christmas tree next to a fireplace

The History of the Christmas Tree Ornaments

The History of Christmas

A holiday that is celebrated in many countries annually. So, What is it about? There are decorations, including trees, lights, and gifts. Finally, we learn the meaning of the day as a religious one, but where did it all begin? Why was a tree chosen as a symbol and what does it represent? One of the most well-known theories is that an English monk named St. Boniface went to Germany in the 7th or 8th century. He became the Apostle of the German people and he brought a fir tree to them. St. Boniface started the belief that the shape of the fir tree was a symbol of the holy trinity. Which includes God, his son Jesus and the holy spirit. This started the history of Christmas.

German Christmas Decorations

Religious Germans appreciated the traditions and began decorating their tree’s in a ritualistic manner. First, they started with plain white candles. This simple decoration began to evolve in the 15th century. In Latvia, a representation of the Virgin Mary was incorporated in the decorations by adding roses. This is said to be the beginning of the latest Christmas decorations. In Strasbourg, in 1605 a tree was brought indoors and lined with roses, lights, wafers, and candies. A new trend of German Christmas decorations began. About 5 years later tinsel was created with pure silver. The tradition carried over to England and the decorations were even more elaborate. These new fancy decorations featured glass beads and hand-sewn snowflakes.

In the first ten years of the 1800s, decorations were edible trees as well as, decorated with delicious fruits and nuts. Before long, various types of fruit were hung on the trees along with streamers and shiny foil. Thus began the season of lights and merriment. German Christmas decorations included gingerbread, the U.S. starting hanging strings of cranberries and popcorn. The U.K. made ornaments with lace, paper, and other things.

Glass Christmas ornaments

Families created their own ornaments before the 1800s. The only ornaments that could be purchased in Germany were cast lead and hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments. Glass makers in Lausha started making glass ornaments for the larger market. These ornaments sold immediately and most families got involved with ornament production. Since then, Germany had a monopoly on glass ornaments. Since Most handblown glass ornaments were purchased exclusively from Germany. F.W. Woolworth started importing German ornaments into the U.S. in the 1880s. He sold about $25 million worth of the ornaments within ten years. In Dresden, a city near Lauscha, the artisans made nonglass, bright-colored ornaments in animal shapes.

Not to mention, These ornaments were made out of pressed and embossed paper. as well as a few other ornaments made from pressed tin and tinfoil strips. The strips were called icicles or tinsel and were a big hit in Germany. As the 1920s came by, Japan and the Czech Republic entered the ornament market and started introducing more colorful designs and fancy ornaments. So, the market saw growth with a few pioneers leading the way.

When World War I happened, the glass ornaments from Germany were greatly affected as collateral. However, the market recovered after the war, all the same, Max Eckhardt, a U.S. businessman associated with the glass ornaments felt that a second war would be too risky. He then decided to team up with F.W. Woolworth and they convinced the Corning company of N.Y. to use their light bulb making machine to also create glass ornaments. This process was a success. By 1940 the Corning company was creating glass ornaments on a larger scale than Germany was able to. They would then ship them to other companies to decorate. Eckhardt was able to start his All-American company, Shiny Brite.

Christmas Tree Ornaments

Just as Eckhardt suspected, glass ornaments took another big hit after WWII and the materials for making the glass ornaments had to change. The inner silver lining was changed to pastel colors and the metal cap was changed to cardboard. After WWII F.W. Woolworth and his competitors were the main sellers of Christmas tree ornaments and decorations. The sales were driven by the complex designs and varieties of the ornaments available. The Lausche glassworks became state-owned entities after the war. There would be more productivity, and the fall of the Berlin wall had caused firms to be re-established as private companies. Today there are about 20 small glass-blowing companies active in Lauscha. Glass Christmas tree ornaments still exist today and a few german businesses like GlasWunder are keeping the old traditions, however, most ornaments are now made of plastic. They are available in various colors and shapes and are sold globally.