I decorated my Christmas tree this year, I discovered that I had a collection that I didn’t even know about. As the familiar ornaments came out of the box, I realized how old most of them were. Many of the ornaments I use are old family pieces, or decorations I’ve picked up at auctions in the past. Most are thin, very fragile, hand-blown ornaments from the 1920s through the 1940s. I also decorate my tree with circa 1910 Christmas post cards. When I finished decorating my tree, it was apparent that I had a whole Christmas collection, even though I’d never thought of myself as a Christmas collector.
Many collectors, myself included, suffer from a severe lack of space. Whenever I want purchase an antique or collectible, something has to go to make room. In my home, it’s out with the old and in with the old. Gazing at my Christmas tree, it occurred to me that collecting seasonal, holiday decorations would be a way to squeeze more collectibles into my home.
While it is true that seasonal collectibles take up space, they can be made to occupy space that is already taken up by non-collectibles. An ornament from the 1920s won’t take up any more space than one purchased new at the store today. Collectible paper decorations made to be displayed on walls and windows aren’t any more space hungry than new decorations. Why not replace newer holiday items with vintage collectibles from the past?
There are many possible courses to follow when it comes to seasonal collectibles. One can center on one holiday, every holiday, or any number in between. Seasonal collectibles can be a rotating display. Christmas can lead into New Years, which leads into Valentine’s Day, which leads into St. Patrick’s Day, and so on.
Collectibles from all the major holidays can make use of the same display space in the home. While there are collectors who like to have their Christmas or Halloween items on display all year, I like to put out such items when the appropriate holiday is near. For me, the rotating display idea is perfect. I can admire one set of collectibles after another as the seasons make their rounds. When no holidays are near, I can use the same space to display other favored collectibles, or stretch out the holiday season a bit.
With a little creativity, one can find new spaces to display collectibles. In early October, I found some inexpensive paper Halloween decorations exactly like those I’d decorated with as a kid. I was about to pass them up because I had no place to display them when an idea occurred to me. If I glued magnets on the back, I could display them on my refrigerator door! The decorations were a bit damaged already, so gluing a magnet on the back wouldn’t harm them further. I purchased them and they graced my refrigerator through Halloween. There were easy to store, so they’ll be coming out again next year.
Storing seasonal collections when they aren’t in use can be a problem, so it’s best to stick with pieces that don’t take up a lot of space. Post cards and flat paper decorations are ideal space-savers. As for more bulky collectibles, one must budget space just as one does collecting funds. Before purchasing an item that will be difficult to store, decide if the piece is special enough to take up precious storage space. If it is, buy it. If not, keep looking.
What I enjoy most about seasonal collectibles, and Christmas collectibles in particular, is the memories that come with them. When all is said and done, I think what we really collect is memories, not objects. When I admire a piece in my collection, I don’t think about what’s it worth, how rare it may be, or how much other collectors might like to own it. What enters my mind is the connection the piece has to the past. I wonder who owned it, who used it, and what events the piece witnessed. When I’m very lucky, I know the answers.
Christmas ornaments make me think about Christmas’s past. Many of the decorations on my tree have been used eighty years or more, they’ve seen far more holidays than I have. I wonder about those who used the ornaments before me. I wonder where they were purchased and who picked them out. I wonder what all those other Christmas seasons were like.
I often think about the Christmas holidays of the Depression years and the years following. We have so much now that we often don’t appreciate it. I remember my mother telling me how excited she was when her parents purchased oranges and nuts for Christmas morning. It was a big extravagance, especially in a family with twelve kids. Now most of us can go out and buy oranges and nuts any day of the year, but back then it was something special.
When my parents were growing up, a new pair of shoes, or clothing was a treasured Christmas gift. When I was growing up, shoes and clothes were the last things I wanted. Considering Christmas past makes one appreciate what one has. It takes some contemplation for me to understand why a new pair of shoes was such a great gift. Of course, with such a large family, my grandparents would have found it difficult to buy shoes for them all. I’m sure that not everyone received new shoes for Christmas every year, it simply wasn’t possible.
The old ornaments on my tree give me the gift of understanding and appreciation. Most of us don’t properly appreciate what we have. We’re so busy rushing out to add new pieces to our collections that we don’t consider the beauty of what is already in our home. It takes the leaner times to make us clearly see what we have. When such realization hits, it makes everything so much more special. Each piece, no matter how inexpensive or common, gains a new appreciation.
If one considers further, one realizes that being able to collect at all is a true privilege. None of my grandparents would have considered such a thing. The idea of purchasing something just to look at was out of the question. I’m sure they would think most of my purchases a foolish extravagance. Times have changed. I don’t work a tenth as hard as my grandparents, or even my parents, and yet I’m able to collect things merely because I feel like it. All collectors should realize how wonderful it is to be able to collect.
Collectibles of the season have a lot of advantages when it comes to conserving precious space. They make it possible for those of us with small homes or apartments to enjoy just a little more of the past. The true advantage of such collectibles is that they bring back memories of the past and sharpen our appreciation of what we have. For some of us, they create an appreciation where none existed before. Seasonable collectibles are a gift in their own right.