This afternoon I hauled out the Christmas tree and started the messy process of getting in the spirit of the season.

Fortunately, I happen to be dating a Winged Monkey who, as it turns out, enjoys putting ornaments on Christmas trees. This fact is rather serendipitous, as I happen to be a Wicked Witch who has this quirky little tradition of getting a Christmas ornament from just about every city I visit every time I travel. After more than 20 countries, and lord knows how many cities along the way, and the return trips in recent years, my tree is pretty full...of memories.

I've got everything from a drunken golfer from Edinburgh to a scooter taxi made out of a beer can from Bangkok. A Murano glass gondolier from Venice and a painted egg shell from Prague. The pandas from the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and a re-purposed key chain from Stonehenge, where they didn't sell Christmas ornaments at the time I visited.

The collection is eclectic, as are the stories that go with each piece. Like how I found the paper mailman-on-a-bicycle in a stationary store on the square in Copenhagen where I watched the World Cup match between Denmark and Brazil on a jumbo tron while surrounded by 5,000 drunken vikings. Or how I carried the ship-in-a-bottle ornament in my coat pocket all over Brussels while we were looking for the Mannequin Pis, and then for 5 countries after that because I was afraid it would get broken in my 60 lb. backpack. Or how the French really have a poor selection of Christmas ornaments, so my two trips to Paris are commemorated by a Santa on the Eiffel Tower (à la King Kong) and a glass ball painted with Van Gogh's Starry Night, which is neither a portrait of Paris nor is it housed in Paris, so I'm a little stumped as to the logic of it, but it was the only non-Eiffel Tower ornament I could find.

Needless to say, I get a bit nostalgic when I put up my Christmas tree, and anyone around gets the verbal version of a vacation slide show.

But it could be worse. I could be tearing up over a toilet paper tube Santa with a cotton ball beard or a string of tin foil jingle bells. That's when I will have crossed the line from quirky to my mother, who every year cries for hours as she hangs all of our childhood ornaments on her 9 foot, rotating, musical Christmas tree.

Wait'll the Winged Monkey gets a load of that monstrosity. Makes me look like an amateur.

*Thank you to the other bloggers who stole pics from Charlie Brown Christmas to which I could link.