Where did Christmas ornaments come from?

Where did Christmas ornaments come from?
Where did Christmas ornaments come from?

This morning I found my six year old daughter standing in front of the Christmas tree in awe. Since I never put the gifts out early, and there is literally nothing under the tree, I was curious as to what had caught her attention. She stood there motionless for what seemed like a very long time, and then ever so gently, she reached out and touched a sparkling ornament that was hanging eye level to her. While it is a general rule in our house that once the tree is up and decorated, nobody is allowed to touch it, except of course, to remove a candy cane for snacking here and there, I just couldn’t bring myself to scold her. After all, she wasn’t hurting anything. Her appreciation of the glistening ornament simply struck something inside of her that was so powerful that she couldn’t resist making a connection with it- even against my instruction.

After a few minutes of watching her, I called her name and asked her what she was doing. With a curious look, she told me that our tree was so beautiful, and asked me why we put the “pretty balls and sparkly snowflakes” on the tree. As much as I wanted to answer her, my mind went blank. Unbelievable! Here I am, Mrs. Christmas Expert, and I have absolutely no idea how to answer her. Well, since of course parents HAVE to know everything, I couldn’t very well let her in on the secret that I was just as clueless as she was. Quick thinking saved the day, and I told her that was a story that I was saving for dinnertime tonight. Satisfied, she went off to play. Whew- I was off the hook for a few hours.

And so, instead of wrapping those few gifts I have left, or baking holiday cookies, here I am in my office, getting all of the answers about where Christmas ornaments come from so I will be prepared at dinner tonight.

The Origin of Christmas Ornaments

Christmas ornament on treeChristmas tree ornaments can be traced back as early as the 16th century, when according to Wikipedia, the first Christmas trees were decorated with items like apples, candy canes and a variety of baked goods created in the shape of stars, flowers and hearts. Other decorations often included candles, paper cut-outs and tinsel made from tin and silver.

During the later part of the 16th century, German Hans Greiner created garlands of glass beads and tiny tin figures that could be used to decorate Christmas trees. It wasn’t until the 1800’s that glass ornaments, much like those we know today, became popular. As the tradition of decorating holiday trees with ornaments continued, things like spun wool, silk and chenille were frequently used to make ornaments.

These days, while many people choose to purchase mass produced ceramic, plastic or glass ornaments to decorate their trees, there are still a few that believe in more traditional decorating. Many families continue to hang baked goods, homemade ornaments made from tin or paper and even strings of popcorn or cranberries on their Christmas trees during the holiday season.

What types of ornaments do you typically use to decorate your tree during the holidays?

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