In church yesterday, our fearless leader played “Birthday of a King.” on his sax. I have never liked this song, frankly. I think I have heard sappy renditions of it on the radio. But when our director stood in front of the gold and white Chrismon tree in his white robes playing it on the saxophone, with our very good organist playing the piano very well, I changed my mind.

I was surprised to find that it was written in 1890 by William Neidlinger, and not in 1964 by Pat Boone or something. Apparently, Judy Garland has recorded it, and I bet that would be worth hearing. So if you are going to sing it, you ought to avoid 1970s scooping and 1980s sappiness and sing it honestly. With a saxophone if at all possible.

After church, I gathered up my sons and went to the gym, where we did not see the other kids we were supposed to meet up with. We went through my routine, with #1 son being scornful and refusing to do half the stuff. It was “girlie,” he said. He is sixteen. It is impossible for me to know exactly what about the trip made him cross, but he was bad-tempered for the rest of the day.

He came in to talk to me after I had gone to bed to read, and that was nice, but I didn’t press him about the moodiness. I think it just comes with the territory.

After the gym, I made some ornaments for the tree. Last year we got a larger tree, and I used ribbons and silk flowers to fill it in. I thought it looked nice, but the family were not satisfied, so we need some more ornaments.

Usually, we make one new ornament every year as a family. We like to try new media, and usually make some for our extended family as well. But this year I needed something quick to make in multiples, so I went with wax angels.

The mold came from this place. There are lots of molds around, though. You cut a bit of cord for a hanger and lay it in the mold, melt some beeswax (I used candle stubs last night, though, for a frugal option), scent and color it, and pour it into the molds. In minutes you have cool ornaments for the tree.

Another of my favorite handmade ornaments is a little pillow made with  an antique prayer card. An artist friend gave me the cards, and the local quilt shop copied them onto fabric for me. I just sewed them into little pillows with a hanging cord. I’ve done some family photos that way, too.

This is a really effective way to get graphics and words that are meaningful to you onto your tree. The special paper for the purpose is sold in craft shops, but I have not tried to do it at home. Books on the subject tell you that your local copy shop will do it for you, but all of the copy shops in my town refused. Just a heads-up there.

This one may be harder to see. In the lower left-hand corner is a paper ornament made from the Marth Stewart website. There are antique Christmas card images to print out. I printed some on photo paper, and sewed them together back to back in pairs with gold trim. On the right in this picture is a sort of woodsprite or fairy doll made by a former colleague. She is cheesecloth and muslin with seedpod wings. The face is hand-drawn, and altogether she is quite a wonderful little creature.

This is a simple patchwork star from sewing scraps. Five identical diamond shapes go together to make a five-pointed star. It is just stuffed and hung on the tree. I may make more of these. It’s a nice way to chronicle the year’s sewing projects or the kids’ outgrown clothes, or just to use up scraps.

You can also see another wax angel in this picture.


This picture  has another wax angel in it, and a polymer clay wreath. It was made from directions in Mary Engelbriet Christmas Ideas, with a leaf-shaped canape cutter. There is also in this picture a paper drum made by the director of a play #2 son was in, a Polish doll sent me by my globetrotting grandfather when I was a little girl, a traditional Hmong bauble given to me by a student, a stuffed sheep from the agri department of the university where I used to teach, and a favorite store-bought ornament — the Mouse King from the Nutcracker.

Obviously, we have one of those trees that is covered with memories. I used to be a little snide about theme trees, but then a friend pointed out that we also have a theme tree — it’s just that our theme takes longer to achieve.

Can we see a picture of your tree?