Seattle's Child

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Grandma's jewelry Christmas tree, flanked by my great-grandmother's candlesticks and a ceramic angel made by my parents. (Julie Hanson)

Grandma’s jewelry tree: a holiday heirloom that’s become a precious tradition

This handmade piece of love always gets a special spot.

I put up my favorite holiday heirloom tonight: my Grandma’s jewelry Christmas tree.

It’s a holiday heirloom with a story, one that has become more and more special to me as the years go by. And this holiday season, like so many people, I am clinging to those things, even as we cannot cling to as many people as we would like to.

My Grandma Margaret Glover has been gone for more than 10 years, but any thought of Christmas has to come with thoughts of her.

Grandma loved the holidays and made them special. She was also artistic and handy and loved all sorts craft projects. In fact, the angel that tops our tree is a Grandma creation, too, made of that kind of needlepoint that you did on a plastic grid. (Wow. It still exists on Pinterest.) This angel has seen better days, but we can’t imagine our tree without her.

But the jewelry tree … That is a masterpiece unto itself, a wall hanging that I can imagine my Grandpa helped cut the base for. It looks like green-painted plywood, and the lights were poked through from the back. (Thankfully, amazingly, most of them still work.) The “ornaments” are all sorts of earrings, broaches, etc. I think you’d describe it as “costume jewelry.”

We lost Grandma in 2006, and many of her possessions were divided among her two kids and their combined four kids. Come to think of it, I’m probably still using some of her casserole dishes, too. And a couple of lamps.

I don’t remember us arguing over anything of hers, and I had no competition for the jewelry tree. It is a rather large, beautifully imperfect item. But I love it more with each passing year. I used to display it only occasionally, but when I pulled it out, I would post on Facebook, gently taunting my sister and cousins that I had the tree and they didn’t.

Now I put it up every year.

Like a lot of things, it seems particularly precious this year. Maybe it’s because we’ve lost a lot, so we cling more tightly to what we do have.

Do you have a holiday heirloom that holds special memories? I would love to see and hear about it.

Originally published Dec. 9, 2020:

More on the holidays:

Guide to Seattle-area family holiday events

Candy Cane Lane: a trip down memory lane



About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.