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?




Wicked Wednesday: Holiday Traditions

We Wickeds have a few holiday traditions, some from our childhoods, some created as adults. We thought we’d share a few.

Liz: I’m a Christmas music junkie. My parents played all the classics during our holidays while I was growing up, and it stuck. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas to me without some Burl Ives or Nat King Cole. Also, opening presents on Christmas Eve. That was my family’s thing – we had our big celebration on Christmas Eve and then the “Santa” presents on Christmas Day – even when we were way past Santa age!

Sherry: One of my favorite traditions came from my childhood. We always have pizza on Christmas Eve. That tradition came about when we were supposed to go to my grandparents farm one year but an unexpected snowstorm stopped us. Mom had cleaned out the refrigerator so it was pretty empty. Pizza Hut was the only place open so that is where we ate and a tradition was born. My mom made the pizza for years and now Bob is in charge.

Jessie: When I was a child my mother gave each of her children an ornament on Christmas Eve each year. That way when we got to be adults with a tree of our own we would each have at least eighteen ornaments to decorate with that would feel familiar and already be imbued with Christmas memories. Now that I am a mother, I do the same with my children. I hope they will continue the tradition with their own families.

Julie: Jessie, I love your tradition! Am a decade behind with the nieces and nephews, but maybe I’ll jump in anyway. Honestly, but only holiday tradition is to watch White Christmas on Thanksgiving. Other than that, I try to spend time with friends and family. And I make apple pies. But the rest? All up in the air since my sisters both had families, and I spend time different places.

Edith: I always make bunches of sugar-and-butter based cookies from my motherOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and my grandmothers’ recipes. But the first Christmas after I was divorced, 12 years ago now, my sons and I decided to make sushi on Christmas Day. No tradition was behind it, but now it’s an important new one that has lasted over a decade. And in Jessie’s tradition, I started acquiring decorative nutcrackers, thinking each son would then have a few for his own home when the time came. A couple of years ago, they said, “Mom, I think we have enough nutcrackers now!”

I also love to put electric candles in all the windows that face the street, and line the doorways with tiny white lights. I leave the window and door lights up into January, long after the tree has come down. It helps to dispel the short dark days of winter.

My son Rob gets a present from Santa in 1983

My son Rob gets a present from Santa in 1983

Barb: One of my favorite traditions is a party my husband’s father’s family has every year on the Sunday closest to The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. It started as a way for Bill’s grandparents to get together with their four boys, their daughter and the cousin they raised, and all their many, many grandchildren around the holidays. Of their children, only one, Bill’s Aunt Mary, now 90, is still living, but the tradition goes on.

One of my favorite features of the party is that Santa comes! My son says he was in school before he realized that not everyone had Santa as a friend of the family and that having him drop in on our family party was very particular and special to us. I loved it because each of the children would give Santa their (often meticulously researched and constructed) list, and that way we had it when it was still early enough to do something about it. Santa then gives them an inexpensive toy, something to “hold them over” until the big day.

Viola and Santa in 2013, with a reassuring hand from her dad.

Viola and Santa in 2013, with a reassuring hand from her dad.

It’s a lesson in patience, because the children have to wait until it’s dark, and then have to sing three Christmas carols before Santa comes, and then have to wait until their name is called to come up. In my husband’s day, Santa, always played by one of the uncles, wore a terrifying mask. Fortunately that had been dispensed with by the time my kids came along.

This year was my granddaughter Viola’s first time with Santa. She sat on his lap and smiled like a champ. I have to admit I cried.

Readers: What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Or the least favorite, which you are obliged to follow anyway?