December 2, 2010

Chrismon Tree in Salem Lutheran Church, Owosso, MI, 2010

Salem Lutheran Church, Owosso, MI, 2010

Back in 1957, a woman named Frances Kipps Spencer, of Danville, VA., was looking to decorate her church’s Christmas tree in a manner more reflective of its Christian faith. According to this website, she asked herself “How would Mary celebrate Jesus’ birthday?”

Mrs. Spencer’s answer to this question was the Chrismon.

Chrismons—the name is compounded from the words Christ and monogram—are beaded ornaments depicting the names, life, ministry and nature of Christ. Designed by Mrs. Spencer, the idea soon spread to other churches and she eventually published five books giving instructions on making the ornaments and explaining their meanings.

Mrs. Spencer was close in age to my grandmother Ruth, and I imagine the two would have gotten along very well.

In fact decades later, Ruth and all her lady friends got a hold of one of those Chrismon books and spent a year beading ornaments for their very own Salem Lutheran Church in Owosso, MI.

A couple months ago I talked to Carol Hanchett, a member of Salem, and she brought up the Chrismons.

“They’re all we have on our tree,” said Carol, of their congregation’s Christmas tree. “They’re ornaments made of beads and pearls. I would think your grandmother made a good share of them. She was talented in making things.”

Unfortunately, Carol also said the ornaments are getting old and some “are in distress.”

Last week I called Salem and spoke with secretary Esther Matthies. She was so nice to take a picture of their Christmas tree and send it.

Isn’t it beautiful?

And, yes, she agreed the ornaments are showing their age. The plan is that this coming summer, several Salem ladies are getting together and beading new ornaments.

Isn’t that super?

Francis Spencer and Ruth Larson would be pleased, I’m sure.

Further information:

Chrismon books, by Francis Kipp Spencer, are available through Ascension Lutheran Church, Danville, VA.; on Facebook; and through According to Esther, Salem has the book “Chrismons, Basic Series.”

Here’s another interesting site on Chrismon-like ornaments. It’s an instructional site that also gives historical background of Chrismons used by early Christians. I don’t know if the ornaments in this site are the original designs as copyrighted by Ascension Lutheran Church, but they’re very pretty nonetheless.


One Response to “Chrismons”

  1. Becky Says:

    You should see if you can get your hands on a few of those ornaments before they replace them!

    Over the weekend I was going through boxes and found some beaded bell ornaments that my mom had given me a few Christmases ago… it was neat to hang them on my tree, and think of all the history that they represent. :)

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