Dale Moreland of Midlothian used a creative idea to celebrate each of her grandchildren for over 19 years. When her first grandchild was born in 1999, she received a coffee mug which read, “When a child is born, so is a grandmother.”
“That special gift meant so much to me. In fact, I still have my morning coffee in that very mug," Moreland explained.
She continued to express that she takes the role as grandmother very seriously as she fosters special relationships with each of her grandchildren. It was that exact mindset that led to the idea of using each grandchild’s own individual handprints to display on the Christmas tree every holiday season.
“My husband Larry and I became first-time grandparents upon the arrival of granddaughter Sydney, who was born shortly before Christmas in 1999," Moreland recalled. "I wanted to make something unique for her, something she could keep and remember me by. An ornament seemed perfect."
Moreland eyeballed some construction paper ornaments at a preschool she visited, where each child’s hand was traced, colored into a Santa face and given to the parents as a gift. That idea was the beginning of a wonderful family Christmas tradition for the Moreland family.
The crafty grandmother traced around Sydney’s little hand, cut it out, then re-traced it onto thin craft wood. Larry then utilized his scroll saw to cut it out further. Moreland then painted and varnished it, placed her name and year of birth on it. That very first Christmas, not only did she make one for Sydney to keep, but she also made an extra one for their own tree. At that moment, a Moreland family Christmas tradition was born.
The Morelands are now proud grandparents of eight special little ones and big ones. The grandchildren range from Sydney, 19; Hollyn, 16; Blake, 16; Noah, 14; Brady, 12; Hannah, 12; Max 11; and Elijah, 4.
Moreland elaborated on the month-to-month process that ensures the Christmas operation runs smoothly.
“First, I trace each handprint for each grandchild, every year in the fall. Usually 'Grandad,' Larry, cuts them out by October or November, and then I, 'Gran,' begin my part of the project," Moreland said.
"Never did I dream that this little idea would grow – from one tiny Santa hand to eight grandchildren now," she noted.
She only does ten Santas for each child. "A boy’s 10-year-old handprint can be quite large," she added.
As each grandchild aged-out of the Santa hand, Moreland started to make another handmade ornament for each one. Some years it has been a felt and sequin ornament, a painted snowman, a small canvas and so on. Each personalized ornament is completed with their name printed on it and year.
"We have so many grandchildren now that we’ve had to expand to include the 'Santa Hand Tree' and Christmas garlands to be able to hold all the precious Santa hands," Moreland explained.
In addition, there is a particular Santa tree or garland at each of their homes to hold these little treasures for each one of the grandkids.
When asked if Moreland hoped to have the family tradition continue in the future, she quickly retorted, “I will continue on as long as I can. And, I do love making something special for each child. Maybe one of my artistic daughters-in-laws will pick up the tradition. It would also be nice if my grandchildren continued the Santa hands with their own children someday.”
As Moreland stated previously, she indeed takes being a grandmother seriously. She confessed that this is her way of staying close to her grandchildren.
“As they grow up, life tends to get in the way, so simple family traditions bring them back home," Moreland concluded. "These Santa hands are my way of staying connected and involved in their lives. I also hope when they are grown and have their own families, these Santa hands will adorn their trees. When they walk by the 'Santa Hand Tree,' they can see their physical growth and think back on years passed. When Larry and I pass by our 'Santa Hand Tree,' we remember each little handprint, and we reminisce, as we try to keep them small just a tiny bit longer.”