Holiday Collectibles and Traditions
by Maxine Carter-Lome
From what and how we celebrate to the food we serve, the items that make up our holiday table and the objects used to perform our religious rituals, traditions create lasting memories that give meaning to the celebrations we choose to honor, share, and pass down.
When my family gathers each year to celebrate Thanksgiving we each prepare and bring to the table a contribution to the meal, an assignment we receive when we are old enough to cook that over time has become a staple of our annual holiday menu. Mine is apple-sausage stuffing. More than the food – a recipe I wouldn’t dare alter after all these years – it is the serving pieces and tableware that hold the greatest meaning for me and my family during the holidays.
In the rich tradition of passing down family heirlooms, our family table and how we celebrate each of our holidays is for me a reminder of my grandparents, and how our family has grown and been enriched through marriage and each new generation. It is for these holidays that we make the extra effort to pull down my grandmother’s china from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet, and polish the silverware, platters, and chafing dishes that only see the light of day two-to-three times a year. All set, our holiday table tells the story of our melded family over four generations. Each item – from the linen tablecloth and napkins, to the platter that brings the turkey to the table, and the silver ornate tea service brought out with dessert – is a reminder of someone gone but not forgotten. We point to these items and share these stories year-after-year, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. Through these family heirlooms and the memories they evoke, each generation learns about and has a tangible connection with our family history; something they can one day pass on to their children, and their children’s children.
Religious celebrations are another area where traditions and objects come together to tell family stories. In the Jewish religion traditional objects and rituals are associated with the weekly Sabbath, special holidays such as Passover and Chanukah, and life cycle events. The more common term for these ritual objects is “Judaica.” Judaica can be any object that is used in a Jewish ritual, or can sometimes be a secular item that is decorated with Jewish motifs. In his article, “Celebrating the Holidays with Judaica” on page 30, Jonathan Greenstein shares information on the most common Judaica objects to collect – Kiddush cups, spice boxes, and Chanukah menorahs – and what collectors should know and look for when making an investment at auction.
While the family table and religious rituals bring families closer together during the holidays, so do the traditions around reading and sharing special holiday stories, especially around Christmastime. According to James Dawson who writes our monthly Collecting Old & Rare Books column and authored this month’s feature “Twas the Night & Other Holiday Classics” on page 27, it was early 19th and 20th century Christmas literature such as “Bracebridge Hall” by American author Washington Irving published in 1822, “The Night Before Christmas” published anonymously in a New York newspaper in 1823, and Dicken’s beloved “A Christmas Carol” that helped to shape the modern day story of Christmas and the images we associate today with the holiday season. These and more contemporary versions of the Christmas story such as Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and new iterations of “A Christmas Carol” have become an integral part of a traditional Christmas season, and continue to be gifts we are happy to cherish, share, and pass on.
Gift giving is another holiday tradition, and one that preoccupies us all year long as we seek out the perfect gift for everyone on our list. Bob Richter, author of “A Very Vintage Christmas,” reminds us that flea markets, antique shops, and other vintage venues are “filled with fun, interesting, unique items that have a soul and character. These are things you don’t find in retail stores, and they are unique, inexpensive, and a joy to discover.” For more tips from Bob on holiday collecting, decorating, and celebrating read his article on page 34 inside our Holiday Antique Shopping Guide, filled with ads and ideas from antique and vintage shops across the country.
From all of us here at The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles to all of you who advertise with us, read, display, follow, and recommend us, thank you and happy holidays! We have an exciting editorial calendar scheduled for the year ahead and look forward to your continued business and interest.
Holiday Collectibles and Traditions