According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of $53.68 for Christmas decorations this year. As the owner of five small and one large Christmas tree, that seems kind of a low-ball estimate.
But, honestly, no matter what you spend, the best part of Christmas is getting to revisit some of your favorite ornaments and decorations each year at this time. Here are some of mine. Their collective insurable value? $O.
Five limber elves: One of my first Christmas memories is of a collection of five wooden elves in gymnastic poses. They were a gift to my parents when they had five children. I was number six. They've always been a part of Christmas.
When I was little I thought they came to life when I went to bed. (Yes, Elf on a Shelf, send the royalty checks my way.) They live with my sister and I look forward to visiting them every year.
Bouffant angel: Another favorite is an angel with a bouffant hairdo and green "gems" for eyes. I like it so much, I leave it out year-round. It's on a bookcase just outside my bedroom. I bought it at an estate sale for 50 cents. It's the only estate sale I've ever been to because it made me so sad to pick through people's belongings, especially when I could see their shoes still sitting neatly in their closet.
If the house caught fire I'd grab my angel after, of course, my child and my pets. But right after.
Mrs. Riley's angel: When I was in second grade in Catholic school, my teacher, Mrs. Mary Riley, brought in a bunch of things to share with her students. Among the items was a '60s-era plaster angel. I loved it because Mrs. Riley clearly loved me. She even called me "bright" and let me help other kids with their work. She didn't, however, give me a penmanship certificate I didn't, and still don't, deserve. I didn't appreciate that at the time, but I love her for that as well.
The tree topper: For years and years, a stuffed Snoopy with candy stripped antlers topped my tree. I loved it and don't know why except, maybe, I played Snoopy in a play once when I was 5 years old, and my daughter was born on Christmas Eve.
But one year my daughter, a traditionalist in some forms of décor, insisted we had to have an angel on top of the tree. I relented and bought a beautiful blonde angel in a gown of white. There she glowed one night after my daughter had been tucked into bed. So pure. So white. So unsullied. So like a million other angels on a million other trees. Out came the glue gun and soon there was a trail of colorful beads down her front. Now she's among my favorite things.
Mr. Tree: When I was pregnant with my daughter in 1998, the local drugstore chain in my Orlando neighborhood was giving away giant stuffed toys, including a Christmas tree. The way you won was to fill out a slip and put it in a box — one box for each item. The rules did not limit the number of entries. Most of the hundreds of slips in the box for the stuffed Christmas tree were handwritten by me. I was nesting. I was growing a human. I needed that stuffed tree.
My daughter likes him, so he stays in her room year round. Mr. Tree may go college with her.
What about you? What's your Christmas favorite item? Email me at email@example.com. Include a high-res jpeg picture and an explanation of your favorite thing. Please put "favs" in the subject line. Some responses will appear in a later story.