Keeping Italy Close During the Holidays

Every December, I feel a renewed connection to Italy and other places I’ve visited. The reason for this is that whenever I travel, I try to pick up a Christmas ornament or decoration to bring home with me. This tradition puts a big smile on my face as I decorate my house for the season. I love rediscovering ornaments, hanging some on the tree and placing other decorations on the mantel or on a shelf and thinking of where I found each small treasure.

 If you have ever been to Florence, Italy, you know the fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the city. This beautiful ornament was purchased at the museum dedicated to Dante in Florence.

If you have ever been to Florence, Italy, you know the fleur-de-lis is the symbol of the city. This beautiful ornament was purchased at the museum dedicated to Dante in Florence.

For a traveler like me, committed to packing light when I travel, tucking a small ornament in my suitcase for the trip home is easy. Even the glass ornaments I have brought back to the States, carried in my suitcase and cradled in clothing for protection, have arrived safely.

 This hand-blown glass angel is from Bellagio on lovely Lake Como in northern Italy.

This hand-blown glass angel is from Bellagio on lovely Lake Como in northern Italy.

Another reason for my ornament-collecting tradition is that I have been a fan of minimalism since well before it became trendy. I don’t like a lot of clutter, so I tend to confine mementos from my trips to photos and holiday decorations that are displayed only once a year. For me, that makes my souvenirs a bit more special. They don’t fade into the background of daily life. Instead, for the month I have my Christmas tree up, I look at them and fondly recall the beautiful places I’ve seen and the wonderful people I’ve traveled with and met along the way.

The red star above is a cloisonné ornament I got in China; the gold leaf is from Durango, Colo.;  the silver stocking is from London. For some reason, it reminds me of Princess Di. On the far right is a hand-blown glass hot-air balloon ornament from, where else?, the hot-air balloon capital of the world!

 This delicate paper ornament with musical markings is from Lucca, a present from the co-author of this blog. It's new to my tree this year!

This delicate paper ornament with musical markings is from Lucca, a present from the co-author of this blog. It's new to my tree this year!

I've collected so many travel ornaments that I don’t display all of them each year. I pick them up even in my home state, when I visit a place I haven’t been to in a while or when I journey to a landmark event, such as the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The ornaments I've collected are displayed alongside another irreplaceable holiday memento: a handcrafted reindeer made by my father, who died three years ago. From him, I inherited my love for language(s) and writing, and from my mother (who died a year after my dad), I inherited my love for traveling. Those are gifts I carry with me wherever my travels take me.

Happy holidays and may 2018 include people and places you love!   -post by JG

 My father crafted this Rudolph.

My father crafted this Rudolph.