Souvenir: from the French, “to remember.”
Their memories dance across our Christmas tree, sparkling in the glow of the white lights. Like voices from Christmases Past, they stare out from the branches as if to say, “You remember when you found me, don’t you? It was at that…” I quickly cut them off, because of course I remember! And no matter how long ago the trip has been, I love giving them another year to shine and remind.
Some of my travel ornaments are delightfully tacky. The plastic black and gold gondola with “Venezia” emblazoned across the base always makes me smile. Others are small works of art. A ceramic ball from Sedona, Arizona, was hand-painted by a local artist in the bold red and orange hues of the Red Rocks. A few are unique to their regions. The angel from Bermuda is crafted from local banana leaves. The blue eye from Istanbul, believed to ward off bad spirits, is more of a symbol than an actual ornament, a reminder of a place once traveled.
I’m not sure why we have such a strong need to “bring something back” from somewhere we’ve visited. Maybe it’s to prove that we were there, that we came-saw-conquered and returned home to tell about it. Maybe it’s the excitement of finding the perfect gift for a loved one, especially poignant when we’re far from home. Or perhaps it’s simply a way to preserve a memory – a tangible, three-dimensional symbol that we can to hold onto long after the trip has faded.
Whatever the reason and whatever the souvenir – from tree ornaments to tea towels to t-shirts – mementos from our travels will always be a part of the journey. They’re a silent deal we make with ourselves when we book our tickets. We will bring something back. No matter what. Like the photos we take and the postcards we send, I’m convinced that the tradition of bringing home a souvenir will always be around in some form, no matter how virtual and small our world becomes.