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    Posted December 16, 2013 by
    Vero Beach, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your spectacular Christmas decorations

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    If Christmas Trees Could Talk - What they say about your family history?


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     As Cynthia Falardeau was unpacking Christmas ornaments with her son, Wyatt, he kept asking her about every piece. The experience ended up being a journey through her family’s history. “My Dad died November 1st (this year) and it evoked a lot of memories of him and my late mother,” said the mother from Vero Beach, Florida. “It's a new chapter in my life to have both of my parents gone and both of my husband's parents gone. I started to explain to Wyatt that these boxes were really like a family history and a collection of things that represent my life and those who have gone before me.”

    This holiday season, Falardeau reminds people to slow down and enjoy spending time with their families. “Being nostalgic is a way of reflecting on your blessings. It forces you to slow down and reflect about what is important to you,” she said. “I think that our lives, mine included, are so over scheduled and crammed with fast moving technology that we often forget to just stop, breath (in the fresh smell of a pine tree), and marvel at all that is good with our families and our lives.”

    The image she shared is a family photo from Christmastime 1965. Cynthia’s mother is holding her (Cynthia is the baby) and her brother, Frank, is next to her.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    Each year I unpack my life. Eight tidy Rubbermaid totes contain the chapters of my being. Inside all of them are boxes lined with newspaper and tissues. They serve multiple uses: a historical documentation and a means of protecting hundreds of heirloom holiday ornaments.

    Despite the enthusiastic nagging of my young son, the process is really a quite walk through my family’s history. Each tote and separate box contains relics that document ancestry. They represent my family’s lineage, professional resume, associated friends and lost loves. All of the days of my life are secured each year in non-biodegradable totes that could withstand any natural disaster.

    Every hand stitched ornament represents those I have loved, lost and still hold in my heart. To some it may sound sappy. The truth is that holiday decorations date back to the days of the Egyptian and Druidic priesthoods who prized evergreens as a symbol of everlasting life. Fast forward to 16th Century Germany and candles were used as indoor tree decorations. Martin Luther wanted to recreate the midnight sky for his children by lighting a Christmas tree.

    The history speaks to my family’s immigrant roots. During the 1800’s bits of reflective metal and paper became known as tinsel. In time, floods of new Americans, brought with them innovative ideas on how to decorate trees. My own mother told me her own ancestors used cranberries, popcorn, lace, bright paper, wood carvings, and baked goods to cover trees. Legends, she would tell, covered trees so heavily adorned that it was difficult to tell if a tree was underneath.

    Now for a small confession, my mother always told me her family was really a bunch of gypsies - people known for telling stories. I will never really know if this is true. But what I do believe is that she has passed on to me a collection of artifacts that document a family history that stretches three generations.

    Each piece is hand stitched and crafted to reflect the things I loved as a small child. I still have a “Wizard of Oz” collection. My Grandma Carr made it for me when I was 8. She even created Dorothy with dark blonde hair (like me). There are others, like the characters from, the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” The detail she used to create tight pants of the, “Ten Lords of Leaping,” does make me wonder how many romance novels she once read.

    There are collections from other chapters of my life. I have a treasure-trove of 15 years of retail management. Some are happy souvenirs of sweet people. Others are sad reminders of lives gone astray. And then there are those that retell of events I can never forget: Y2K and 9/11. They completely changed how I viewed my world and who I trusted.

    Moments of strife level your belief structures. Oddly enough, in the face of tears, you are reminded of laughter. These artifacts repeat life lessons I want to impart to others: If a boy gives you an ornament for Christmas – it’s over! When someone does not know what to get you for a gift exchange – they hit the bargain bin at Hallmark. And when your mother does not like who you are dating – she gives your “boyfriend” a photo ornament of you as a teenager! Mark my word….there is more to this tree “bling” tradition!

    There are sweeter reminders of ornaments from my late parents, first photos of our son, and many more from dear friend’s travels. All were given with love and the hope for a new year. I think my favorites were created by teachers who are forever imparting wisdom.

    When I look at my tree this year I see the faces of those who created it. I feel their spirit and message. I am filled with hope.


    The photo features me (the baby) with my late mother and brother Frank - 1965.

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