The holidays are a time for families to come together over gifts, food, and special memories. For many, those memories extend to the decorations they use in their home.
Christmas tree providers Balsam Hill asked photographers around the world to share their most memorable decoration and explain why it’s special to them. The submissions spanned six different continents, revealing the touching stories behind the most cherished holiday memories.
We’ve put together a collection of some of our favourites, but you can see the full project here.
'My aunt passed away years ago, so this ornament reminds me that she will always be with us each Christmas holiday. She loved building snowmen; it was her favourite thing to do. When I hang this decoration on the tree each year, it makes me feel warm inside knowing we have a special ornament just for her.' -- Angela
'My two little sisters gifted me this special handmade star bunting ornament on Christmas Eve. They live in India, and I have not seen them since 2011 ... this gift made me realise that no matter how far apart we live, we will always be connected to one another just like this star bunting.' -- Gavin
'This is a small seated porcelain bisque Santa which belonged to my late great-grandmother. I remember this decoration being locked in her ornament cabinet when I was a very small child ...The ornament now stands in my own cabinet, and I bring it out each holiday season and stand it on the bookshelf with other treasured mementos of Christmas past and present.' -- Lorraine
'These artisan snowflakes are made from handcrafted paper beads by my mother and her friend in Haiti … The beautiful bright colours showcase the green mountains, blue oceans and yellow sun of its Caribbean origin. Every year I decorate my Christmas tree with these handmade snowflakes, and it connects me with the woman of Haiti who sat alongside my mother rolling each individual bead together.' -- Lalita
'This holiday set was hand-painted by both my grandparents many years ago. We use it to celebrate both Buddha Day (Vesākha) and Christmas holidays in Sri Lanka. My grandparents were artists who loved to paint and celebrate holidays with the family. They have since passed on, but their memory remains with us every holiday season when we decorate our house with these decorations.' -- Ama
'I'm a student at the University of Tanzania in East Africa studying journalism. One year ago, I was writing a piece on the cultural differences between East Africa and America. While researching my topic, I visited a local NGO and there I met a young boy named Yesuto. He handmade this mask and coloured it himself ... Yesuto gifted me this mask and said, 'Hang this mask on your Christmas tree as it will bring you good luck and happiness.'' -- Ola
'In my country, the nutcracker is used as a token of good luck and good will to protect people from the evil spirits and dangers that may exist. I was given this nutcracker by my grandmother ... it has protected multiple generations of my family ever since and helps to bring positive spirits to our holiday celebrations.' -- Ethol
'Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, is one of the oldest decorations in my Christmas collection ... Every winter when I stayed at my parents' house, this plastic decoration was placed under our Christmas tree, which is brightly decorated with many baubles and little funny figurines. When I was a child, my parents hid Christmas gifts behind the statuette of Ded Moroz. So it reminds me of happy childhood memories and the excitement of gifts.' -- Taina
'After buying our first house together in early December 2010, I surprised my girlfriend with a new bulldog puppy for Christmas ... Our good friend saw this bulldog decoration while doing the last of her Christmas shopping, and knowing I was going to surprise my girlfriend with a new bulldog puppy, she decided to buy it for us. We instantly loved it and now place it on our Christmas tree every year as a special memory of our new puppy.' -- Craig
'My mother handmade a bunch of these nutcracker soldier decorations from wooden clothes pins, and it is by far the most precious Christmas decoration I have. She crafted many of these back in the 80s, hand painting and gluing each one on her own. Today, this is the only one I have left. Every time I decorate our Christmas tree, it brings back special memories of my mother and I celebrating the holidays together.' -- Megan
'This glass snowman globe means the world to me. It was given to my partner and I through a Christmas cracker that we pulled on our first Christmas together ... This will be our 9th Christmas together, and we will have this snowman globe on display as usual, reminding us of our very first Christmas together and all the fun memories we've shared together since then.' -- Simon
'I am an assistant teacher in one of the schools for disabled children in Australia ... Two days prior to Christmas Eve, one of my students started hiding a drawing that she was making. I kept wondering what she was up to. Then, on Christmas Eve, she gave me this beautiful gift. It was a picture of Santa on his sleigh with kangaroos leading the way. I couldn't forget that moment. It feels amazing when children do something that becomes so special to you.' -- Chelsea
'These ornaments are handmade Mexican dolls crafted by our late grandmother. She learned how to hand weave these dolls on a trip to Guatemala where she also met my grandfather. We value having these special ornaments on our tree every Christmas as they remind us of not only our cultural traditions, but also of our grandparents' presence and how they would bring the family together every holiday season.' -- Sausi
'This is, and always has been, the very first ornament I place on the Christmas tree each year ... It was given to my mother and I by my grandmother. Nine years ago, we lost her to cancer, so this special ornament has taken on even greater value for me ... it reminds me of all the wonderful holidays I got to spend with my grandma, and it makes me feel as if I am sharing those special memories with her again.' -- Aidy
'I've always loved mushrooms, as they're considered lucky where I come from in Germany. So when I saw this tiny mushroom at a thrift shop, I couldn't resist buying it. Since then, it's been a special moment every year during Christmas as I always look for a new place to hang the lucky mushroom.' -- Alina
'This ornament was given to me by my college best friend, Christola, who has since passed away from cancer. We played in our school band as drummers, and every time I see this ornament, it reminds me of all the fun memories we had together throughout school. Every year I place this ornament near the top of my Christmas tree so Christola can watch over us while we celebrate the holiday traditions in my family.' -- Aiken
'Two years ago I was training as a nurse in a pediatric department with small children. Before leaving the hospital on my last day, I went to meet all the children patients admitted into my department, and among them, there was a little girl who was very lovely and sweet. She gave me this beautiful angel and said, 'You are an angel' ... Since then, I have kept this angel with me, and every year on Christmas, I decorate my tree with (it).' -- Celestia D'Souza
'Although it's not a typical Christmas decoration, it's really precious and special to me. It was hand-made by my grandmother's best friend and belonged to my grandmother for many years until my grandmother passed it on to me. We call it 'Christmas Dolly.' Over the years, I've become really attached to it, and now that my grandmother is no longer with us, I just can't imagine Christmas without (it).' -- Phillip
'After my father passed away when I was eleven, my mother decided that we celebrate a new tradition -- buying a new ornament together each Christmas, just the two of us. I remember the first time we were both browsing the shopping aisles together and wanted something to represent our mutual love for music, but this was the only ornament that went with 'music' so we ended up getting the same one. My mother ended up passing away when I was 17, but every Christmas I continue the tradition with her in mind, next to my side.' -- Hailey
'One year I volunteered at an orphaned children's community here in Russia. A group from the community made these Russian dolls and gifted them to me as an appreciation and celebration of the holiday season. I will never forget those children, and every year when I place these ornaments on the tree, I'm reminded of the fun days spent with them listening to holiday music, telling stories and making new friends.' -- Anastasiya
'This adorable snowman family is my favourite decoration because it's the first Christmas decoration my husband and I bought together when we were dating. Every time I see it and put it out on display for the holidays, I think back to the little Christmas village we visited that day and all the fun we had trying to pick just the right holiday decoration together.' -- Karen Bennett
'My mother passed away a few years ago, and this decoration seems to be the strongest tie I have to her. It is my very first Christmas ornament and given to me by my mother. Every year, mum and I had always looked forward to putting Christmas ornaments on the tree together, and we saved our 'first ornaments' for last. So now every time I see this ornament, I have a longing for the house I grew up in and the memories that are tucked away in it.' -- Mike
'During the holidays, my grandmother and I would always do fun arts and craft projects together when I was a child, and one year she hand painted these beautiful ornaments -- look at the detail! Nowadays, her hands shake, so she is no longer able to paint like she used to, but these special childhood memories still remain.' -- Rory
'This snowflake decoration was gifted to me by my four best friends at University. After the completion of our courses and our last meeting on the Christmas Eve of 2008, we all gave each other a beautiful glittering snowflake with four jingle bells attached ... Every Christmas this gift still makes me feel blessed for having met these wonderful friends.' -- Jessis
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