My Mother-in-Law has a sentimental side, and there are many treasures in my in-laws' home that carry wonderful memories with them. Many things around their house serve as reminders of special people, family history, fun times, and milestone moments.
Their Christmas Tree is no different. You won't find boxes of generic ornaments and trendy Christmas balls hanging on its branches. Instead, you will find 4 decades of family memories dangling in the midst of twinkling lights. It's the kind of tree that tells a story. A number of times, my family has stood around the tree while my husband recites the history about the different ornaments he made as a kid. He talks about watching the train that used to chug slowly around the tree, and about the Nativity Set that he and his siblings played with under the glowing lights. They have many Nativity sets through-out the house, but baby Jesus never makes his appearance in them until Christmas.
Recently, my Mother-in-Law decided to put all of her Nativity ornaments on a special little tree to highlight their beauty. Among the gold, crystal and wooden ornaments lies three family favorites. They don't look like much to the untrained eye, but they are true treasures to the family.
This is Pretzel Jesus. He holds the highest honor among the ornaments on the tree.
Pretzel Jesus was a preschool project made by one of the kids at church over 30 years ago! The fact that it is still mostly intact after three whole decades is a testament to it's high quality craftsmanship. Evidently, Elmer's glue and glitter will preserve virtually anything. They just don't make craft projects like this anymore! Some of you may wonder why Jesus is oddly surrounded by pretzels. It has significance, of course!
The Legend of the Pretzel
In the early centuries of the Church, Christians would fast on bread and water during the seasons of Advent and Lent. One day a creative young Italian monk rolled his Lenten dough of water, flour and salt into the shape of two arms crossed in prayer. He called his new bread bracellae-- little arms--in Latin. German Christians called these breads bretzels, and over time, they became known as pretzels!
Below you will find another family favorite: Popsicle Stick Jesus.
This Nativity ornament is made by recycling old Christmas cards and framing them with Popsicle sticks. It's a timelessly classic; a church craft project made by one of the kids as well.
And finally, they have an ornament that we refer to as "Hair Ball Jesus".
Seeing the joy that these lowly hand-made ornaments brings to the family serves as a good reminder to me that it's the little things that are important in life. It's not the fancy bows or shining ribbons that make Christmas special. It's celebrating the birth of our Savior surrounded by family and friends. It's looking back on old memories and laughing about the past that bind families together.
Because of this lesson, I don't put the kid's handmade ornaments to the back of the tree. I let the children hang them front and center, knowing that the kids are forming memories with their ornaments. When they're grown and have kids of their own, perhaps they'll stand in front of the tree with their families and re-tell the stories of Christmases long, long ago. They'll remember the loved ones who gave them ornaments, and the teachers who helped them make their own. Above all, they'll realize that the stories behind the ornaments are what make them beautiful, and that the best things in life are priceless.