Whether you do so in the form of cards, handmade gifts, or decorative projects, creating heirloom pieces that will last a lifetime and always brings you back to the moment is such a special idea.
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mantle decorations with painting pedestal bowl greens

The holidays strike a chord of nostalgia in all of us. We reminisce on the magic of Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah with a penchant for our childhoods. But the essence of that holiday magic is not the gifts, the cards, or the trimmings. Rather, it's the family and the memories made together. Photographs of these times are the perfect inspiration for this year's projects—baking cookies, ice skating and sleigh rides, and snow days off from school. There are some gifts only you could make and décor that only you could create for your home, as inspired by these keepsakes and photographs. The best part: A the end of the season, they can be taken down, stored away, and saved for cherishing again next year.

Advent Calendar

Count down the days to December 25 with a snapshot and the memory it's captured in a handmade advent calendar. You can display them, collage-style, in an opened box. Or make it a surprise by forming the shape of a Christmas tree with envelopes in various sizes and marked with adhesive numbered stickers: Stuff each one with a hidden photograph and a thin, lightweight present that corresponds to it (such as a picture from the family's annual ski trip, plus a gift card to your go-to resort).

Wreath and Garlands

Holiday greenery is traditionally used to deck the halls, but family photographs and small keepsake trinkets can be curated into custom décor: For the front door, greet neighbors with a wreath made of glittering holiday heirlooms upcycled from your family's collection; string up a collection of cards, photographs, or postcards from holiday vacations into a garland down the staircase banister for everyone to see on Christmas morning.

Quilt and Pillows

On snowy winter days, snuggle up with a sewing project: Printed photo fabric ($18.50, spoonflower.com) that can be sewn into pillows, blankets and quilts, and even kitchen tea towels. On a smaller scale: Stitch up a batch of fabric sachets, and these make a charming idea for handmade gifts. On holidays, such as this year, when the family is unable to gather together, it also provides much-needed comfort.

Gift Toppers, Tags, and Wrapping Paper

For handmade gifts, a handmade embellishment is perfectly fitting. Photographs can be printed, cut, and tied with twine to personalize all of your gifts under the tree and this can even aid in a more organized Christmas morning: Dad receives gifts topped with a vintage photograph of himself in childhood., the kids receive gifts with snapshots from their snow days, or everyone receives a gift packaged with custom-printed wrapping paper ($15, minted.com).


Of course, what better place to display your framed portraits, cards, and keepsakes than on the fireplace mantel? Layer them into vignettes with your family's heirlooms—both antiques and new ones—that speak to the story of your holidays past. For instance, your mother's lit menorah beside a vintage photo of it at your family's Hanukkah in early years. For another, a bowl of fresh pomanders paired with a photo of your children making them at the kitchen table. Or if you have multiple polaroid snapshots sans frame, opt for a modern display piece such as the Artifact Uprising Wooden Photo Ledge ($49, artifactuprising.com), which lets you easily layer your favorites and keep new ones in rotation.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
February 7, 2021
A smart home allows homeowners to control appliances, thermostats, lights, and other devices remotely using a smartphone or tablet through an internet connection. Smart homes can be set up through wireless or hardwired systems.