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Ever wonder about the history of ornaments and how they became a huge part of Christmas? Let’s dive into some Christmas history!
Ornaments: they shine, they break, they gleam, they break, and they break. My little brother and his gremlin fingers have claimed the lives of one too many of these floating atrocities and I suppose now we have to learn about their history.
Blah, blah, blah, we love to see it. Strap up, folks, because we’re going for a ride.
What are Ornaments?
They’re dinky, little figurines and trinkets used to decorate. The AUTHOR had originally put the Google definition, but I’m figuring that probably wasn’t warranted, so I gracefully and benevolently edited it out.
Over many years, people have been using ornaments to deck their halls. (WHAT IS IT WITH THE DECK THE HALLS PUNS, WHY IS THIS FUNNY TO YOU, YOU CHEWED-UP ERASER. STOP.) In the past, people used apples as ornaments. The apples represented the beginning of sin- Adam and Eve and their little rendezvous with a serpent and whatnot.
For legal reasons, that’s a joke.
Later, people began to use wafers as ornaments, symbolizing purity.
Now, ornaments come in all varieties of sizes and shapes including circles, squares, animals, cartoon characters, and many more, which you probably already knew.
Ornaments are usually used to decorate items for different holidays. Christmas, Halloween, and Easter are all different holidays in which ornaments are used.
Mostly, people use ornaments during Christmas time to decorate their houses. Ornaments are placed on Christmas trees, mantels, and many other objects.
Sometimes, ornaments are sometimes decorated with glitter and sequins. Also, print is also put on ornaments to show unique images and words. Wow, didn’t know it did that.
After the ornaments are decorated, they are placed on trees and wreaths to light up their appearance.
The History of Ornaments
How did the tradition of ornaments begin? As I said above, the first Christmas tree decorations were apples. Later, wafers were added to the trees.
The apples represented the birth of sin and the wafers symbolized the perfection of Jesus. Also, the paradise tree was used in European plays on Christmas Eve.
Another decoration was red cherries which represented the Virgin Mary. After this custom died out, Europeans began to use fir trees.
The first decorated Christmas tree was in the 17th century. Germans began to use Christmas trees, putting the traditional paper wafers and apples on them.
Also, they used ornaments made from different types of food. Foods were molded into a variety of shapes. Bells, stars- you name it.
German trees were nicknamed “sugar trees” because of how many goodies were placed upon them. After Epiphany, January 6, the tree was stripped of its decor and dismantled.
Ornaments in the U.S.
In the 19th century, Germans brought the custom of Christmas trees and decorating them into the U.S. At first, Americans decorated their trees with apples and cookies. Yummy. Alas, not very sustainable- there are so many variables; hungry kids, hungry dogs, hungry anyone.
After Christmas trees came into the U.S., Americans began to put different kinds of foods on their trees. For instance, they began to use popcorn as a tinsel, laying it across the tree.
Later, they started to hang bags of candy, candy canes, and sugarplums on their trees. Parents also hung small gifts on the Christmas trees.
In the late 19th century, a whole new chapter of ornaments began. People began to buy advertised ornaments instead of homemade ones. Commercialism, baby.
Most of these ornaments were produced in Germany and later traveled into the U.S. Soon, ornaments began to consist of tin and glass.
Artisans used painted and embossed cardboard to decorate the ornaments, only a few of them containing Christmas images. Also, artisans began to mold ornaments into the shapes of animals.
Then, in 1878, artisans found out about tinsel. People called tinsel “angel’s hair” because of its soft, silky material.
Artisans also used new color-painting systems to create unique designs. Some ornaments included Santa, angels, bells, and many others.
Moving on, in the late 19th century, glass ornaments in Germany began to gain popularity. Glass ornaments were produced in Lauscha, where glass ornaments were popular for centerpieces.
Quickly, the entire town turned to glass ornaments as their main decor for Christmas. Later, whole families began to make their own glass ornaments for Christmas decor.
Then, American buyers began to travel to Germany just to obtain glass ornaments.
Glass fruits, pinecones, and icicles were all popular shapes of glass ornaments. As glass ornaments grew and grew, artisans began to create more and more shapes.
Some of the shapes included Santa, cartoons, balloons, dogs, clowns, fish, birds, instruments, hearts, buildings. It goes without saying that there are an infinite number of designs out there.
All atrocious puns and poor decor choices aside, I hope y’all learned something about the history of Christmas ornaments. Do any of you have a favorite ornament?
Every year, my brothers and I receive an ornament that my parents (that means my mom and my mom alone) picked out or made to reflect our interests over the year. Needless to say, it’s a lovely cacophony of Disney, Barbie, and sports-themed trinkets that we all get to hang up every year.
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Make sure to let us know what kind of memories your ornaments hold down below!