Decorating the holiday Christmas tree can be a great family activity.  When our daughters were young, we designed an approach to decorating the tree which became one of the most mindful and enjoyable activities of the season.  Both our daughters are in college now, but this tradition has served us well for fifteen years.

We first displayed our growing and eclectic collection of ornaments on the table, ranging from simple pre-school treasures to ornaments fit for the tree of a Russian Czar, and then took turns selecting and hanging one ornament at a time.

But before we would hang each ornament, we’d dedicate the ornament to a specific person.  We’d announce who it was dedicated to, why we chose them and what we wanted to thank them for.  A friend might get a snowman ornament in honor of the snowy creatures they made in our yard.  An aunt might get an angel, in honor of her thoughtfulness and care. The piano teacher might get a miniature piano.

The ornaments would go up, one by one, and the tree would become a canvas of love and support. Each ornament represented the kindness and generosity of someone we know or have known.

In some cases, we dedicated an ornament to someone who was no longer alive and, in doing so, honored that person’s life and our memory of them.

We might spend 30-40 minutes each evening for 3-4 nights before completing this process. The decorating itself becomes a practice of reflection on our good fortune, and even before the appearance of presents underneath the tree, we are reminded, throughout the season, that our lives are blessed and that we have been the beneficiaries of great generosity from an ever-expanding circle of wonderful people.

And sometimes we’ll be inspired to show an honoree their ornament by taking a photo and emailing it to them on Christmas Eve.  Several people have responded by mentioning how touched they were to find out that we had dedicated an ornament to them.  And as our lives unfold, so unfolds the network of people who have played a role in supporting us this past year.

This year we plan to pick up a few extra ornaments.

Gregg Krech is a leading expert in Japanese Psychology and author of several books.  He will be conducting the online course, Living on Purpose, beginning January 11, 2020.

Author Bio

Gregg Krech

Gregg Krech Author, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace and the Japanese Art of Self-reflection (2002)| Author, A Natural Approach to Mental Wellness (2004, 2011)| Author, A Finger Pointing to the Moon (2000)| Editor, Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal for Purposeful Living (1993-Present)| Director, ToDo Institute (Vermont) (1992-Pr......

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  1. Dodie S. 8 years ago

    I wanted you to know how your words were such a big help for me this last Christmas season. I seems that every year we lose another friend or relative, and this year I lost my best friend and a close relative at the same time. I wasn’t looking forward to the holidays. However, I remembered the year I retired, you said the girls placed an ornament on the tree and spoke of me. I felt so honored. So, this year I took time with each ornament and remembered those I loved who had passed or were ill. Then I finished by thinking of those who were here. It was a loving happening and made all the difference in dealing with the holidays. Thank you!

    Dodie S., Vermont

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