It appears that we can thank for Germans for yet another contribution to the customs we hold so dearly. (and I say “appears” for there is no official history for the ornaments of yore, just legends and stories told from one generation to the next.) As noted yesterday, Germanic tribes in the 1500 and 1600s were attributed to have begun the custom of affixing fruit and nuts to branches of their evergreen trees during their festival season. The fruit and nuts together with the tree spoke of life and regeneration. Over time dried fruits were exchanged for hard cookies baked to look like fruit. Shapes such as stars, angels, hearts and bells were added. As the popularity of the decorated tree took hold handmade lace and paper decorations were added as well as reflective papers to give off light. In other areas of Europe, trees remained largely undecorated and were hung with small presents the family would give to each other.
In the early 1800s German engineers began molding glass into the shapes similar to those of the cookies: stars, angels, hearts and bells. Eventually the glass makers expanded into creating small figures of people and animals and other shapes utilizing the brilliant colours of the glass to create breath taking works of art. It was during this time that the decorated tree gained traction. Queen Victoria is said to have popularized the decorated tree during her reign and through publications at the time depicting her family around the tree in all its splendor that influence was felt throughout Europe and all the way to America. At the time, in America trees were simply strung with popcorn and cranberries in addition to nuts and other fruits.
Today’s trees range from an eclectic mix of homemade family ornament and traditional colours and lights to bright modern pieces in neon oranges and blues. Many people I know collect a new ornament each year and some even have entire trees given to a specific themes or colours. Parents often give their children a special ornament each Christmas so that when they are ready to leave and establish their own homes they will have a collection of ornaments to take with them. While every option in ornaments is available to us today, it is still fun to create our own. How about a fun character to add a little life to your tree? Or perhaps something edible? However you choose to decorate your tree, remember that the ornaments speak to life and regeneration and reflection of light. As you hang each ornament on the tree Reflect upon its meaning and count the blessings that you have been given over the past years.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Rejoice greatly. Shout! Behold, your King is coming to you.
Yes, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Ps 100.4; Zech 9:9; Hab 3:18
History gleaned in part from Weller, Dianne. A Social History of Christmas. The Earliest Ornaments. (2015 12 03)(Web)