Please Don’t Judge Me for Having An “Ugly” Christmas Tree

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Just Doing Life, Parenting, Self Care | 3 comments

When I was fresh out of college in my first real job, I was invited to a Christmas lunch at the home of one of my co-workers. Her house was lovely, out of a magazine with boughs of holly and wreathes perfectly placed everywhere. The tree was like nothing I had ever seen before. Gold ribbon coming down like a waterfall from the top of the tree, all ornaments color coordinated and placed in just the right spot. The most incredible star on the top of the perfectly trimmed tree. It was fancy, elegant, and perfect.

I was beyond impressed.

My co-worker shared she had two men that came in each year and decorated her house. They knew right where to set things and had a different theme for her tree each year. The ornaments matched the tree and the color theme, everything fit together and complimented each other. It easily could have been on the cover of Martha Stewarts magazine.

I looked at her stunning, glorious tree and realized something– there were no homemade ornaments. No family picture ornaments. No jenky macaroni glued to cardboard ornaments or clothespin reindeer. No glitter or tinsel. No popsicle sticks glued to form a frame. No colorful foil baubles. No Snoopy or Woodstock ornaments.

Absolutely nothing DYI.

It was the complete opposite of my parents tree.

I came home and told my mom we needed to up our game. We were falling behind when it came to holiday decor. Our tree looked mismatched, gaudy, tacky compared to the holy grail of Christmas tree’s I had just witnessed. I vented that we needed a theme, a color combination and to get new ornaments that looked pretty.

I felt like the Griswolds.

I remember seeing the hurt in her eyes. She took a deep breath and patiently told me that no, she was not changing her tree. She liked her ornaments, especially the personal ones. She would never want someone else to decorate her tree, she enjoyed it too much. With a crack in her voice, she said that putting up our tree every year was a walk down memory lane.

I vowed to myself that one day I would be different. My tree would be a masterpiece. I would take a page out of my co-workers book and I was going to raise the bar.

Funny how life imitates itself sometimes, even when we vow to be different.

I was decorating our tree this year and it smacked me in the face. My tree is just like my parents.

I have so many precious ornaments my kids have made of the years, ones I treasure. I love seeing the ones where they wrote their name or glued on a goofy little picture of themselves and then covered the edges with more glitter than imaginable. I covet these gems that remind me how little my kids were and how precious those days were.

My mom was right. Putting up these ornaments is a sweet walk down memory lane. A wonderful and beautiful walk thru motherhood mapped out on the ornaments that hang from the branches. A walk I would do all over again in a heartbeat if I could. A walk that is full of love, laughter, and moments in my life I pray I never forget. A walk that stirs up joy and fills my heart with gratitude for being their mom. A walk that reconnects me to their childhood and reminds me of a time when Christmas was so magical for them.

A walk that takes me back to a season of my life I cherish. Each ornament tells a story and that is what makes our Christmas tree perfect.

I’ve learned that a perfect tree must be more than beautiful, it must be meaningful.

Our tree is not fancy. And Lord knows I’ve never figured out how to get that damn ribbon to cascade down like a golden waterfall. My friends have gorgeously decorated trees. They all impress me and I applaud them. I look at their decorated homes and Christmas tree and I’m reminded that God passed me up when he was giving out the decorating gene. I fall short in that department.

But my tree is a good reminder that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that we were born to be real, not perfect.

What our tree lacks in glitz and glamour, it makes up with love and nostalgia. I am reminded that messy can be magnificent. And the “ugly” ornaments, those make me smile the most. They are beautiful tokens of what matters to me: my imperfect family and the adventures life has taken us on.

Some days I wish I could go back in time. Not to change anything but to feel somethings twice.

My Christmas tree allows me to do just that. It offers me the chance to see the world through eyes of love—love for the moments and memories I have tucked deep in my heart. The homemade, tattered, unmatching, broken, and misshaped ornaments are my DNA, my history, my masterpiece… and for that, I am grateful.

The older I get the more I realize that the Christmas spirit is not in what we see or what we show or what we give, it is in what we feel and what we remember about moments with those we love the most.


  1. Laura

    Thanks Kelly! I love your tree every year. Our tree is very similar. Colored blinking lights with homemade ornaments, pictures of the kids each year and every vacation destination we’ve visited. It’s not perfect but it’s us & I love it!

    • Rachael

      Those are the best ornaments!! I call my “ugly” – whimsical Santa’s workshop!!

  2. Lesley

    I too enjoy pulling out all the homemade ornaments to decorate the tree. I also started a tradition with the boys when they were little to get each of them an ornament that resembled what they were into that year. When Liam moved out he had a box of ornaments to take with him to start his own tree. Christmas is my favorite time of the year!


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