Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Ugly Ornament Day!

By Kirsten Scott

You probably didn’t know there WAS an ugly ornament day, did you? Well, there is. Or at least, I think there should be. When else are you going to celebrate someone’s artistic vision going horribly, terribly, and completely wrong? When else will the ornament outcasts get to celebrate like the Charlie-in-the-box from Santa’s Island of Misfit Toys? I say, it all starts here, and now!

My fascination with ugly ornaments began one wet and rainy Christmas Eve. My mother and her best friend had just arrived to spend the holiday with us. It was our baby’s first Christmas and my husband’s first year of teaching. We were, needless to say, tired, and hadn’t done much in the way of decorating. We didn’t even have a tree.

We went out to the local department store, and discovered something wonderful — on Christmas eve, all the trees are free! We also discovered that by the time you get to Christmas Eve, all the “good” ornaments are gone. As we walked up and down the aisles, we found the most bizarre, freakish ornaments one could ever imagine. Our sides splitting with laughter, we found the elephant-headed lumberjack, and knew it had to come home with us

I just want you to take a moment to appreciate this gem. He’s about seven inches long, with posable legs and a red ribbon hanger. Someone designed this ornament. Someone sat around, trying to be creative, sick of reindeer and snowmen and Santas, and thought — “why NOT an elephant for Christmas?”

Thus began our appreciation — no, our LOVE — of ugly ornaments. Someone thought that a ceramic elephant head on a man’s body wearing a brown coat was lovely enough to grace someone’s Christmas tree. So now, he graces ours.

Each year, we look for ugly ornaments. This year, we found a little friend for our elephant. It’s a cat, covered with tattoo-like marking. I would have loved to have been on the marketing meeting for this one. “We’ll capture the cat-loving, tattoo-wearing, Christmas crowd! No one’s done that before! They’re an untapped market!”

There are some wonderful, inspirational websites I've found with ugly ornaments. You might like to peruse the Peterson's timeline of ugly ornaments, or perhaps view the Top 10 Ugly Christmas Ornaments. I really appreciate most the ugly ornaments that aren't trying to be a joke -- like my elephant. How about this poor little Clara ornament? I mean, I know she's trying to be beautiful, but *ouch*.

Okay, I know, the cat’s kinda cute. Nothing like the elephant. So we’re determined to do better. And that means, it’s time for the contest. Now, I posted information about an ugly ornament contest on my blog, and discovered people didn't have pictures of ugly ornaments. Shockingly enough, you all don't seem to COLLECT them, the way I do. But there were definitely stories out there about ugly ornaments, particularly those made as crafts when we were kids.'s time for a little contest. I've got some Delcroix Academy swag to give away for the best description of an ugly ornament. Extra points are awarded for pictures, though they aren't necessary. If you Twitter, you can tweet me (@inarascott) pictures. You can also post them to Facebook (look for Inara Scott). If I get a lot during the day, I'll update the blog. BUT, descriptions are also fabulous! Tell me about that craft you did with corn kernels and pipe cleaners and you're in!



Helen said...

Is he staying with me

Have Fun

Helen said...

See he knew I was baking another cake today LOL so he stayed.


I love that elephant decoration it is so good I collect elephants so it would have made it into my shopping bag had i seen it LOL the cat well yep not so pretty. We actually got our tree out today and 4 year old Jayden and 3 year old Hayley decorated it so it is very much decorated on one side and mostly around the bottom of the tree LOL and I am getting really low on decorations I really need to buy some more the ones I have are all really old and a lot of them are very cheap LOL.
I always used to let my children decorate the tree when they were little and now the grandchildren do it I leave it as is and they are so proud of what they have done.

I will try and post a picture on facebook later on so you can see it.

I do love the idea of the ugly decoration I might need to start doing this.

have Fun

Unknown said...

well done helen... he has already been down today for a cuppa so he may come again LOL

The elephant is really ugly... don't think even my worst craft object looked that bad.... I can't think of any ugly ornaments I have ... of course I only make good ones LOL

Fedora said...

ROFL, Kirsten!! How hilarious! I'll have to give this some thought... we've occasionally stuck stuff onto the tree that was never meant to be there... buttons from trips we've taken, odd widgets yanked off of who-knows-what, but I can't think of the most hideous of these... will have to ponder this ;) And not sure I could top that elephant--he reigns supreme!

Fedora said...

Oh, and congrats on the GR, Helen! Is he much help with the tree? Better keep an eye on what he tries to add to it!

Tawny said...

OMG Kirsten, that is so funny. And yes, that is one ugly ornament :-D

I'm actually pouting a little right now that I don't think I have any ugly ornaments. The hubster is bringing in all of the decorations later today and I'll dig through and see, though :-)

Helen, congratulations on the Rooster love :-D

Deb said...

First of all, I just want everyone to know that our Christmas tree has a case of OO---Ornament Overload. Yes, I have tons of ornaments and hate to leave any sitting in the box. (Okay, one or two ugly ones.) The side facing the picture window is somewhat bare---I mean, who sees that side anyway?

In second grade, I made a Santa candy dish from felt, a white pompom for the tip of his hat,a baby food jar, and glue. Cute idea, but with traces of glue showing all around with uneven pieces of felt makes for an unattractive dish. Mother, bless her heart, still has it in her box of decorations.

As I write this, I hope the ornaments my students and I are going to make on Monday aren't ugly or dumb....

Christine Wells said...

LOL Kirsten, I am loving that elephant ornament!! While I admire people who decorate their tree as if it belongs in a shop window, ours is a lot more eclectic.

Probably the oldest ugly on our tree is the prized 'disco ball' Christmas ornament that my husband's sister made in kindergarten. It's just a styrofoam ball stuck all over with green and red sequins. When my SIL was overseas, her mother tried to throw it out but my husband performed a search and rescue mission. The disco ball goes on our tree every year. Last year, the angel was holding it. My SIL likes to perform spot inspections so we have to make sure the disco ball is always there but in a weird place so it takes her a while to find it. She's never asked for it back, though. Wonder why!

Helen, I see the rooster is wearing his glittery apron all ready to help you with the cooking! Congrats!

Christie Kelley said...

OMG, I love the elephant, Inara! I'm afraid I don't collect ugly ornaments. I have some really beautiful ones that I love to pull out each year. Now that kids are older, I can actually put those lovely ornaments lower and they can be seen. But not low enough for the cat to get.

Kirsten said...

Hi Helen! Nice nab on the GR! I hear he's crafty -- maybe he can help decorate the tree?

Kirsten said...

Hi Helen! I would love to see your tree -- sounds wonderfully lopsided. LOL.

I think we've got about 10-15 wonderfully ugly ornaments the kids made a couple of years ago -- maybe you could do this with the grandkids. Just mix up this dough:

½ cup salt
1 cup flour
½ cup water

Then have them cut cookie shapes, and bake for a long time at 350. If you're like me, you won't roll the dough out flat enough, so they'll be thick, misshapen, and won't cook right. They'll be cracked in some places and flat in others. Then the paint goes on. Don't supervise the kids too much. Let them mix all the colors together so the ornaments are a uniform brownish-greenish-purple color.

This makes the PERFECT ugly ornament. And will fill out the empty spaces on the tree, too.

Kirsten said...

Oh, and Helen, I'd love to see the picture of the tree -- please do post on Facebook!!

Kirsten said...

Heh heh, Barb, I love your confidence! I'm suuuuure you've got a few ugly ones on the tree. LOL.

But really, we love them all, right? The ornaments are part of our family histories, so they're all beautiful.

Kirsten said...

Fedora, I love the idea of sticking random things on the tree that weren't meant to be there. This opens up whole new avenues in the ugly ornament contest. I'm very impressed. ;-)

And yes *modestly lowers head* I did show you all up right from the start. Sorry to intimidate you with the elephant. I should have started with something a little less ugly.

Kirsten said...

Tawny, there's still time. I bet they have some ugly ones at the grocery store. Don't count yourself out. ;-)

And really, you're so crafty. I can't believe you haven't made SOMETHING with the kids that went horribly wrong? Or did you...gasp...throw away the misfits?

Kirsten said...

Deb, I am totally with you on the OO. My kids are absolutely determined to put everything on the tree, so I have to secretly hold back some of the ornaments so we don't end up with a completely ridiculously overloaded tree.

I hold back, in case you're wondering, on the painted playdough ornaments. *VBG* There are just so many of them, and I don't have the heart to throw them away!

Now as for your candy dish, that's PERFECT! Besides being intrigued and wanting to try this with my kids, I love the story and how perfect that your mom still has it! Thanks for sharing!!

Kirsten said...

Christine, I *knew* you would be there for me. I ADORE your disco ball, and I know I'd *love* your eclectic Christmas tree.

I don't have a perfect anything else in my house, I can't imagine why I'd start with Christmas decorations. LOL.

Kirsten said...

Hi Christie -- I bet your tree is beautiful!

Here's my questions, though -- all those beautiful ornaments (and we've got a few, mixed in with the ugly ones). Don't you live in terror that someone will knock them off the tree and break them? I have all these fancy glass ornaments that I end up keeping in boxes on the mantle because I'm so worried they will get broken.

But even the mantle is dangerous, because the kid looks for fancy thing to knock off of it. LOL.

Lexi said...

Are you sure it is an elephant and not Cthulhu dressed as Santa? A few more tentacles and . . . I'm just saying.

I'm from Alabama, where half the Redneck Nation goes for elephants, big time, so that ornament would probably fly off the shelves here!

Love this post! Made me laugh as I venture into the wilds of Lowe's to purchase a Christmas tree. BTW, I have a Statue of Liberty ornament from my first year of marriage that's pretty moth-eaten and homely. We love her!

Helen said...


Thank you so much for that reciepe I am sure that Jayden and Hayley will have lots of fun making the ornaments with me.

I will hopefully get the picture posted sometime today after I get back from doing my Chrissy shopping.

And yes we do have lots of paper ornaments of Christmas Puddings and Santa's and Angels that my children did when they were young and we usually have them on the tree as well although this year Jayden said he didn't want them on LOL so they are still in the bag.

Have Fun

catslady said...

I haven't done my tree yet but I've been collecting ornaments for over 40 years and have many homemade ones. I don't have a photo since they're still buried away but I will tell the story of my two ornament angels. I have two daughters and when they were very young a school project was making angels - one used a paper plate and the other had wall paper for the body and face. Well one of our daughters is an artist (in her last year of college and has even sold some work) and our other daughter can't draw a straight line. We use to take turns putting the angels on top but every year we laugh and laugh because we call our one daughter's the "hooker angel" - she has the biggest, brightest red lips for one thing. It's really a family joke and she has a good sense of humor. The last few years we've been putting them both up side by side (I get a tree with two tops lol). I wish you could see them.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Inara - LOVE this blog. Love the elephant and it is ugly - ugly enough to be attractive.

My kids have made ornaments from that dough recipe. Another biggie seemed to be glueing seeds onto a corregated cardboard heart then tying a bow on it. In fact - anything seems to become an ornament if you tie a ribbon bow on it. But I refuse to call a child's work of art ugly. Too many memories there.

I try to buy a Christmas ornament from all our trips, but sometimes the pickins' are pretty lean. When we went to the Cayman Islands, I bought an ornament of a sea turtle with wings (I guess if you add wings to anything it also becomes a Christmas ornament). The turtle is also holding a horn (yeah- those sea turtles do that, don't they) and has Cayman Islands on the underside of his shell.

This year I bought a Hallmark ornament as a prank gift for my son. It's a big tattoo heart with flames coming from the top, something you'd see on a biker's arm. Doesn't that say Christmas to you? It has a scroll across the middle of the heart that says "Wild Thing". There's a button you can push that will play the song. Which is why I bought it for my son. We used to call him Wild Thing when he was little and sang the song to him. He hated it when we did that. Now though, I think he has fond memories.

So cute idea, cool song, but an unlikely Christmas ornament.

Kirsten said...

Hey everyone -- had to disappear for a while to take my son to the ER! Double fracture in the bones of his left wrist (and he's a lefty). It's awful -- they tried to reduce it at the ER (ie, torture him by trying to reset the bones) and it wasn't successful. Hurt like hell, but didn't do much good. But they put a temp cast on it and we'll go back into the fracture clinic Monday. Fun fun fun!

Kirsten said...

Jeane, I must say it had never occurred to me that elephants might be beloved in some parts of the country. Heehee!

I bet your Statue of Liberty ornament is priceless -- in all ways. It's wonderful to have momentos from years past (and I'm sure it's not pretty, though perhaps too beloved to call ugly!).

Good luck at Lowe's. Hope you find a great tree. :-)

Kirsten said...

Helen, I hope the ornament making goes well! We have some adorable paper ornaments from when my son was 2. Can't believe that was so long ago!

Kirsten said...

OMG Catslady, what a fabulous story! I do dearly wish I could see the hooker angel -- what a wonderful Christmas tradition!

Now I want to know where you find the tree with two tops...

Kirsten said...

Donna, your turtle ornament definitely sounds like a contender for the ugly ornament contest, but the Wild Thing heart sounds even better! Oh man, I just love the idea. Now, ideally, someone made this because they thought it was a great idea and would genuinely appeal to someone, not just for a joke. Because that would be even better.

Thanks for playing -- I wish I could see all our ornaments, they sound fabulous!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

I can't say I have any UGLY ornaments. I have some very, very old ones from when I was a child, though!

When we were little my mother bought these three angels, made of styrofoam balls and pipecleaner arms, with a flimsy halo and mesh type bodies. I adored those little angels. I kept mine until after I got married. It was simple, cheap, but I remember the first time we put them on the tree. That reminds me of my mother and that Christmas as a child. So the ratty-haired angel gets put on the tree, just as enthusiastically as the fancy Hallmark ones!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, congratulations! Oh, Kirsten, I don't know about the ugly ornaments. I've seen some really bad ones in my day, but none have come home with me.

Now, if we were talking ugly tree skirts, I inherited one of those. Ugly wreaths? Ditto! I couldn't say no when my husband wanted to keep them, because his great aunt made them. Oh, Lordy!

Okay, I do have one that some preschool teacher made with my older daughter. It's a cutout of an angel with my daughter's head excised from a photo and glued onto it, but not exactly on the face area. It's weird and ugly and not even a good picture of my daughter...but it goes on the tree every year. I'm sure it always will and then they'll pitch it when I'm dead and gone. :-)

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Just got home from my RWA chapter Holiday Party. It was great FUN!

Wow, that is one UGLY ornament, Inara!

I have a few doozies, including a Grinch ornament. But I gotta say, my favorite that I actually bought for myself is a glass pickle. I guess somewhere, in some culture, hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree is considered good luck. And this ornament looks EXACTLY like a big green dill pickle (warts and all).


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OUCH on your son's broken bones!!!

I hope he's okay and that YOU get some nice soothing meds for yourself.


Laurie Logan said...

Kirsten, sorry about your son's accident - hope they get him all fixed up.

Anyone who crafts or has kids has a few ugly ornaments. We've had our share. However the ugliest one we have isn't one we made, but one given to my husband from his father. It's a ornament of Elvis, from the waist up. Looks like he was cut in half and mounted on the base - kind of like a hunting trophy.

Fun post!

Louisa Cornell said...

Aunty C ! The pickle in the Christmas tree is a Germanic tradition, but nobody seems to know where it came from originally! Traditionally the parents hide the pickle on the tree and the child who finds it has good luck all year.

Louisa Cornell said...

That is ONE ugly Christmas ornament. Definitely comes under the heading of "What were they thinking?"

I can't remember any ugly ornaments off the top of my head. Haven't put my tree up yet, thought I probably will tomorrow.

I have a couple of sets of ornaments that I collect in themes. I have dogs and cats. Teddy bears. Birds. And I also have ornaments from all of the countries I have been fortunate enough to visit.

Kate Carlisle said...

Wow, that is one ugly Christmas ornament, Kirsten! I'm so impressed--and I think you win the contest!

The only ornament we have that comes close to ugly is a horse made from corks. You know, wine bottle corks. His head is a cork with some yarn glued on for a mane. His head is attached to his neck--which is a cork, of course. His body's a cork. And he's got four cork legs. He's fairly awful, but still not as wonderfully, elegantly ugly as your Mr. Elephant!

The cat is a little scary, too! LOL

Helen, congrats! Hope the GR doesn't gobble up all the cake!

Louisa Cornell said...

Oh no! So sorry to hear about the little one's broken arm! Not fun! Send him to bed and take the pain meds yourself. You'll need them. Kids are never ones to let a little thing like a broken bone slow them down!

Fedora said...

Kirsten! Oh no! Gentle hugs to you son, and hugs to you! I'm so sorry--I hope he isn't in too much pain, and they'll be able to help set everything properly Monday :( Please keep us posted!

As for ornaments, we've done some homemade ornaments, but because we went the cookie-cutter route (with letting the kids decorate them after they're cut out), the ornaments were actually really cute. Until they got moldy. Then they were scary but cute, and we had to toss them. *sigh*

But those still aren't on par with that pachyderm! ;)

Kirsten said...

Aww, Suz, what a great story! I love those kind of things, so full of love and memories. I bet those angels are treated more carefully and with more love than the most delicate glass ornaments.

Thanks for sharing the story!

Kirsten said...

Caren, there is definitely room in Ugly Ornament Day for an ugly tree skirt and wreath! Do you still have the wreaths? They sound wonderfully dreadful!

I think the school crafts make for absolutely wonderful ugly ornaments. Of course, nothing our children make could be really truly ugly, but, mmm, that angel ornament sounds so special! And the longer you have it, the more committed you will be to keeping it. You should put a note in your will that you expect your daughter to put it on HER tree every year. Just to torment her. LOL.

Kirsten said...

Oh AC, a PICKLE? Oh man oh man, that sounds fantastic! I want a pickle ornament too!

As for my poor boy, he's off to bed. And when they need to do this again, I'm demanding better meds for the poor guy. At least something to help him relax before they stick him. Sheesh.

Kirsten said...

Hi Laurie! I think the ugly Elvis ornament should be in a class all on its own. That sounds awesome -- and I'm sure there's some diehard Elvis fan out there that treasures an ornament like that and treats it like a precious, beautiful thing. Fantastic!

Thanks for the good wishes for my boy. He's off to an early bedtime, poor thing. I'm hoping things good smoothly next week. *fingers crossed*

Kirsten said...

Louisa, thanks for the compliment on my dear elephant. *LOL* I know he is very very special. ;-)

I bet your ornaments from around the world are really special. There's got to be some cool traditions you learned about while you were traveling. I love being home for Christmas, but some year after the kids are out of the house I'd like to go to Austria or some wonderful snowy European locale for the holiday.

Kirsten said...

Kate, it sounds to me as though you've got something special there with your little cork boy. What fun. Let me guess -- you made him after throwing back a few bottles? ;-)

Kirsten said...

Fedora, thanks for the sympathy! I do hope things get better next week when we see the pediatric orthopedist. I think the ER docs just don't really know how to work with kids.

I think you got lucky with the ornaments getting moldy, BTW. My salt dough ornaments never fade or get moldy, which means I'll have to keep them FOREVER! EEEK!