Decorating a Yuletide tree evolved from ancient celebrations of the undying evergreen when everything else in nature looks dead. Any way you do it, decorating a tree is lots of life-affirming fun–but did you know that tree ornaments can honor our journey and encourage us on our path? Rather than just buying whatever’s on sale at the hardware store or gift shop to hang on the branches, we can find or make simple tree ornaments that turn our tree into a shining symbol of Spirit.
Find out how ornaments can deepen our sense of spirit and the magic of the season. We include lots of fun ideas!
1. What were the major milestones and accomplishments of the past year? Find a way to commemorate them. The year my first book was published, I made a tiny book from handmade paper to hang on my Yule tree. A friend just became a certified yoga instructor, so she will be including a tiny rolled-up yoga mat on hers! When he learned how to ride a bicycle, my son made a simple bike out of wire for the tree, and when he bought his iguana (who is still with us ten years later), there were iguanas–both purchased and cut out of paper or shaped from Sculpey–all over the place! We even topped the tree with an iguana wearing a Santa hat.
2. Who are your guides and helpers? Color copiers have made it so easy to make images of your favorite spiritual leaders or teachers, animal allies, Tarot cards, meaningful artworks or paintings to grace your tree. Just cut the copied image out, glue it onto a piece of cardboard, trim with gold paint or whatever strikes your fancy, punch a hole in the top and thread a ribbon through. Voila–instant sweet reminder of your mentors on the way. In recent years, friends have had images of the Dalai Lama, the angel Raphael, Bear, Mary Magdalene, and the Goddess Brigid on their trees.
3. What is your deep spirit intention in the coming year? Find a way to visualize it. Do you want to be more creative? Find or make a symbol of your chosen medium to place where you will see it and be reminded. Is there a spiritual practice you want to commit to, or one you have recently discovered that calls to you? Find a way to place it on your tree. This year, one friend will be hanging a small shaman’s drum on hers, while another has chosen pictures of beautifully-illustrated haikus to honor her Zen sitting and writing practice.
4. What is nourishment for your soul? For years, I have thought of cooking and eating as ways to experience the joy and sacredness of being embodied, so I include miniature fruits and vegetables on my tree. A pal of mine who loves crystals hangs little quartz crystal points wrapped in wire on hers (and they look charmingly like icicles). Anything from nature is sure to delight me, so there are usually grapevine wreaths, leaf-shapes, acorns, nests, feathers, balls made of mosses or berries–the list is endless–all nestled in the branches or dangling from the branches of my tree. What feeds your soul?
5. What symbols and images enrich your life? You can make simple gingerbread cookies in any shape you like: just use purchased gingerbread mix combined with just enough water to make a stiff dough, then roll it out and cut shapes freehand with a knife, or use cookie-cutters. Spirals, pomegranates, circles, suns, stars, mermaids, wizards, Oms, and crescent moons have all found their way onto our tree over the years. Gingerbread smells great, and you can eat the cookies after the holidays (they’re a little dry and stale by then, but still fun!) Or you can get fancy and make flour/salt/water dough and paint the shapes after you’ve baked them. (These you can’t eat.)
By Cait Johnson, co-author of Celebrating the Great Mother, (Inner Traditions, 1995).