Growing up Black during Christmas
I remember as a little girl, my sister and I would help our mom set up her tree. It was one of those old-school artificial trees, where you had to put the individual-colored branch into the matching hole on the tree. Every year we were tasked with fluffing each individual branch so her tree would look fuller (I am so grateful that newer trees have the branches already attached). After all the fluffing, it was time for my favorite part: the decorating.
My Dad would bring out the totes filled with Christmas magic. After he and my mom would string the lights on the tree it was time for my sister and me to help again. We oversaw hooking the ornaments and handing them to my mom as she placed them on the tree. She still to this day knows where to place each ornament to make the tree look wonderful. One by one, we would hand her an ornament, some were round, some shaped like icicles, we had snowflakes in various colors, and bows galore just to name a few. One year, my mom was very excited about the Christmas tree.
After we were done helping her decorate the main part of the tree, she told us “I found a new tree topper, let me go grab it from the car.” My sister and I waited and wondered what was so special about this tree topper. Was it bigger than the normal one she used? Was it a bow? She came back with a shopping bag in her hand and pulled out a black angel tree topper. It was the most beautiful tree decoration I had seen. Her wings were a cream color with hints of sparkle. Her gown was a radiant golden color. Our mom said “It is so hard finding Christmas tree ornaments and decorations that look like us. So when I saw one as beautiful as this, I had to grab it.” As I got older and began decorating for Christmas, I understood more than ever what my mom meant by this.
Source: Adobe Stock
We are getting closer and closer to the dream
It means a lot to me and other Black people to see themselves represented at Christmas. When I was growing up in the early 2000s, it was hard to find dolls and ornaments that looked like me. If there were any, the skin tones were very limited. Growing up, it was hard to find a “black Barbie” or “black doll” but it brought me so much joy when we did. People use decorations to express the happy emotions this time of year brings. Having decorations with darker pigmentations makes it even more special. African American ornaments allow people of color to see themselves as part of the magic of Christmas and feel more included in the spirit of these festive times. It is important for black people to be seen in a positive light but especially so for little boys and girls. Being surrounded by images or toys that look like them shows kids that they are an equally important part of society. A little girl seeing a black ballerina ornament or doll sees how beautiful she is and most importantly, how society sees and acknowledges her beauty. A black Christmas tree decoration is more than a representation, but is a feeling of belonging in society. It declares: I too am worthy.
What does the future hold
Compared to the early 2000s there is a more diverse decorating option, however, the holiday ornament industry is still behind. So what’s next? As time goes by more and more ornaments have been made to represent people of color ornaments and decorations but often it’s the same ornament. The facial features? The same. The hairstyles? The same. The only difference is the skin color, which often only comes in one color. Black people as a society and culture come in different shades, hair textures, and backgrounds. Our skin tones can be honey, caramel, mocha, chocolate, or ebony, just to name a few. Our hair can be coiled, curly, kinky, straight, short, long, natural, braided, the list can go on. It’s a special bond we all share. It makes us unique. This is why representation matters during the holiday season. People of color want to see diverse and positive images of themselves displayed for everyone to see. Doing this helps uplifts us as a culture. Christmas is a time when everyone comes together to spread joy. It’s a time for creating long-lasting memories. Christmas ornaments and decorations should reflect outer and inner beauty.