Christmas macaroni and trees

Tanika Anbu, Staffer

Contrary to the traditional glittering red and white ornaments and popcorn-cranberry garlands, my family’s Christmas tree looks like a five-year-old’s art project, adorned with macaroni-bordered pictures, painted bookmarks and haphazardly cut ribbons.

My family has a long-standing tradition of creating Christmas ornaments to place on the tree. We gather together with our wooden stencils and ceramic ornaments, passing around brushes crusted with Crayola paint to create our perfectly imperfect decorations. Every ornament is branded with our family nicknames and year. For example, when I was 12, mine was labeled with “Tanna 2017,” adding personal flare and serving as a memento to reflect on years later. While our tree may be untraditional, it houses a lifetime of joyful and simple family memories. 

When I was younger, I focused on more arbitrary aspects of the holiday, watching the newest “Good Luck Charlie” episodes and drinking hot chocolate. I struggled to understand the significance of our yearly ornament-making, especially if we were going out for vacation on Christmas. But when I moved from New York to India, I began to miss these traditions that once defined the holiday season. Instead, Dec. 25 became like any other day, consumed by Chota Bheem watch parties and continuous rain instead of glistening white snow. More importantly with the absence of my family’s tree and everyone’s full schedules with Kumon worksheets and meetings, the holiday spirit went dry. There were no more races to the tree on Christmas morning or the desire to bake our favorite strawberry jam cookies, as we stopped celebrating all together. As I lived this alternate reality for two years, I realized that Christmas was more than a new TV show or watered-down chocolate drink; it was about making memories, keeping traditions and spending time with family. 

Once moving to California, I could finally appreciate what I had once overlooked. Christmas became the one time every year where my family put aside work and focused on each other. Even if it simply ended up being my sister and I making fun of our parents’ obsession with Tamil movies, I’m able to reconnect and spend time regardless. As I grew up and acquired my own responsibilities, I learned to savor the moments when we convene peacefully without being burdened by impending deadlines and endless work. 

Since my parents task me with deciding the theme of the year’s ornaments, I spend my days scrolling through pictures of possible ideas and experimenting with household materials. From painting plastic spoons to fusing together meltable beads, we find novel ideas to ensure our tree never runs short of eccentric decorations. Innovation drips from every branch of our tree, shown through our unorthodox use of bent paper clips to hang each decoration.

Whether it be choosing art materials from Michaels or helping my dad draw mini basketballs on his ornaments, my family’s ornament-making tradition will serve as a reminder of home as I go to college and beyond. I envision future Christmases characterized by slightly chaotic decorations and hot glue, yet at the core, shining with familial love and appreciation. 

As I write “Tanna 2022” on my ornament, I will inevitably think of the hardships from the year, but more importantly, I will reflect on the good times I have had with my family and friends, adding another permanent memory to our tree.