Our family puts the tree and the other Yuletide decorations up a day or two after Thanskgiving. One year, I noticed a lot of little picture frame ornaments in the stores and I thought, "Oh, what a lovely way to display some old family photos on the tree."
Then I started doing the math. I have a lot of old family photos. At $5 a pop, those little picture frame ornaments add up.
So I decided to make my own. I printed out copies of the photos - that way, the originals could be kept safe. Then I got to work with some twigs from the back yard, metallic spray paint, hot glue and ribbons.
A couple of days later, I had way more ornaments than would fit on our already-overfull Yule tree. So I decided to give the Ancestors their own little tree.
That was another craft project: a large dead branch from one of the oak trees in the back yard, set in plaster in a decorative container that had held a festive flower arrangement the previous year. I hid the plaster with a pile of pine cones and some ribbons.
Now every year, along with putting up the big tree and decorating it, I put up the Ancestor Tree. I hang all the photos plus some little glass baubles, for sparkle.
The season that runs from Samhain to Winter Solstice is a time when a lot of people turn their thoughts to their Blessed Dead. Why not honor them with their own tree?
You don't have to have old family photos. You could use ornaments that represent particular ancestors or branches of your family. For instance, I might choose a little tractor for my farmer-grandparents, or a tiny spinning wheel or drop spindle for all the women in my family down through the ages who spun thread and yarn to make the family's clothes.
Even in families that are lucky enough to know the names of their ancestors going back a ways, there always comes a point when you run out of names. Beyond that point, the Ancestors are nameless, faceless - but they're the Ancestors regardless. For them, I like to hang an empty picture frame. Because we should remember them, too.
I wish you the blessings and joy of the season, and blessings upon you and your ancestors, upon whose shoulders you stand.