Search This Blog

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Trees

When we think of a historical Christmas, most of us picture a Charles Dickens Christmas complete with a goose or turkey and a Christmas tree, but the English haven’t always had Christmas trees.

Early on, they decorated yew trees with small gifts or candy. But this tradition was not wide-spread until about the 1840's.

Queen Victoria 's husband, Prince Albert, decorated the first Christmas tree in Windsor Castle about 1841, according to some sources. Albert was from Germany, a place where they’d long used Christmas trees. He decorated a tree using candles, candies, and paper chains. The custom, although not entirely new, spread across England, and before long all of the English had Christmas trees just like the queen's. And shortly thereafter, so did the Americans.

Over time, people started to use more elaborate decorations on their trees, including gingerbread men, marzipan candies, hard candies, cookies, fruit, cotton-batting Santas, paper fans, tin soldiers, whistles, wind-up toys, pine cones, dried fruits, nuts, berries, and trinkets of all kinds. They often hung cornucopias filled with sweets, fruit, nuts and popcorn on their trees. Small homemade gifts such as tiny hand-stitched dolls or children's mittens were also popular. Beautiful angels were the tree toppers of choice, and some families set up a Nativity scene under the tree using moss for grass and mirrors for ponds.
By around 1860, people started buying German ornaments including glass icicles and hand-blown glass globes called "kugels" which evolved into our modern-day Christmas balls. Here is a picture to the right of a kugel.  Isn't it gorgeous?

They also decorated with embossed silver and gold cardboard ornaments in many shapes called "Dresdens."  I tried to find a picture, but I can't always tell if a picture is copyrighted or not unless there's a clear copyright symbol or a watermaark, but there are some beautiful pictures of Dresdens here.

Decorating a Victorian-looking tree today would be pretty simple without investing a great deal of money. Here are a few things you could do to get that old-fashioned, Victorian effect. 

1. String popcorn and cranberries to make a garland. My children love to help do this and I do this every year on our family room tree filled with ornaments we've made over the year.
2. Shape small paper doilies into cornucopias and fill with candy.
3. Recycle old Christmas cards. Cut out shapes you like and attach them to the tree with ribbons to make your own customDresdens.
4. Make or buy small cookies to hang on the tree. You can decorate them with glitter or paint. I hear hairspray helps preserve t hem.
5. Spray nuts in the shell with gold or silver paint and glue a ribbon or cord to them so they'll hang on the tree.
6. Victorians used real candles, but I don’t recommend lighting real candles. Instead, buy strings of electric lights in the shape of candles -- some of them even flicker.
7. Fill the tree with small toys.
8. Add cherubs and lace fans, other Victorian favorites.
9. Hang decorative tassels.
10. Shape wide velvet ribbon into pretty bows.

 Do you have any favorite old family customs you do for Christmas?


1 comment:

Yüz Germe said...

I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it.
Yüz Germe