One of my favourite parts of the festive season is decorating the Christmas tree. Over the years I’ve started a collection of baubles and tree ornaments from my travels and, to be honest, no trip is complete these days without trying to track a new one down. I don’t always manage it but I give it my best shot, although in some cases I’ve had to repurpose objects like this festive koala from Perth which is actually a keyring).
These are some of my favourites.
The ones that started it (and which are still my favourites) are a set of six hand-painted papier mache baubles from Bloomingdales depicting Santa in his sleigh in various New York scenes. I bought these on my first trip to the Big Apple for Thanksgiving in 2000 – you can tell I’ve had them a while by the fact that one of them depicts Santa’s sleigh flying past the Twin Towers. These are always the first ones I hang on my tree each year.
I took my nephew, Liam, to Lapland when he was younger. We had a fantastic four days staying in Yllas where we visited Santa in his log cabin, went husky dog sled riding and had a ride through the forest on a reindeer drawn sleigh, so I couldn’t resist this ceramic reindeer as a reminder of our festive holiday. Liam turned 18 this year so this is another ornament that’s a golden oldie.
My first visit to a European Christmas market was to Ghent in Belgium. Over the course of a weekend I ate my weight in frites and mayonnaise, all washed down with gluhwein and hot chocolate, and came home with this pottery bell and a smoking Santa (you pop a lit incense cone inside and, hey presto, he’s smoking a pipe). I’ll admit, it’s never worked all that well but he still looks good on the mantelpiece.
I have two festive Mickey Mouses (Mickey Mice??) from Euro Disney – my favourite is disco ball Mickey, especially when the lights catch him. I’ve never been to Disney over the festive period which is, perhaps, just as well as I’d no doubt end up with even more decorations for my tree.
I bought this glass Santa in Bremen and, while it’s a generic decoration, I also have a few of the ubiquitous Christmas market mugs to remind me of that trip. As with most trips to Christmas markets, it was a weekend of much food and drink – as all good weekends should be really!
We went to explore the Berlin Christmas markets in 2019 and, with over 60 markets dotted around the city, I was spoilt for choice when it came to festive decorations. In the end I couldn’t resist these wooden figures of Ampelmann. If you’ve taken a trip to Berlin you’ll have seen these little dudes plenty of times as they’re the stop and go symbols on pedestrian crossings.
As Berlin has so many Christmas markets we also came back with quite a collection of mugs. Fortunately, a Christmas market mug is for life not just for Christmas – the tall frosted glasses from the market at Alexanderplatz, in particular, are perfect for an ice-cold beer in the summer.
Isle of Man
Now that I no longer live there it’s always nice to have a reminder of home hanging on the tree – these two, by the super talented Alice Rose Fayle Design, were a gift on my first Christmas in Spain and depict a robin and puffin – two of my favourite birds.
I’ve only managed to collect one bauble this year and that was from our trip to Krakow which we just managed to squeeze in before lockdown. This one depicts Smok Wawelski, the Wawel Dragon although, thankfully, it doesn’t breathe fire like the one that stands at the foot of Wawel Castle.
I obviously don’t know when we’ll be travelling again in the near future but, next on my wish list when we’re able to head back to Northumberland to visit Mark’s family is an Angel of the North to sit on top of the tree.
Do you collect decorations on your travels? Leave a comment and let me know your favourites.