Capturing Every Memory with Keepsake Ornaments: 50 Years and Counting

By Kevin Dilmore on January 23rd, 2023

What if our Christmas trees connected us to family and friends each moment we gathered around them? What if every ornament captured a certain memory or celebrated our favourite traditions or simply inspired joy in us?

Those very questions set the goals and fuelled the inspirations for Hallmark artists in 1973 when they created what would be the first of 50 years’ worth of Keepsake Ornaments. Through artistic expression, technological wonder and a warm embrace of everything Christmas, Keepsake Ornaments have played an important role in making spirits bright during our holiday celebrations by reflecting the ways we love, laugh and remember our lives together.

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In a way, when every Hallmark Keepsake Ornament is created, it’s never really completed. What makes a Keepsake Ornament ready for your tree and your Christmas traditions are the memories and stories you attach to it.

Those memories fill our minds each year as ornament after ornament is unboxed and hung on the Christmas tree. Stories are told and retold all season whenever someone asks the significance of a certain ornament while enjoying time near the tree. And as decorations come down at the end of the season, ornaments get one more chance to prompt a smile and a warm feeling before going back into their boxes for safekeeping.

This traditional cycle inspires us as we look forward to capturing memories for generations to come. It also gives us a lot of pride in our Keepsake Ornament efforts over the past 50 years, which grew from some pretty humble beginnings.


A Short Keepsake Ornament History

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Keepsake Ornaments as we know them today began modestly, first with six glass ball ornaments sent to select retailers just to test the concept of “what if a greeting-card company expanded into the ornament business?” Overwhelmingly positive response led Hallmark to mass produce those ball ornaments as well as a dozen figures of yarn and fabric—carollers, snowmen, kids and Santa among them—for the 1973 Christmas season.

Sculpted figures soon followed as Keepsake Ornaments grew in popularity. Original artistic concepts featuring holiday icons such as angels, poinsettias and nativity scenes as well as favourite popular-culture characters from Betsey Clark and Walt Disney shared tree branches from the early days onward.

By the end of the 1980s, Keepsake Ornaments featuring light, motion and sound made their ways to Christmas trees. Keepsake artists created dozens of ornament series that allowed people to add to ever-growing sets over time.

As years passed, ornaments incorporated photos, written words, recorded voices and even hand-prints to capture moments from our lives. Technology and craft continue to combine even now, bringing details to artistry and storytelling never before offered.

Of course, that’s just where Keepsake Ornaments have been. The future of Keepsake Ornaments includes new ways of celebrating your traditions and capturing meaningful memories with friends and family for holiday seasons to come. And we’re excited to share a glimpse of it with you!


How to Create Keepsake Ornament Christmas Traditions with Your Family

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Each year, new Keepsake Ornament designs offer hundreds of ways to create a tree that tells stories, celebrates traditions, shares memories and inspires Christmas joy. By combining them in your own unique ways, you can use Keepsake Ornaments to create a tree that is a reflection of you and your loved ones.

What might that look like? We’re glad you asked. Read on for all the different ways you can add the magic and artistry of Keepsake Ornaments to brighten your Christmas traditions at home.


What if…you want your Christmas tree to be the family memory keeper?

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  • You could mark a child’s introduction to holiday traditions with Baby’s First Christmas ornaments featuring the year and the ability to add photos or adorable mementos such as rattles, bottles and stuffed animals.
  • Remember what grabs your kids’ interests and imaginations year after year with ornaments inspired by favourite toys, activities and characters. You might even find some vintage ones in the mix!
  • Add the furry companions to the tree with pet photo frame ornaments—after all, they’re family, too!
  • Hang ornaments to celebrate a new home, a first Christmas together, engagements, weddings, new arrivals and other important family milestones.
  • Pay tribute to the past with retro spins on holiday decor, houses and shops, cars and trucks, movies and TV shows, and other favourite memories.

When one or two favourite ornaments just aren’t enough

More and more people are sharing what they love not just on a branch or two of a family tree but with an additional tree dedicated to displaying whole collections unified by their interests.

You could fill a smaller tree in a family room or a child’s bedroom exclusively with ornaments inspired by favourite athletes, classic cars, sci-fi movies, trains, angels, snowmen—whatever fills their hearts with joy and holiday spirit.


What if…you love watching and quoting movies or playing games together?

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  • Complete a set of Keepsake Storytellers Ornaments with the ability to bring holiday stories to life or revisit memorable scenes from the big and small screens. These high-tech ornaments connect wirelessly to each other and perform synchronized shows.
  • Hang everyone’s favourite characters with Hallmark-exclusive ornaments featuring voices and likenesses you’re sure to recognize and remember.
  • Capture the thrill of video gaming with ornaments based on characters and adventures for all ages.
  • Laugh over memories of family game nights with ornaments inspired by board games enjoyed for generations.

Magic at the press of a button

For decades, Keepsake Ornament artists and engineers have collaborated to create Magic ornaments featuring light shows, sound performances and moments in motion.

The latest ornament innovations include animatronic movement in lifelike characters and performances synchronized with wireless technology across multiple ornaments.


What if…you want an ornament for every year?

  • Each year, Keepsake Ornament artists create new additions to dozens of continuing series, some of which are decades long. Whether your interest is cars, penguins, snowmen, Santa Claus, birds, fairies, movie characters or anything in between, there’s at least one series to appeal to everyone in your home.
  • Want to start a series with its very first ornament? No problem! Several series launch each year, so you can begin a new tradition whenever you wish.

What if…you want your Christmas tree to reflect your beliefs?

  • Choose from a growing number of Keepsake Ornaments containing recycled materials that help sustain the planet’s resources.
  • Celebrate your faith with ornaments incorporating words to inspire and images to reflect beliefs we hold true to ourselves at the season and all year long.
  • Share a laugh or a not-so-serious take on the holidays with ornaments sure to bring a smile to everyone spending time at your tree.

With hopes for Christmases yet to come

Sustainability is a priority for Keepsake Ornaments, and 2023 ornaments help bring us closer to Hallmark’s goals of reducing product weight, using recycled or sustainable materials, and improving product recyclability.

Two of our newest ornaments contain recycled materials, and packaging is made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. Plastic trays to protect ornaments in packaging are being replaced with corrugated material that’s also 100% recyclable.


What if…you want your Christmas tree to reflect your interests?

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  • Bring your best game to your tree with ornaments depicting inspirational athletes, favourite teams and sports in general to bring everything but the roar of the crowd to your holiday.
  • Like to sew? Bake? Vacation? Garden? Raise a glass? Keepsake Ornaments have a wide range of interests and hobbies reflected in new ornaments each year.
  • Show off how you like to play whether by moving pieces around traditional board games or grabbing a video console controller and saving the universe. Let everyone know what you like to watch or read with dozens of designs drawn directly from decades of comic books, picture books, movies and television from the classics to today’s favourites.

How to Gift the Perfect Keepsake Ornament

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  • For kids, ask them what’s new and fun for them. If they’re a little cagey about details, ask a parent or just take a look at what toys are scattered around their rooms. Even better, take a young one to a Hallmark Gold Crown store and shop together. What kid doesn’t like adding a favourite of their own to the family tree?
  • For parents, consider the life stage they’re experiencing. Whether their children are learning to walk, learning to kick a ball or learning to drive, a Keepsake Ornament can help them relive that milestone for holidays to come.
  • Show your love for your spouse or partner by bringing what they love to do, watch or collect to your tree. Shopping together for new ornaments is always a good idea. You could make it a date!
  • Tell someone you know what makes them them. You love and value your friends, co-workers, and others in your life. The right ornament shows them what reminds you of them for whatever reason that could be.
  • Start a tradition to last generations. Help your children choose their favourite ornaments now. In coming years, they will want to carry these meaningful memories from the tree they grew up with to hang on their trees in their new homes.

Kevin Dilmore is a Hallmark senior writer who has written novels, comic books, essays and journalism on pop-culture topics. His life and conversations are like one big issue of "PopMinded."