Christmas Creations That Don't Bend
Lou Gallo's Christmas tradition endures -- and takes a new shape each year.
Lou Gallo stopped sending Christmas cards 17 years ago.
He started mailing handmade ornaments, instead.
He always makes them of wood and always hand paints a holly sprig on them.
Almost always, Gallo, a Swampscott historian and native son, writes the completion date on the back of the ornaments.
Otherwise they change.
His first ornament was the word JOY.
His latest is a piggy bank.
In between they have included a smiling star with a folding arm, a Teddy Bear, and a skate complete with laces.
He's even got a birdhouse with a photograph of his cat Tosca happily perched in the bird hole.
Getting back to this year's creation, the piggy bank, it comes with a shiny 2010 penny entered in the slot.
Several of the 66 people to whom he sends ornaments called him this year and said he forgot to date the ornament.
"I said, 'Keep looking,'" Gallo said.
Gallo scrapped Christmas cards in 1983 after he realized they were expensive and disposable.
His holiday ornaments are cheaper to make than a card is to buy, and the people who receive his wooden creations keep them.
This pleases him.
Some people have small table trees hung solely with Gallo ornaments.
Recently, a woman whose family receives Gallo ornaments told him that her son had just moved out of the house. He had bought his own house and she asked him what he wanted as a gift for the new home.
He told her: Lou's ornaments.
She told him: Forget it.
Gallo, 67, who graduated from Swampscott High School and attended art school in Boston as a young man, likes thinking about designs and elements for his ornaments.
He'll sketch one and build a prototype before committing to the next ornament in his series.
He's got several ideas for next year.
But people on his list will have to wait until next Christmas to find out.