Deck the halls with travel souvenirs

Side by side on our tree, souvenirs of Austria, Disney World and even good ol' Baltimore. The Austrian woodcut ornament is from the chapel where the von Trapps married in "The Sound of Music."

Side by side on our tree, souvenirs of Austria, Disney World and even good ol’ Baltimore. The Austrian woodcut ornament is from the chapel where Maria and Capt. von Trapp married in “The Sound of Music.”

I hear arias when I hang this Lincoln Center ornament on my tree.

I hear arias when I hang this Lincoln Center ornament on my tree.

It takes a while to trim a Christmas tree when you have to stop in Portugal, Disney World, Washington, DC, and Australia.

The Guinness bottle hanging from our tree is only about three inches high.

The Guinness bottle hanging from our tree is only about three inches high.

Round balls and tinsel aren’t our style in trimming our tree. There’s no theme except the story of our family — travel dominates but we have plenty of mementos of life’s momentous occasions,, too.

It seems I can’t go anywhere at any time without thinking of the family Christmas tree. I picked up a pretty keychain at the Morse Museum in Winter Park a few weeks ago. Every  attraction’s gift shop seems to have something that would fit in my pocket so it would fit on our tree. There are exceptions to that size rule — that blown glass ornament my husband found at FDR’s Hyde Park home was so gorgeous and huge…

Other people buy the stuffed toy pony for their kids. I bought this one in Chincoteague for my Christmas tree.

Other people buy the stuffed toy pony for their kids. I bought this one in Chincoteague for my Christmas tree.

Most of our ornaments are straightforward ornaments but we also hang a lot of keychains (lots of design goes into keychains), children’s toys, tchotckes that caught our eye. We hang tickets and buttons, and pins. We even hang luggage tags from Sydney on our tree.

We're always in Berlin (AKA Hale, Maryland!) Big  fans of Jeffrey Auxer's glass, we have a star and two blown glass balls he made.

We’re always in Berlin (AKA Hale, Maryland!) Big fans of Jeffrey Auxer’s glass, we have a star and two blown glass balls he made.

I like handmade objects — a decorated oyster shell from New Orleans, blown glass balls and stars from a shop in Berlin (Maryland), a tiny pitcher from Portugal, a bit of lace from Vienna.

Couldn't resist the little baby buggy in Windsor Castle's gift shop. Prince George had just been born.

Couldn’t resist the little baby buggy in Windsor Castle’s gift shop. Prince George had just been born.

Sometimes we find an object that tells a story not our own. Horse medallions by the boxful lay dusty in an antique shop in Eton. We found some commemorating Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and some that were just pretty. Not Christmas ornaments, but they hang on our tree. In Windsor Castle, a blue baby buggy ornament was probably designed to commemorate a new son’s birth. We bought it because a new prince had just been born in the royal family.

I’m sure this isn’t a new idea — I’m sure, though, it’s a great one. I was inspired by the tree of my aunt and uncle who always have hung souvenirs on their tree. At their house for a holiday party just this past week, I surveyed the tree for trinkets from their own trips.

Are there decorations on your own tree that remind you of places far away? Something small that reminds you of that special town, that gorgeous vista, that delicious food? And, of course, the special people you may have shared it with — your own friends and family and the strangers you met?

Part of the magic of Christmas is the memories it evokes. For me, those memories are of place all over the world and in my backyard. As I remember the places and the people, I find new meaning in the phrase: “And on earth peace….”

Merry Christmas. Happy traveling in 2015, no matter whether it’s near or far.

 © Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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