The History of Christmas Tree Decorations
German people are thought to have been the first to place a decorated evergreen tree in their homes in the 16th century. They used gilded nuts, stars, angels, toys and eventually, burning candles...
Historical records testify to the use of apples and nuts as tree decorations in 1800. During the first part of the century, paper streamers and bits of reflective foil also became popular. This was the first introduction of "tinsel" to the holiday festivities.
The first lavishly-decorated Christmas tree appeared in Windsor Castle in 1841. It was embellished with items only the wealthy could afford at the time such as candles, fruits, nuts and gingerbread. Soon, other wealthy families extravagantly decorated their evergreen trees with dolls, toys, jewelry, weapons and candy.
In the United States, as the tree ornament tradition spread worldwide, diversity of customs increased as the influx of immigrant families brought inspiration to the Christmas celebration. Some used hanging strands of cranberries and strings of popcorn to trim their evergreens while others created ornaments from lace and paper. Even festive baskets filled with hard candy or colorful skeins of yarn were placed against the central beams to add color to the tree.
Sometimes the trees were so laden with decorations that none of the evergreen branches were visible.
The first record of glass ornaments being made and sold specifically as tree decorations occurs in Lauscha, Germany during 1847. Some of the local companies that had been producing drinking glasses and windows began applying their talents to glass bells and marbles for the Christmas celebration.
Not far from Lauscha, fellow craftsmen were creating brightly-colored ornaments of pressed and embossed paper. However, these decorations were not just Christmas-themed; they also included birds and other animals that could be used for other celebrations.
During the reign of Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom, the tradition of tree decoration was languishing. After descriptions and illustrations of the Queen's heavily-decorated bedside trees circulated around the world, the ornament market rebounded.
These items were so popular and of such interest to the public that instructions for the recreation of a variety of handmade ornaments adorning the Queen's trees were made available.
As the twentieth century began, the number, variety and complexity of German glass ornaments was augmented by competitors in Czechoslovakia and other countries.
After World War I, an American merchant by the name of F.W. Woolworth approached the Corning Company of New York with a plan for manufacturing glass ornaments.
Since Corning knew F.W. Woolworth was the largest seller of tree ornaments in the world, the company heads decided to investigate whether their light bulb machine could be converted to make ornaments.
By 1940, Corning was manufacturing 300,000 ornaments per day, far surpassing the ability of a skilled European glass blower.
Today, whether we trim our tree with the most popular decorations or favorites from all over the world, the thrill of hanging tree ornaments is a Christmas tradition that will always bring us joy.