History of Christmas Ornaments – Part 7
24 Thursday Oct 2013
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Final Part of our 7 Part Series: Christmas Ornaments Stand the Test of Time in Symbolizing Families’ Stories
ChristmasOrnaments.com concludes its seven-part series on the history of Christmas ornaments in America much as it began it: with a look at the influence of the Christmas tree.
From the moment St. Boniface went ballistic upon finding a group of Germans worshipping an oak tree – he took an ax to it, revealing what he considered to be an image of the Holy Trinity – Christmas trees were lush and green. Even the early-day garlands that Americans draped on their fireplace mantels were green.
It’s little wonder, then, that the white and silver aluminum trees that appeared in America in 1958 were greeted largely with quizzical disdain bordering on contempt. The trees often were packaged with special Christmas ornaments that were touted as safe and fireproof. If only they were touted for their beauty. But such a statement might have been considered false advertising.
For Americans who preferred a minimalistic look, these trees could be illuminated by a multi-color light source that revolved underneath the tree, sans ornaments.
The aluminum trees may be considered kitschy fun today, but they deprived Americans of one of the reasons they loved Christmas trees in the first place: because they could personalize them with Christmas ornaments – homemade ornaments, wooden ornaments, angel ornaments, toy ornaments and any other kind of ornament that would imbue their trees with warmth, character and nostalgia.
Mass-produced Christmas ornaments elicit mixed reactions
Such sentimentality partially explains the eager response to such novelties as Hallmark’s Keepsake Collection, which the company released in 1973, and the yearly Christmas ornaments rolled out with red-carpet fanfare by the Franklin Mint.
Do these ornaments represent the further commercialization of Christmas? Many critics say so. But then, it depends on how well they capture a family’s story, its memories and, of course, its legacy. In this way, many American families choose to use their Christmas trees as a canvas for their ethnic heritage.
Plenty of Polish families continue to decorate their Christmas trees with ornaments in the shape of peacocks and other birds. Swedish families – in reverence to St. Lucia – remain partial to Christmas ornaments in the likeness of angelic girls. The Japanese favor tiny fans and paper lamps. Czechoslovakians demonstrate their artistic flair by painting eggshells. And the people of Denmark? They are said to be particularly patriotic and decorate their Christmas trees with tiny Danish flags.
American author Charles Barnard – whose ethnicity was unknown – was once asked for his idea of the “perfect” Christmas tree. He replied: “The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
And they are, because as a storyteller of Barnard’s stature must have surely known, they all contain Christmas ornaments that tell a story – a family’s unique story — that just waits to be told.