Christmas Decorations: Why We Make Him Carry All Those Boxes From The Attic

snapdragon-antiques-holiday-decorationsUnpacking delicate vintage glass ornaments, untangling glowing orbs of flickering light, placing winter village scenes just so, divided camps of garland vs tinsel, and don’t forget the tradition of tree topper placement. Some believe less is more (those weird freaks!), and others (like me!) believe holiday is the time of year to go all out. But no matter what our design style, we all deck those halls.

We decorate our homes in the right fashion & in the established order as dictated to us by tradition.

And by “tradition” I mean the stuff that mothers and wives say.

We women get away with all of this for many reasons. After all, it’s usually the women who rule the roost, so it’s we who decorate the roost. We choose between real & artificial trees. We direct the placement of the tree – based on the ability of it to be best seen by those inside & outside of the home, with a dose of practicality to household traffic pattern. We tend to be the ones with the largest collection of ornaments, ceramic villages, and other family historical objects & know the importance & lore of each object as well.

Women tend to be the keepers of family history. The story keepers. We remember whose ornament is whose, the when & why, and we need to balance the old memories of our ancestors with the newer stories of our own families. Not only do we remember the stories, but we also, and this is perhaps the most important part of it all, we share those stories.

vintage-elvesAnd in order to share those stories, we know that there must be proper placement. For how else can we bring up the funny stories of ice skating gone bad, if the winter pond scene isn’t displayed? How can we discuss the history of Uncle Marvin’s elf collection, if the elves are not displayed properly? Without seeing great grandma’s tree skirt, no one can mention how lovely it is, and then we might forget to tell the story of her first Christmas in America.

The physical placement of objects & ornaments is directly tied to our oral traditions.

So it seems only natural that at the holidays, a time of family & tradition, that women give all the dictation on the decoration. This goes here, that goes there, use the angel – not the star, just a little more to the left please. More lights, less lights, all white lights.

If you don’t want the oral tradition to include the tale of the year there was no presentation of Marvin’s elves (a story to be repeated each & every year), you’ll just carry & tote, move & remove, then, yes, then get out of the way & let her do her holiday thing.

Now please bring down those other 8 boxes marked ‘Holiday’ from the attic, honey – we must begin to set up the Winter Wonderland on the console table behind the couch (which will now have to be moved to better appreciate the view of the tree). Everything must be just so.

And some folks already began in October, so we are late.

Images via Snapdragon Antiques.

When Things Are More Than Just Objects

One of the things we try to do here is move past simply describing the objects of our (or any collector’s) affections and try to show the passions behind (or instilled within) the objects themselves. You may have thought that our blogging was all about the justification for our quirky pursuits, but that’s not so. Well, not always

One of the number one reasons for collecting is a passion for history — be it our own personal history, a sense of nostalgia for people and places just at our memory’s edge, significant world history, or some other stop along that continuum. When we collect, we do not merely posses objects and clutch them to our chests, we cultivate collections to capture moments in time, to understand people, places, moments… To understand our collective and personal selves.

Recently, in New York Magazine, Amanda Fortini wrote a piece on a series of photographs of celebrities in their homes. In it she reassures us that our adoration and curiosity of celebrities isn’t just some silly voyeuristic exercise. She wrote:

If these images reveal much about the time in which they were taken — the white shag rug of the sixties, the pro-choice poster of the seventies — they reveal more about the celebrities captured therein.

Even gawking at these celebrities is worth something, for they were the icons of their day representing something larger than just themselves; they represent a culture, a time. Many are still considered icons and so they continue to tell us something of who we are even now.

In that same article, she summed things up well with this:

“Only because history is fetishized in physical objects can one understand it,” Susan Sontag wrote. In one sense, these images are themselves fetishized objects; they are fascinating curiosities. But the physical objects they capture are also historical artifacts, a way of making history concrete.

Ultimately the objects we preserve tell us of human events and motivations, even if what we collect and conserve is not fully appreciated by others.

Viewed this way, our collections are really private museums.

Which leads me to this announcement by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

In May, 2007, the institute is hosting a major international conference called “Collecting across Cultures in the Early Modern World” which will examine aspects of collecting as “a global and transcultural phenomenon.” In preparation they have posted a call for papers on the following subjects:

– The formation and organization of collections: trajectories, networks, circulation, exchange

– The motivations and uses of collections: science, art, religion, curiosity, commerce, empire

– The interpretation, contextualization, and reinvention of early modern collections

– The transference of techniques, artistic styles, ideas, and beliefs through the circulation of objects

– The role of geography in the production, circulation, and interpretation of collections

– The usefulness of theories of center and periphery, diffussionism, transculturation, metissage, etc. in the understanding of collections

– Relationships between objects, texts, and images

While these all seem rather lofty and ambitious (not to mention specifically focused on a period of antiquity ca. 1450 to ca. 1850), these questions are relevant to nearly every collector.

Don’t let the big words fool you, these are applicable to your collection. I plan on proving this here, and I encourage all you collectors to do the same. Post your stories here, write about it at your own blog, or maybe even submit a paper to USC for the conference. You are the curator of your own museum; you know why it exists, what affects how you build it, and what it means.

Stop right now, and look at your collection; besides ‘dust me,’ what is it telling you?

And what would it tell all of us if we could see it?