Now I must go; it is a lovely fine night and I have got hundreds of miles to go before morning – there is such a lot to do. A cold kiss from Father Nicholas Christmas – Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R.Tolkien
Tolkien began a yearly tradition in 1920 of sending his son John, and all his subsequent children, a personal letter handwritten in the faux-shakey script of a very old Father Christmas accompanied with drawings and paintings detailing life at the North Pole. After more than twenty years of these stories, letters, and drawings, his family was able to compile them all into a lovely book which was first published in 1976 and has been available in a revised paperback form since 2004.
I may not go as far as Tolkien did for his children, but since my son was born, I have tried to make Christmas very personal for him no matter what our circumstances. One of the ways I try to make him feel connected and special is to design a tree that focuses on his interest at the moment. These themed trees have always been inexpensive, often reusing old materials, and touchably kid-friendly. This year was the sixth Christmas that we made a themed tree, and here is a listing of his trees so far.
Year 1 – He was 1 year old and just starting to walk, so I picked all soft stuffed ornaments that could double as toys. Most were just placed on the branches to avoid even having any type of hanger that could be a hazard. We anchored the tree really well and made it fun and approachable so that we didn’t have to say “No, No.” This tree was a big “Yes!”
Year 2 – His greatest love was dogs and cats. I asked family members to donate any unbreakable old ornaments of animals that they had and then made a few small salt dough ornaments as well. I put all these on a table-sized tree on the ground so he could play with them. We even hung some cat toys so that the indoor cat could be enticed to join in the fun.
Year 3 – His absolute obsession was letters and numbers. In fact the only gift he asked Santa for that year was “the WHOLE alphabet.” He was afraid Santa might forget and leave one letter out and that would have been a disaster, apparently. So I used foam alphabet stickers stuck on a long ribbon as the garland and made shrinky-dink letters and numbers to hang on the same table sized tree on the floor.
Year 4 – Still obsessed with the alphabet, he elected to use the same ornaments again, but we added some letters made of pipe cleaners for a new look. I also got large letters that spelled his name to include right in the center of the tree, and we have used these same letters to put his name on every tree since.
Year 5 – Pirates! I looped some old twine all over the tree as a sort of garland. We used spray glitter to decorate a fleet of paper pirate-ship die-cuts. I also found some small wooden shapes of anchors and ships wheels and hung some plastic golden coins left over from his pirate Halloween costume. He was so proud of it!
Year 6 – Angry Birds!! I used some old plastic bulb ornaments to create the bird and pig bodies. I used 3 colors of craft foam to cut simple shapes for the beaks and head feathers and the pigs ears and noses. These along with googly eyes were attached with glue dots so they would be easy to remove and reuse the bulbs again. I bought one really big green bulb that I added a craft foam crown to make the King of the Pigs. White ribbon garland made the whole tree look just like a “snow level” to my very satisfied son.
Can’t wait to see what next year will bring!