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Some of our family's holiday traditions are carried out with great intention, such as our policy of never listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, or the way we always put the baby Jesus in the manger just before bedtime on Christmas Eve.
Others have come about less intentionally, yet still mean just as much. Thanks to my husband's career in the Navy, our family has moved 15 times in 18 years. In my more charitable moments, I've been known to say that our frequent relocations made life feel like a perpetual vacation — always something new to see, always somewhere new to visit. And, as it turned out, always a new souvenir to buy.
No matter where the Navy sent us, I always loved decorating our home for the holidays — whether that meant cutting fresh cedar boughs in the Pacific Northwest, or stringing twinkle lights on the banana trees on the island of Oahu. So when I purchased souvenirs as we moved here, there, and back again, I suppose it was natural for me to gravitate toward Christmas tree ornaments.
After a few years of marriage and an equal number of Navy relocations, we realized we had an ornament from every place we had lived, and we started intentionally seeking out souvenirs for our tree. We have a pineapple from Rhode Island (their symbol for welcoming tourists), a trolley from San Francisco, a wooden ferry from Washington State, a pewter Parliament building from Victoria, British Columbia, and one from Hawaii that says "Mele Kalikimaka."
During the years we didn't move to a new place — and from now on, because my husband has retired and we're not moving ever, ever again — we purchased a souvenir during a family vacation or weekend outing. We have an Empire State Building ornament from a summer visit to New York City, and a Cinderella's Castle from our trip to Disney World.
If we find an ornament we like that doesn't have the year printed on it, I simply add it myself with a black or gold permanent marker. (Hint: Drawing little dots at the tips of each numeral makes the writing look more professional.)
Tourist shops everywhere keep these kinds of souvenirs out all year long. In fact, we often make our purchases during the summer months.
Every year when we decorate our tree, our souvenir ornaments help us remember all the places we've been and all the friends we've made. Our tree is both beautiful and unique, and our holiday guests enjoy looking at it and hearing about our travels. Best of all, our tree does more than twinkle; it tells our family's story.