Many of my favorite family heirlooms aren’t on display every day, but once a year I enjoy the sparkle of special holiday decorations. Tarnished, tawdry, homemade, or kitschy. . . I love them all for the few weeks they sparkle and shine each holiday season.
My mother probably retired our little nativity scene when she moved to her glitter and gold phase in the sixties. I don’t remember it as a teenager, but my grand boys love the little nightlight that softly glows over the manger in the hay. Fortunately, Mom stored the set in a closet cupboard, not the garage or attic, and today it’s still in great condition.
For our family, Ephipany on January 6th is my signal to pack away the nativity set and final Christmas decorations. I take special care to preserve these older vintage treasures for the future.
Whether your decorations are antique, vintage, or brand new to the family, take extra care when it comes to storing your holiday heirlooms. Keep the best things inside your home where the temperature and humidity are moderate year-round. If you’re comfortable, so are your treasures.
The worst place to store any heirloom is probably the place most people think of first when it comes to stashing away Christmas ornaments and decorations — the garage, the attic, or the basement. Out of sight, out of the way.
For items like artificial greenery or mini-lights that need replacing every few years, fluctuating temperatures aren’t a huge problem. But, for treasured keepsakes, summer heat combined with winter damp and frosts will shorten the life of glittery glass balls, vintage paper decor, and needlepoint Christmas stockings.
Storing Christmas Decorations
Be selective about what you choose to store in your garage. Old, valuable, or keepsake items are better stored like family heirlooms, inside your house:
- Glass and Christmas tree ornaments — wrap individually in acid-free white tissue and store in specialty ornament boxes with divided sections. Do not store unvarnished food-type ornaments with other items because they may attract pests.
- Heirloom Christmas stockings — lightly wrap in acid-free tissue and place in an acid-free box, or wrapped in a clean cotton pillowcase in a drawer.
- Special holiday candles — store in a cool dry location.
- Brass or silver candlesticks — clean of any candle wax, and wrap in soft cloth. Never wrap silver or brass with plastic wrap.
- Village houses and bristle trees, nativity sets, or wooden nutcrackers — wrap individually in white acid-free paper and store in a sturdy cardboard box lined with acid-free tissue or polyester batting to cushion the time.
With a little extra care, your holiday decorations will be enjoyed by the next generation and beyond.
Learn More in my monthly column “Family History Home” for FamilyTree Magazine, December 2018, and in my step-by-step guide How to Archive Family Keepsakes.