GANNAMARTYSHEVA / Getty Images Keep things cool with all things white and silver. You can start with a green tree like shown, or go big with a flocked tree. Wrap the tree in white or silver ribbon and ornaments.
Ask any Southern family what their holiday traditions are and I'm sure you'll find both shared and unique ones—like a pickle ornament hidden within the branches, waiting to be found. For my siblings and me growing up, we received a sterling silver ornament from our grandmother each year. As a kid, I felt it was by far the least exciting gift to receive (rivaled by the inevitable socks), but now I look forward to that little box each December.
When I asked my grandmother, Yaya, how this tradition came about, she said she was inspired by her godmother, who gave her a piece of silver for her birthday each year when she was young. Though she didn't love the gift at the time, she knew she could always count on it. Yaya said she began her ornament tradition after she married into a big family with so many people and gifts that were just "stuff" around the holidays. "No one needs more stuff and I've always loved tradition, so I wanted to give something more meaningful than a toy. Something to hold onto forever, even if it doesn't mean anything at the time to the person receiving it," my grandmother told me.
After that, whether you were her niece, nephew, child, grandchild, or even just one of her good friends' children, you knew (like it or not) that you'd be getting a sterling silver ornament engraved with your name and year each Christmas. Before we were old enough to appreciate the thoughtful gift, we grandchildren were also lucky enough to receive a coveted toy from our Santa-wishlist in addition to the less-favored trinket. I laughed when Yaya told me, "I'll never forget watching your faces drop when y'all would open the ornament."
In the beginning, she chose a sterling silver "12 days of Christmas" collection and gave us one from the series each year, plus a few others, until we each had a set of 16. For the past few years, she has been giving a thin, hand-painted glass ornament that is always unique. The idea is that eventually, our various collections will hang on each of our own Christmas trees. For now, though, many of mine, alongside my four younger siblings' collections, still adorn our family tree every holiday season.
Want to borrow our tradition? If you're not into sterling silver ornaments, find a collection that feels personal to you—one that you can give over time, or a maker that releases a new one each holiday season. At the end of the day, it's about the tradition and who the gift is coming from. Every year, I love knowing I'll receive a little box with a precious ornament—and that I never know exactly what it will be. Thanks to my Yaya's tradition over the years, I now have an array of ornaments to display on my own tree that will always make me think of her. And one day, the sentimental collection will be something I can pass down to my children too.