My Christmas Tree Obsession — Guest Ellen Byron

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win a copy of A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron leave a comment below.

Here’s a little bit about the book: Maggie Crozat is home in Cajun Country during the most magical time of the year. But the Grinch has come to stay at the Crozat Plantation B&B, and he’s flooding travel websites with vicious reviews. Maggie ID’s him as rival businessman Donald Baxter –until Baxter is found stabbed to death. With her detective boyfriend sidelined as a suspect, Maggie must catch the real killer or it will be the opposite of a Joyeux Noel for her.

Welcome back, Ellen!

I’m obsessed with Christmas trees. I’m such an inveterate ornament collector and crafter  that my husband once made me pare down my collection because I had a dozen boxes taking up an entire shelving unit in the garage. I got it down to six boxes… but I couldn’t stop collecting so I’m back up to twelve. (Shhh!! Don’t tell him!!)

I can trace this obsession back to when I was twelve years old and my mother announced that we would no longer have a Christmas tree. She’d begun working to help out the family finances and didn’t have the time or energy for it.  Give up the family Christmas tree?! Oh, hell to the no. I told my parents if they bought one, I’d take over decorating and un-decorating it. They agreed to this deal, and a Christmas Tree Commander-in-Chief was born.

I was so proud of my decorating skills that I occasionally submitted photos of the final product to Christmas tree contests in women’s magazines. I never won, which I assumed was because the contests were fixed; there was simply no way my talent with tinsel could go unrewarded. I kept trees up way past their expiration date. When I was in my twenties and living in Manhattan, I left the tree up for so long that by the time my roommate and I took it down the five flights of stairs from our apartment to the street for disposal, it had shed every single needle. That’s not hyperbole. It took me hours to sweep those stairs.


Ornaments are the perfect souvenir when you travel, so I collected them on every vacation. I made them, too. My last batch was a salute to my Cajun Country Mystery series and the state that inspired it.


Sometimes I still hang the Mardi Gras beads I caught in college – I went to Tulane in New Orleans – from the tree branches.

With college tuition looming and disposable income a thing of the past, I’ve cut back on both collecting and crafting. But I do have one project I can’t give up. It was a wonderful gift from friend and fellow needlepointer, Ruth Behling, who knows me so well.


It’ll make a nice ornament, don’t you think?

Readers, do you collect holiday ornaments? Comment to be entered to win a copy of my newest Cajun Country Mystery, A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING.

Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called her new book, A Cajun Christmas Killing, “superb.” Body on the Bayou won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and was nominated for a Best Contemporary Novel Agatha Award. Plantation Shudders, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards, and made the USA Today Bestseller list. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles; published plays include the award-winning Graceland; TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, Fairly OddParents, and pilots. Ellen lives in Studio City with her husband, daughter, and two spoiled rescue dogs.

Readers: Do you have a holiday (any holiday) decoration that you are obsessed with?




98 Thoughts

  1. Ellen, I love the needlepoint ornaments! I have one of a little wreath someone gave me. I love this series and can’t wait to read the new book.

  2. I have way too many ornaments for my tree, so I have to pick and choose every year which ones to put on.. One of my favorites is an ornament I made with folded fabric and pins so that it looked quilted when done. My sister and I took a class at a local store to make them and I think just the memories and laughs we had during the class make it one of the ornaments I always put on my tree!

    1. Jane! I used to make those too! One year (years ago) I made about 50 of them an sold them at a craft fair to finance a plane ticket. I still have two of them.

  3. I collect blown glass and crystal ornaments, gotta love the shiny. I also make an ornament each year (35 years and counting) for 60 friends and family. My son, nieces, and nephews have one for each year of their lives and my giving list has grown to include my awesome granddaughter, great-nieces and great-nephews. I already own your wonderful book. Merry Christmas!

    1. Mo, thank you so much! Your tree must be gorgeous with all those crystal and blown glass ornaments. And lucky relatives! Merry Christmas to you!

  4. I collect Snoopy/Peanuts ornaments. And my husband and I recently starting collecting ornaments from places we go to visit, like Key West, Tampa, St.Thomas/St. John, and Virginia Beach. It makes us smile to remember warm sunny places when it’s cold and miserable at home.

  5. I had to pare back my ornaments, too. We bought a smaller tree and not everything fit. Of course, we then accidentally gave away that tree, so I thought I could use all th ornaments again — but my 17-year old daughter has taken over Christmas decorating and not all the ornaments fit in her decor strategy. Oh well.

      1. This year, we’re going with all white lights (they twinkle a bit, too), white, silver, and gold ornaments, and she’s using cotton batting to do a “fake snow” effect.

    1. Not to be too skeptical in this season of good will, but “accidentally gave away”, Liz? Like my mother used to “accidentally” lose my dad’s holey socks and tee shirts at the laundry?
      My ornament collection is being gently pared. I was overwhelmed by the decorations and ornaments that my parents had collected when emptying their home. Tempted as I was to bring everything to mine — I selected many of those that I had given them or that they had given each other and left the rest to the estate sale. That was 4 years ago. Since then, I have sorted ornaments while taking the tree down: keep or take to the church thrift shop. Pack them away and October 1, just before the take to the thrift shop day, I check those one more time. Haven’t pulled anything back yet. Merry Decorating!

      1. No, acciddentally. Here’s the story.

        The Hubby wanted to downsize the tree so we didn’t have to do so much furniture moving when we decorated. So he bought a tall, but narrow, tree that fit neatly in the space between the chair and the corner bookshelves. I was underwhelmed (I like a big tree and our original was a wedding present – although after 20+ years I have to admit it might be time for a replacement), but I was willing to go along with it. Thrilled with his experiment, after the holidays we boxed up both trees and took the “old” tree to our church flea market for their charity sale.

        Fast-forward a year. “Where’s the new tree?” he asks as we root around in the boxes in preparation for decorating. We find the box and open it – it’s the old tree. he looks at me. “I took the new one to the flea market, didn’t I?” We’d packed the new tree in the old box. 🙂 The only thing left was the tree stand.

        The Girl was thrilled because she did not like the narrow tree. “See, this is God’s way of telling us we’re supposed to have a big, fluffy tree!”

        We didn’t try to buy a small tree again this year.

      2. I love the story. I”m glad you decided to just keep the old tree and accept your fate! 🙂

  6. How charming, Ellen! Every year when I was a child and for a long time into my adulthood my mother would give my sisters and me each an ornament to unwrap on Christmas Eve. That way when we moved out and had a tree of our own it would already have memories associated with it. I have enjoyed doing the same for my own children.

    1. What a wonderful idea on your mother’s part! Darn, I wish I’d thought of that when my daughter was born. It’s great you’re doing it for your kids.

  7. I really enjoy this series. Louisiana and N O are so different from New England, although people are much the same wherever you go. Happy Holidays to you all.

      1. Like the triple “o”, Ellen. Emphasizes to me the longevity of family treasures. Now that I have finished hanging things on the tree and putting decorations about the house, I’ll be starting your “Body on the Bayou” — recommended by friends, it will be my first time reading you. Looking forward to it.

  8. We don’t collect ornaments at our house, but when our first child was born I made gingerbread men out of brown felt and used little white buttons from my grandfather’s white dress shirts that my grandmother had cut off and saved for the button eyes and three buttons down the front. Now our son, his wife and their small children are enjoying the gingerbread men on their family tree.

  9. I have collected ornaments since I’ve been on my own. I seem to do themes but the problem is not just one theme but SEVERAL. I find an ornament I love and then I need all in that series. I will say that the majority of my ornaments are Hallmark ones. I HAD to have the Barbie doll ones cause they reminded me of mine when I was a kid. Then hubby loves chocolate so anything chocolate was considered a theme. Love the old time cartoons so Bugs Bunny, Road Runner or Tweety all went in that themed area. You get the drift. 🙂 We bought the tallest and biggest tree that our last home would hold. It was 11 feet tall and we put in on a revolving tree stand so you see all the ornaments on the tree (can’t neglect those on the back of the tree). With well over 300 ornaments all kept in original boxes each year, to say it was time consuming to decorate was an understatement. When that tree seemed full, it just meant we had to have other trees like the kitchen little tree that had anything kitchen connected, the small 3 ft. wire tree to hold our daughters ornaments from when she was a baby, a 5 ft. tree in the dining room for all the Wizard of Oz stuff since hubby and I both are huge fans, plus several others until we were up to 7 trees in the house. Now we have a fur-baby named Snickerdoodle who is a Chihuahau who of course needed his own tree. Found a small 18 inch already decorated tree decorated with food bowls, fire hydrants and link sausage garland with a bone star on top and little chihuahuas climbing all over the treee which worked perfect. Then low and behold found a chihuahua Christmas train that looks adorable with it on the coffee table. 🙂

    We moved this year into a new, smaller home we built in the Ozark Mountains our dream destination. We sold the big tree but I still have all the ornaments in tubs. Yes, we have downsized but it’s now Christmas month and time to decorate. We will see what and how much gets taken out or what may need to be added for a change of pace. Addicted – maybe! 🙂

    Thanks for a chance to win a copy of A Cajun Christmas Killing. It sure was nice to read about someone else that loves to get in the Christmas spirit as much as I do!

    1. Wow!!! First of all, I’m totally jealous you have all the Barbie ornaments. I only have two and LOVE them. And that Chihuahua tree and train? Both our furbabies are chi mixes, and I would kill for that train. Deets, please!

  10. Our wedding anniversary is in December so every year we get a special ornament to commemorate the occasion. Thank you for the chance to win.

    1. What a wonderful idea. I do something similar, but with my kid. Every year since she was in preschool, I take her school picture and put it in a photo ornament. It’s fun to watch her grow through the years when I trim the treee.

  11. I love collecting ornaments from the places I travel to. My family and I took a cruise over Thanksgiving week. My daughter and I found some colorful ornaments in Honduras and Belize. A fun way to remember our vacations.

  12. The new book sounds great! We haven’t managed to pare down yet, in fact seem to be going the other direction. Each year we look for a new special ornament for the tree. Doesn’t have to be fancy but have some meaning for the current time in our lives.

  13. I do collect them, I have decades worth of Avon ornaments, my mom started before me. I have always loved hounds, they sound so sad and longing, such sweet little faces…even if a little slobbery. Lol. Would love to read this. I’m thankful for my family and the ability to adopt a new furry friend for Christmas.

    1. Oh, SO slobbery! We still find spots of Lucy drool in the house, and she crossed the rainbow bridge in 2010! And congratulations on your new furry friend. 🙂

  14. I definitely collect ornaments. I try to get one from each place we travel. This year I got talavera pottery ornaments from Arizona (they were made in Mexico). I also buy one special ornament each year that reminds me of a memory. Add in all the ornaments my kids made when they were little and I’m going to have to have at least two trees!

  15. I loved your story! I love ornaments too. I would get so excited each year for the Hallmark ornaments. I get there book that came out in July and circle all the ones I wanted. I had to do the layaway plan. I have cut back also, but I love all my ornaments to this day. Brings great memories!

  16. Welcome back, Ellen. I love the premise for A Cajun Christmas Killing.

    I, too, have too many ornaments, and now some of my late parents to add to the boxes. No Christmas tree this year because we’re traveling for the holiday, but next year…

    1. Thanks so much, Barb. The villain was inspired by a real-life hedge fund guy I read about. No naming names here, tough. Have great holiday travels!

  17. I’m glad you stood firm on having a Christmas tree, Ellen! My favorite ornaments on the tree are the hand-crafted ones gifted to us by friends and family. Your stocking ornament is gorgeous — and A Cajun Christmas Killing was a great read, BTW!

  18. Do I really have to answer this question? 😉

    I have actually collected ornaments from trips for years, something my parents started both my brother and I on when we were kids.

    Back in 2010, I started collecting Hallmark ornaments, something I’d resisted for years because I knew once I started, I’d never be able to stop and I’d buy way more than I could ever realistically use. And I’ve been right on both counts. What made me start? I discovered I could review them on the site I was reviewing on at the time. The moral of the story? Don’t start reviewing because it will ruin your budget.

  19. Twelve boxes of ornaments—that’s not many compared to what my husband and I have. There are at least 25 boxes, if not more—and then there are all the big decorations that are too big for boxes and are stored in the rafters in the garage. My favorites are the hand made ornaments my mother made for me and the ones my husband has made over the years. One year we put up 4 trees and still had ornaments left over.

  20. Howdy!
    I grew up collecting ornaments… When my parents got married they didn’t have anything and went to the 5 & dime to decorate their tree so they started the tradition of every birthday and Christmas, my sister and I each received an ornament. When we left the house we had a nice collection to hang on our tree. I do that with all 8 of my children and to this day I still collect at least one ornament a year for myself that kind of represents my year.
    Happy Holidays ~
    Kelly Braun

  21. Ellen, loved your book. (Don’t give it to me, give it to someone who hasn’t read it yet). Yes, tons of ornaments. I gave a box to each kid when they moved out and just dropped a box off at Salvation Army and have three more boxes in the garage that I can’t fit on the tree but can’t part with yet.With the 13 year old boy in the house, we’re collecting Star Wars ornaments now. May the force be with you.

  22. Ellen, Congratulations on your new, wonderful book! Love this blog. It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone in my Christmas ornament obsession! In years past, we even had to do a mini tree for my girls’ Barbie and Madame Alexander ornaments. If you are ever in CT I will take you to my favorite little Christmas shop, The Pink Sleigh. I’ve (somewhat successfully) cut down by only buying ornaments for gifts, so I still get to go and look. When I post my pics from my last visit, I’ll tag you.

    1. I would LOVE that. And I’ll tell you my Madame Alexander doll story.

      My family had a cottage in CT on Bantam Lake for 36 years. I miss it – and the state – terribly. xoxo

  23. I love the Louisiana ornament! I do not have a favorite Christmas ornament – as we are in a small place and live with cats, a tree isn’t an option, so the ornaments I did have are packed away. As are my Garfield and Odie Christmas plates from … years ago. Congratulations on your new book; I am always happy to see someone who enjoys Christmas and decorating for it!

  24. I love Christmas ornaments! I really enjoy getting the tree out and finding all of the ornaments that my children have made to put on the tree. We recently moved and used to use a 9 foot Christmas tree because our old house had really high ceilings. Our new house does not have the same high ceilings. I haven’t figured out yet how I’m going to pare down what I put on the tree. Maybe do 2 trees this year!

  25. I am thrilled to have found a series with a Basset in it. We are extreme Basset people who have a tree of Basset ornaments. Keep collecting!

    1. I have Basset ornaments too! One with our late Lucy’s name on it. As a Basset lover, you’ll be happy to know that Gopher, the Basset in my series, is a bit of a hero in A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING>. 🙂

  26. I do not collect ornaments. As I get older, I tend to want less stuff, not more. Books, of course, are the exception! And I have to say, that is one sad-looking tree you had back in the day!

    1. LOL, you made me laugh! That was the tree in my NYC apartment and yeah, it was pretty sad. But at that point, it had probably been up about a month.

  27. Hi Ellen, since we don’t do the tree thing we don’t collect ornaments. But we do receive them places like Colonial Williamsburg as a gift for our yearly donation to the cause.

    I’m in the middle of the new book and I’m going to hate it when I finish it. I have to give it back to the library. I hope I’m the lucky winner so that I can reread it whenever the mood suits me.

    NoraAdrienne (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Oh Nora, thank you so much! Glad you’re giving a library book a workout, though. Library sales are important to us authors. I love, love, love Colonial Williamsburg. Thank you for donating to them!

  28. Oh, my dear, we’ve been collecting ornaments for 44 years. We get them from vacations, museums, and anywhere else we see something we like. And we get them all on the tree, somehow. Speaking of keeping trees up, last year our daughter wasn’t able to come home for Christmas until the end of January, so, of course, we left the tree up. It was just so pretty and took so much work to get up, that we somehow just never got around to taking it down all year. And we kept it lit. It’s not in the front window, but it can be seen from the street. Wonder what our neighbors think?

    Would love to win your new book!

    1. What a great story! Props to you for getting all those ornaments on one tree. I think mine would have to be the size of the tree in Rock Center if I was to accomplish that. And I think your neighbors must LOVE that your tree is still up!

  29. I used to collect ornaments. I would buy a new one every year (from the time I was about 13 and used my allowance). I kept that up for years. When I moved out and had my own tree I had enough ornaments for the whole thing (ok I did usually buy more than one, oh Hallmark I miss you). Then I started collecting glass blown ornaments and flying reindeer. When I ended up moving back home to the house I grew up in (with my parents and older brother and his wife) I brought all of my ornaments home with me. Unfortunately I moved in February. By Christmas all of my boxes were either lost or gone. Since then I still pick up flying reindeer when I see them. I love special ornaments and do have several I adore.
    Thanks for the chance to win your book

    1. Oh no, I’m so sorry your ornaments were gone! But I’m glad you have several you adore.

      I’ll tell you something. During the recent California wildfires, I heard one poor victim say that they’d lost everything, including their ornaments. I live in the L.A. area, and we actually had a fire – quickly put out, thank God – in the hills above our home. So now my box of handmade ornaments sits by the front door, along with the box of valuable papers, in case of emergency.

  30. I don’t collect ornaments any more but treasure the ones that I have. However when my artificial tree, which loses needles the same as real trees, gets too bad, I’ll have to give my ornaments to the church yard sale. I’ll still have my manager scene and shelf trees, angels, Santas, carolers, etc.

    1. Sounds like you’ll keep some lovely momentos. Our artificial tree is years old, and loses needles too. And some of the lights have stopped working. But it just keeps chugging along, even so.

  31. I no longer collect anything but enjoy all the ornaments that my family & friends have.

  32. Hats off to the Christmas Tree Commander-in-Chief! I’m glad that you didn’t let your folks get away with NO tree when you were 12. I’m seeing a Y/A or children’s book in that story.

    I must confess…I am a certified Christmas nut. I LOVE to collect ornaments, especially handmade treasures. I have several ornaments that have been picked up on trips. The collection includes a cute one from Colonial Williamsburg. My husband and I visited Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas time in 2001. What a treat. There were very few travelers that year due to the 9/11 tragedy. All of the folks in the hospitality industry and the airline industry kept thanking us for being there. It added another layer of emotion to the holiday season.

  33. Love the Christmas Tree Commander in Chief! Want to drop by Washington, DC the second week of December and help deck my sister’s halls? That’s 700+ ornaments on the tree, another 150-ish ornaments on other ornamentable locales, and hallways and rooms of vignettes….. come on, it’ll be fun (and exhausting). And, I promise to never let on about the 12 boxes and any friends they develop over the years.

    1. 700??????????????

      Although I think if I counted, I might not be far off. Thanks for keeping my secret. And there better be pix of those decorations on FB!

  34. I like to buy one special ornament for the tree every year. Love reading about Cajun country and would love to read “A Cajun Christmas Killing”. Have fun decorating your tree!

  35. I don’t buy many new ornaments. But I love putting up the tree, watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music. I spent a decade doing Christmas by myself, so I overcompensate with Christmassy feeling.

  36. I downsized my Christmas tree so I just have a few ornaments – Grandchildrens first Christmas and a couple of other special ones.

  37. I used to collect ornaments for my kids and I have passed those on to them. I love bells! Jingle bells! Fun and festive!

  38. If I see a new one that catches my eye I have to get it. I always gave my grandchildren a new one and now have two new grand babies. So I’ll be looking for them too.

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