They are the tackiest, gaudiest, most hideous ornaments anyone has ever put on a Christmas tree. Yet, they are somehow among the most meaningful ornaments in our family’s entire collection. And if anyone should ever give a prize for “Best Repurposed Use of a Child’s Participation Trophies,” these ornaments just might deserve a real trophy.

Their story began in the mid-1990s when my eldest son began playing T-Ball. Being a dutiful father in the Age of Indulgent Parenting, I sheepishly went along with the Team Mom who suggested that we all buy our kids participation trophies at the end of the season. Once the precedent had been set, it seemed impossible to break – even as our household, with three sports-loving boys, accumulated more and more and more of these vacuous, pretentious trinkets.