Donna Clickenger's Christmas tree is much more than a holiday decoration to her.

Donna Clickenger's Christmas tree is much more than a holiday decoration to her.

It includes her memories of her family.

For the past 28 years, Clickenger and her family members, who total about 30, have exchanged hand-made Christmas ornaments instead of presents.

Since the tradition began, her tree has grown to hold more than 900 ornaments, each with a special story and memory attached.

"My family is so large, instead of buying gifts, we make 30 to 35 ornaments each year," she said. "It brings the family together."

Early in the holiday season each year, Clickenger, who has two daughters, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters, said she and her family members gather for dinner and an ornament exchange.

Each member who participates makes enough ornaments to give to each person.

This year, Clickenger made small angels made from wire for her entire family.

In previous years, she has made such decorations as painted turkey wishbones that she collected from a Thanksgiving turkey dinner at her church, Franklin United Brethren Church on Central College Road.

In addition to her own, she has added about 33 new ornaments to her seven-foot tree this Christmas.

One of her favorites is a small round of wood with two thumbprints - of her mother and father - from their last Christmas alive. The two were ill and family members decided the thumbprints would be an easy way for them to contribute to the tradition.

Clickenger said another favorite is a felt snake made by her oldest daughter nearly 50 years ago. The snake hung on the tree as though it is slithering through the branches.

Another favorite was made by a family friend who worked for the board of elections during the 2000 presidential election.

She said her friend commemorated the year by making clear glass ornaments filled with hanging chads from ballots.

Nancy Kopp, Clickenger's daughter, said the Christmas tree tradition has been a big part of her life.

"It's nice because it brings the family together" she said.

Kopp said she has just about as many ornaments as her mother, though she does not display them all.

She said she does not know how Clickenger keeps finding room on her tree each year.

"In the mid-1990s, we all said we didn't know how she was going to find space," Kopp said, jokingly.

Clickenger, who decorates each room in her house for Christmas - her favorite holiday - said there is nothing like sharing the season with her family.

"I just love this time of year," she said. "It makes me feel real close to my family. Much, much closer when they have to make me some ornaments."