Making ornaments for each family member, including pets, has become an annual holiday tradition for many families.
Personalized ornaments transport you to holidays of long ago, showing off the incarnations of your loved ones—from infant to toddler, preteen to adult, wedding to first house and beyond. The ornaments smile out of their tree-nestled positions to fill your home with family memories.
“When we grew up, each of the kids in my house were given a pretty box filled with all of our annual DIY Christmas ornaments,” says newlywed Diane Birnes. “We were to keep them tucked away or put them on display, always reminding us of home. My parents kept a few to have us on their tree, but in time, these sentimental pieces came back to us. Handmade by my mother. A precious gift.”
Why make your own ornaments when professionally made, customized ornaments can be ordered online or bought at the store or Christmas markets?
“There’s something charming in less-than-perfect ornaments like Styrofoam balls glued with mini pompoms and your initial, made when a child was in kindergarten,” says teacher Maria Stefanotis. “Think about the child at work on it, making a color choice, getting sticky fingers from the glue. That young child held this ornament in her hand, and now you’re holding it. In a strange, imaginative way, that little DIY ornament is a connection to the past.”
Ornaments reflect family changes through the years, representing a progression in interests.
Here are some ideas to get you started. Look online for how-to specifics.
- Birth month flower fabric ornaments. Each loved one gets theirs on the tree; add in pets with their birth month flowers.
- State-based geode ornaments. Slivers of geodes shine in their intricate patterns, cut professionally into state shapes. You add the year in glitter glue, everyone’s initials on the back of the ornament and a metallic ribbon or string hanger.
- School crafts. Repurpose a macaroni necklace made during arts and crafts in school as this year’s Christmas ornament.
- Drawing or computer-print images of your loved ones. Portray them as they appear now, new hair color and all, and decoupage onto wood, ceramic, glass or mirror ornaments.
- Milestones. Inscribe plain glass ornaments with names and the event, such as a wedding anniversary. Use a metallic or colored pen to hand-letter a custom message.
- Cutouts. Print out pictures or round up those you have, such as school portraits in wallet sizes. Glue a picture onto a store-bought photo ornament you have painted.
- Pet paw print. Use a safe pet paw print kit to capture your furry friend’s adorable prints each year.
- Family trips. Make or buy ornaments from the states, islands, countries, theme parks, state parks and other places you have visited during the year. Over time, your personalized collection—with do-it-yourself touches like the year or names written in fine-point pen on the back—will tell the story of your world travels. If you have not traveled much lately, celebrate the home you are in with a house-shaped DIY ornament.
- Favorite entertainers. Share each person’s favorite entertainers, such as sports figures and singers.
- Mark new interests. If this is the year your daughter fell in love with ice skating, make or decorate pretty, glittery little ice skate ornaments with her name on them. Bonus points if she is also getting ice skates as a Christmas gift this year.
- Faith-based symbols. Make and decorate religious or spiritual ornaments to reflect the important place your beliefs hold in your life.
- Family movies. Commemorate the movies the family watched together during the year with ornaments from “Star Wars,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or whatever else has become a tradition.
- Adopt a new tradition. In Germany, a glass pickle—which symbolizes good luck—is hidden in the tree branches. The first family member to spot it gets a small gift. You can buy or make a pickle ornament. If you buy one, decorate a box or container to store it.
Craft stores stock easy do-it-yourself kits. Because the holidays are a time of coupons and savings, your crafting sessions are more budget-friendly.
Remember that even the crafts that don’t come out the way you intended are valuable as great stories and lessons. The goal is for everyone to enjoy the process.
A decorated plastic storage tub can hold all your personalized ornaments in one place. If you want, tub dividers can organize whose ornaments are whose.
Each year, the joy and memories of personalized ornaments come forth to add lovely reminiscence to your celebrations.
Take Your DIY Treatment to the Next Level
When decorating for the holidays, why stop at personalizing ornaments for your tree? Let creativity be your guide.
You can string popcorn in lengths to adorn your tree or doorways. Add dried cranberries for color, along with other nontoxic items. Keep the garland high up above children and pets to avoid injury or mistakenly consuming it.
“I’ve made lots of other Christmas decorations like wreaths and tabletop trees using popcorn, pearls, florals and sheet music,” says writer Brette McWhorter Sember. “An easy DIY family craft is to print out Christmas sheet music and decoupage it in strips onto foam balls. Each family member chooses their own favorite Christmas song’s sheet music. Then the family sings that song when projects are shown to the group later by the fire.”