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Christmas Ornaments add a personal touch

Central Europe, mainly Germany is credited with the introduction, into the home, of the evergreen tree as a Christmas decoration. It was used for centuries as a decoration for winter festivals and simply continued as the population became Christian. Decorating the tree also began with things on hand such as apples, nuts, pears, onions and candies. Gradually, paper streamers, metal foil and sometimes baked goods such as gingerbread men and other hard cookies baked in the shapes of stars, hearts, bells and angels were also used. The decorated tree spread to the new world and in the US, cranberries and popcorn were strung and added to the tree. By the 1800’s the history of Christmas ornaments changed forever.


Germany, with a glass blowing tradition, created mass produced ornaments. From Lauscha, famous for glass making, the glass Christmas ornament began. They started with making the traditional food items but soon began making stars, hearts and bells that were brighter and more colorful than the cookies. These became very popular and new designs were added such as saints, animals, famous people and other things. By the 1880’s they were exporting them to the world. In 1890, a new milestone in the history of Christmas ornaments, F.W. Woolworth was selling $25 million worth of Christmas tree ornaments in the US alone.


The history of Christmas ornaments gets resurgence during the Victorian era.

Queen Victoria and her family appeared in a popular lady’s magazine sitting around a decorated tree. This inspired Americans and British alike to have their own tree and they needed decorations. Glass was not the only medium for Christmas ornaments. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ornaments were made of pressed tin with lithographs of bright pictures of angels and flowers. At this time the traditional icicles or tinsel made their appearance, called angels’ hair by the Germans who created them.


Home made ornaments were subdued even if fanciful, but the ones for sale in stores were colorful and bright and soon included tiny lights. Children became the focus of the celebrations and giving gifts to children became the vogue. Merchants understood this quickly and advertised targeting parents with children. The history of Christmas ornaments after World War I sees a shift from Germany’s domination to the US companies trying to enter the market. The US could manufacture about 300,000 ornaments a day and the German glassblowers only 600 by the most skilled.


Today brightly reflective and colorful ornaments are the most popular but complexity and variety compete with them for customers. Instead of the traditional round ornaments, there is injection molding that creates many different shapes and sizes. The history of Christmas ornaments brings us to a bright and gaudy age where the tree reflects light and dazzles us all. This is not a modern invention. Legend tells us that reflective ornaments scar away evil spirits trying to enter your home. They see their reflections and vanish. Now, there are aluminum trees with special ornaments, guaranteed to be fireproof, that have a modern appeal.

This article was published on Tuesday 24 November, 2009.

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