Flittering about the Interwebs of an evening, I came across this image of a “Samhain Tree” that a Flickr user named Paige (ladybird.ladybird) created for the centerpiece to her dumb supper table. When I first saw it, the curmudgeonly part of me grumbled “Holy mackerel! We string crap on trees for just about every holiday lately, don’t we?” See, I have a thing against all the “Easter Egg trees” and “Valentine’s Day trees” and “Thanksgiving trees” I see in women’s magazines at every turn of the wheel. In my book, the only tree-decorating holiday should be Yule.
However, the more I looked at Paige’s decorated branches, the more I realized she was essentially making a literal “family tree” from photographs of ancestors. The concept was really simple: Take two scalloped circles of orange-and-black scrapbooking paper, sandwich a loop of orange or black ribbon between them, and glue them together. Then, cut out a circle around the face of a printed photograph of your ancestor and (optionally) a slightly larger circle of another decorative paper to frame the photo. Glue the two the the front face of the scalloped circle. Additionally, you can cut out a second circle of the second decorative paper and write the name of your ancestor on it before gluing it to the ornament’s back. That’s really all there is to making the ornaments, which–being flat pieces–will easily store in an envelope between Samhains.
I really enjoyed the “bring the metaphor to life” aspect of this family tree, but I thought it had great practical benefits, too. It allows you to attractively elevate your ancestor photographs on an altar so that you can place other seasonal items, various ancestor items, and plates for the dumb supper below. If you’re anything like me, the Samhain altar gets awfully crowded, so something like this can really save your hide come circle time.
Making the tree itself is also dead simple: you just cut generous lengths of thinner, nubbly branches from a local tree and group them in a vase. Inserting them into marbles or glass chips will help hold them in place, and a tall, cylindrical vase (like the one shown) will help keep the branches from spreading outwards overmuch. For extra seasonal tie-ins, the vase can be decorated with orange and black ribbon, as Paige has done here.