Family Christmas Tree Pictures

Peter Fournier and Catherine Fournier

Decorated Christmas trees are now an essential part of almost everyone's Christmas celebrations. We put them everywhere, and it's generally considered very sad when someone decides "not to have a tree." We've got artificial trees of all sizes from enormous to table top, cut-your-own tree farms and fresh Christmas trees for sale on practically every corner.

As with so many other Christmas traditions, the original meaning and symbolism of Christmas trees have been lost in a flood of secular materialism. This lack of understanding imposes standards of perfection on our Christmas trees and their decorations that further suppress the untidy human dimension of our faith and its traditions. Lumpy children's decorations - with all the eager intent, love, and learning that they represent - are no longer welcome on our trees. How tragic.

As we moved our domestic church towards restoring Christmas, one of the first things my husband and I did was replace a Christmas Eve visit from Santa Claus with a visit from Saint Nicholas on his feast day. This restored the celebration of Christmas as a family and community celebration of a joyous miraculous occasion, and the exchange of gifts at Christmas as expressions of that happiness. The fun of a big family gathering replaced the materialism of a big pile of gifts. Our Advent wreath, Jesse tree readings and other traditions re-inforce that message and the pressure for "the Best Christmas Ever" has eased considerably.

So what about the Christmas tree, with its central position in our living room and our Christmas traditions? Yes, we need to tie it to the wall to keep Andrew from pulling it over (as he did twice the year he was three,) but what else can we do with it? We can use it as another place to communicate the message of the importance of family, and the human joy of Christmas. Home-made Christmas tree ornaments may not have the glossy perfection of store-bought or professionally made ornaments, but they shine with love and memories.

Our family tree has plaster and bakers' dough ornaments made and painted by the children, cross-stitch, stuffed and felt ornaments that I've made over the years, tiny birchbark canoes in honor of our family canoe trips, painted glass ornaments by our oldest daughter, tiny grass and seed angels by my sister-in-law and a myriad of other mis-matched, disconnected and unco-ordinated ornaments. We look forward to seeing them every year.

This craft is another way to keep the family in the centre of the Christmas celebrations. Small ornaments made of cardboard and yarn hold photographs of family members. They can be updated yearly, or the collection expanded yearly with the latest photograph of each person in the family. Over the years, the collection will grow to include departed loved ones as well as those gathered around the tree in person. What a great way to remember them!

Picture Star

How to Make Family Photo Stars

Materials and Tools:

Embroidery cotton and 3-strand crewel yard (yarn is easier to work with, but cotton has brighter colors)
Cardboard, 1/16 inch to 1/8 inch thick      Craft or dressmakers pins, at least 1/2 inch long
Gold foil paper or tinfoil      White glue
Ruler      Pencil      Scissors
Utility knife      Clear Tape      Large-eyed needle or small crochet hook
Small passport photo sized snapshot of family member.

General Directions:

Using a utility knife to keep a clean edge, cut two 2 inch squares of cardboard for each ornament.
Glue a 2 1/2 square of foil to one side of each cardboard square, wrapping the excess smoothly over the edge. Glue another 2 inch square of foil onto the other side of the cardboard, covering the edges of the first piece.
Glue squares together to form an 8 pointed star.
Stick a pin in each point, leaving at least 1/16 inch extended.
Tape the end of a long piece of yarn or embroidery cotton to the center of one side of the star.
You're ready to start winding. The thread is wound around the star in a sequence.
Keep threads taut and close together. The ornaments will revolve after they are hung, so be sure that the back pattern is also correct.
Before starting a new color, check that the line count of previous color is the same on all sides. Then tie the starting end of the new color to the end of the last color and tuck the knot under the wound threads. Resume winding.

Winding Pattern

The thread is started from the front, wound around a point, passed to the back to the next point, then continues to alternate front and back.
Tape the end of your first color in the centre of the star. It will be hidden later by the photo. Run the thread to point A, and wrap or turn the thread around the pin.
With the thread at point A count two points forwards (or clockwise) to point B and wrap or turn the thread around the pin.
From point B, count one point back (or counterclockwise) to point C, and wrap or turn the thread around the pin.
Continue this way counting two points forward, one point back, two points forward, one point back.

Winding Pattern
Finished Winding
Finishing Up:

Stop winding when you're pleased with the way it looks, and you've got a space left in the centre of the star for the photo.
Weave the end under the theads at one corner, and knot close to the work. Push thepins all the way into the cardboard now.
To make a hanging loop, cut an 8 inch length of the last color of yard or cotton. Fold in half. Pull the folded end through the threads and a point or joint. Knot the cut ends and conceal the knot under the threads.
Now, tuck the photo under the threads in the centre of the star, making sure that it is secure and centred. If you'd like you can put a second photo on the other side of the star - a different person, or a different shot of the same person. How about one serious picture and one funny one?

For more about Christmas Trees and other Christmas traditions, see our articles by Shonnie Scarola;
Advent traditions, Part One
Advent traditions, Part Two
Advent traditions, Part Three
More Advent Traditions

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