The holidays are upon us, and it becomes that time, at least for me, when I tend to focus nostalgically on real or imaginary Christmases of the past. It s family gatherings to decorate the Christmas tree every December and the memories that are contained in each ornament. One can tell it s the holidays, as every dealer in the antique malls seems to find a ubiquitous box of ornaments to put out. Most are auction specials purchased by the dealer at a country sale from a household where they decorated a family tree for generations. These are great fun to poke through, not only because of the hidden gems, but also what they tell us. The beaded balls from the 1970s, the pine cone Santas from the 1940s throuugh the 60s era, the bubble lights and the list goes on. In our family, we try to put up two trees. One is for the ornaments that each of the girls has acquired over the years. When they were little, every visit to Santa turned into ornament selection for the tree. There is the Russian onion dome building for the year of the Barbie Nutcracker video. There is the rainbow trout for the first year of fishing. The view of New York City for the first time in the Big Apple. At the top of that tree are a handful of ornaments that have been on our family s tree for more than a century. The oldest were on my grandmother s tree when she was a girl in 1892. They are cherished and packed with super care. When one broke, the girls hunted on eBay for months to find me a replacement. The second tree consists of the ornaments that we have acquired over the years. It began with a selection of balls that I purchased at my godparents estate auction. They lived on North Second Street in Harrisburg, and in 1972, like most of the rest of the city, they were flooded out and lost their ornaments in the storm. My godmother s sister gave them half of her ornaments so that they could have a tree that December. When they died, without children, I acquired them to put on our tree. We have since added ornaments from across the 20th century, purchased used in shops during the travels. It is our retro tree and gives us a chance to add really cool pieces that we find out flea marketing. The household decorations are handled the same way. There are things that are in the family both new and old. They continue to be passed on. Then there are the items we have added since. Of course, the trains are a big part of this. We started with the N scale of my youth and have now progressed to the very large Standard that my eldest daughter loves. So as you think about the holidays, consider starting that holiday collection in earnest this year. Invent some new old traditions that you and your family can come to love over the years. Born to collect" should be the motto of Peter Seibert's family. Raised in Central Pennsylvania, Seibert has been collecting and writing about antiques for more than three decades. By day, he is a museum director and has worked in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Virginia and New Mexico. In addition, he advises and consults with auction houses throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, particularly about American furniture and decorative arts. Seibert's writings include books on photography, American fraternal societies and paintings. He and his family are restoring a 1905 arts and crafts house filled with years' worth of antique treasures found in shops, co-ops and at auctions.