John and I began dating exclusively way back in 2005, and though we started living together a year later, it wasn’t until 2014 that we started to celebrate Christmas. Neither of us is religious, but the holiday season was a big deal in my family. Putting up the tree and decorating it, all the while listening to my parents’ classic holiday albums (Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como). For me, Christmas was less about presents and more about enjoying festive decorations and music while sipping hot cocoa and eating sugar cookies. Though in all honesty, there were lots of presents!
Living alone, I never bothered with holiday decorations. I had little or no ornaments of my own and it was so expensive to get a tree, even fake ones were too much bother. When John moved in, I thought perhaps he’d want to get into the spirit, but we just sort of let it slide by, voicing the same excuses about expense. We didn’t even exchange gifts with each other, saving our dollars to buy presents for John’s niece and nephew, and I would make batches of fudge, toffee and cookies to hand out. But after almost a decade of living lean during the holidays, I started yearning for the Christmases I remembered from my childhood.
When we moved to a new apartment on Prytania Street, I put forth the argument that it was time we started celebrating Christmas ourselves. Though I didn’t care if John and I exchanged gifts or not, I needed something more than a morning spent opening virtual presents in the World of Warcraft. I wanted a tree.
Admittedly, our first tree was a gift, the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. It’s cute, funny and a little bit sad, but I needed something just a tad more robust. In 2015, we finally purchased a small fake tree and we’ve been putting it up every year since . . . and now I am finally getting to the point. That year, we also started a tradition of buying one or two original ornaments in an effort to support local shops during the holidays. We’ve scored gorgeous ornaments from our former neighborhood spots like Lionheart Prints and Fleurty Girl on Magazine Street, and this year we wanted to do the same, but we wanted to find an ornament in Algiers Point, our new ‘hood.
When I announced we were moving across the river, friend and chef Cara Benson (the Toast lady) invited me to join a Facebook group for the neighborhood, and it was there I discovered the Rosetree Blown Glass Studio & Gallery. The gallery is housed in what once was the neighborhood theater called The Algy. Originally built in 1940, it was a one-screen movie house built in the art deco style. On the outside, it still looks like a theater, though the marquee announces the Rosetree Gallery as its eternal attraction. Inside you can still see signs of what the building was from the projection booth to the tiled stairs just inside the entrance, but mostly you see displays for colorful blown glass and farther back, you can look down onto the workshop floor and fiery kilns. The Rosetree is owned by artist Mark Rosenbaum and it was the first privately owned glass blowing studio to open in New Orleans back in 1993.
With dozens of ornaments to choose from (not to mention a multitude of other tempting pieces), we settled on one with metallic swirls which seems to make the glass sphere glow even without the lights from the tree — which is now way too small for our 12-foot ceilings. Next year I’m not only getting a bigger tree, but I may even be brave enough to make a glass ornament myself.