We all have them. Those holiday ornaments that we put up every year thinking, “Maybe it’s really time to retire this cracked pickle ornament?” But nonetheless, every year, they go up, like a bowhead whale that just won’t die. After a few years, the cracked pickle has become a beloved holiday tradition. It’s how a lot of the most unusual ornaments and decorations turn into holiday mainstays.
To inspire your own weird ornament collection, we asked readers on our Facebook page to share photos and memories of their favorite unusual Christmas ornaments. From a daughter’s rubber Croc to the handblown Santaur, a very sexy Santa centaur, these treasures just might persuade you to purchase or make your own weird ornament for the holidays. Where we could, we’ve also included links to where you can buy these beauties.
If you’d like to join the discussion and potentially be featured in upcoming Atlas Obscura stories, watch for more opportunities to share on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!
“My friend bought ‘Bibo’ for me. This was the [poorly written] description on the box: ‘Bibo is a God Monster with intelligence. He has two big eyes, and he knows very well what people want to do. He cannot speak, but only ‘Bi-Bo.’ When there is any danger happened, he will speak. The top of his head will light up and his hip will makes many colorful smoke to help him survive because this smoke is very stinking and it can hinder the sight of his enemies. We love Bibo very much because he always survive by using some funny ways.’” —Elise Ball, Jacksonville, Florida
“A few years ago, my family and I moved to northern New York State. The movers managed to damage 29 different items and lost several as well. One of the things missing was a box of ornaments: the sort of ornaments that are collected every year over 40 years. We accepted the loss. Then, six months later, I got a Facebook messenger request from an Iraqi gentleman living three hours away in Niagara Falls. ‘Are you missing some ornaments?’ he asked. Turns out that the ornaments had been delivered to him. Based on [an ornament featuring our family surname], he searched Facebook until he found me. I drove to Niagara Falls the next day to be reunited with this legacy of our past.” —Jacob Mazurek, Watertown, New York
“My 6-year-old son had casts on both arms for two separate incidents. He managed to pull one off. … I kept the intact cast and it is now our tree topper. It is quite festive with its blue, green, and red dinosaur pattern, especially once I string some lights through it.” —Carmen Micheli, Louisiana
“I had commented about how pretty Japanese beetles are even though they are destructive little goobers and next Christmas my aunt presented this beautiful monstrosity to me: a wasp nest decorated with beetle shells!” —Mina McLean MacDonald, Fort Mill, South Carolina
“Our homemade Harry Potter garden gnome!” —Hi-me Rodriguez, Portland, Oregon
“One of my daughter’s Crocs. We have no idea how or why it ended up as an ornament, but it’s been a part of our tree for over 15 years.” —Mary Abbitt Fye, Flippin, Kentucky
“My family picks out new ornaments for the tree every year. Last year, my 14-year-old spied these teeth at Hobby Lobby and insisted that this was the ornament he wanted. Absolutely nothing could change his mind.” —Micah Naeger, Lawrence, Kansas
“My mom actually collects Christmas ornaments. She’ll buy them as travel souvenirs or get them as gifts from loved ones who have traveled somewhere. There are well over 20—everywhere from Mackinac Island to Jamaica to Italy and everything from glass to delicate metal sculptures to a painted hollowed-out gourd. The weirdest might be Santa surfing on a turtle, painted on a sand dollar.” —Lisa Hoshowsky, Ontario
“Six years ago, we got a festive ribbon along with some other Christmas decorations. We didn’t really know what to use it for, so we hung up a bread loaf with it. The bread dried nicely and we stored it away when Christmas was over. We used it the year after, and the year after, and the year after, and then the bread fell apart. My partner pieced it back together with some construction foam, and Christmas was saved! It was such good work that last Christmas it didn’t need any more support foam. My partner is fast determined to use as much foam as needed to keep it together forever.” —Maria Skollota, Norway
“My brother and I have a tradition of giving each other the weirdest Christmas ornaments we can find. Last year, I gave him a vintage psychotic clown ornament. He sent me this picture recently [below, right].” —Alisa Chambers, Atlanta, Georgia
“When we were kids, we made ornaments every year from baker’s clay. We used cookie cutters or sculpted clay before painting it with tempera paint. One year, my baby brother used the camel cookie cutter and painted his camel purple. It hung on our tree for years until it finally dried out and crumbled.” —Bobbie Wallace, Tucson, Arizona
“About 10 years ago, while making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, my mixer decided to throw a rod and one of the beaters broke. It tangled up like a broken Slinky and threw shrapnel all over the kitchen. My kids and I were just frozen in terror for a second, and then we all started laughing and couldn’t stop. It was such an iconic memory that I kept the twisted beater and turned it into an ornament. Every year it makes us laugh all over again, but it’s weird, no question.” —Valerie Hancock Sanders
“In October 2016, I walked into my local Home Depot on some mundane errand and they already had the huge display of Christmas merch set up, which included that traditional, lovable holiday scamp: the nine-foot-tall Christmas Dragon. Because nothing brings out the festive cheer like a happy, fire-breathing engine of death and destruction:
You know Syrax and Rhaegal and golden Meraxes,
Arrax and Vermax and mighty Carraxes,
But do you recall, the most fearsome dragon of alllll…
Balerion, the Black Dread dragon,
Had a very mighty roar
And if you ever heard it,
Your ears would be ringingly sore
All of the other dragons,
Used to cow and fly away,
Balerion the Black Dread dragon,
Easily killed them when he tried to play.”
—Thomas White, Austin, Texas
“I found this ornament in Walmart about 20 years ago and it started my ugly ornament collection that is still going strong today. I would describe it as ‘ball of rusty nails, festive edition.’” —Laura Kelley, Raymond, Washington
“SANTAUR” —Lindsay Lauwers, Ohio
“It’s not a tree ornament, but El Caganer [also known as Caga Tió or Tió de Nadal] is a Catalan tradition dating back to the 18th century. It literally means ‘the pooper’ in Catalan. A tiny pooping person can be found in nearly all nativity scenes throughout the region. These scenes depict more traditional settings of the northeast Spanish countryside, such as large haciendas and rural life. El Caganer is usually hiding behind a building, a fence, or a large animal with his (traditionally) or her pants around the ankles dropping a fat turd on the ground.
The roots and significance of the defecating figurine are unknown, but finding El Caganer in the nativity scenes has become a game for people, especially children. It’s a Catalan Christmas ‘Where’s Waldo.’” —Rob Kearns, Missouri, United States
“I found this homemade ornament at an antique store. People used to make a lot of craft ornaments out of old pill bottles and film canisters. Whoever made this one got a little carried away with the cotton snow so I just refer to him as ‘Snowman in a Blizzard.’ He looks like he’s saying, ‘Helppppppppp.’” —Jack Kitsch, Tennessee