Jewels of a Christmas Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decorating the Christmas tree is one of many cherished holiday traditions passed down from generation to generation around the world.  Families gather together each year, pull out boxes and boxes of treasured Christmas ornaments, and make memories together.   But how did evergreen trees and ornaments come to play such a role in our Christmas experiences?

Plants and trees that remained green all year have always held a special meaning for people in the winter.  Evergreen boughs or trees were used to represent the certainty that life would return in the spring, that farms and orchards would be green and fruitful, as a symbol of good luck to ward off evil spirits and illness, and even triumph of life over death.

The modern Christmas tree tradition is thought to have originated in Germany during the 16th century when devout Christians brought small trees decorated with fruits, nuts, or berries into their homes.

 

Legend has it an early glass blower did not have the money to buy nuts and sweets for his tree so instead of leaving it bare, he blew a few colorful baubles to hang on it.

Then in 1847, in Lauscha, Germany, Hans Greiner began producing glass ornaments and adding mercury or silver nitrate inside to give them a beautiful silvery sheen.

In the late 1840s, a published depiction of the beloved Queen Victoria celebrating Christmas with her German-born husband, Prince Albert, and their family around a decorated evergreen tree transformed the practice into a fashionable one that wealthy Americans soon rushed to adopt.

In short order, local businesses caught on to the ornament’s potential. The decorated Christmas tree had arrived!

 

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S.  It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

One of the first American mass merchandisers, F.W. Woolworth, saw the commercial opportunity and began importing German glass ornaments into this country.  By the mid-1930s, over 250,000 ornaments were imported to the United States from manufacturers all over the world.

As time went on, tree decorations became increasingly artful, incorporating new materials such as tinsel, silk, and wool.  Today the most common materials for modern Christmas ornaments are glass, metal, plastic and wood.  In 1973 Hallmark introduced their “Keepsake” ornaments which encouraged the yearly collection of limited-edition ornaments.

Regardless of how it started, decorating the tree is a memorable time each year when families come together and share in the delight of unwrapping treasured ornaments, remembering moments from the past as they look forward to celebrations and new holiday memories.

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