How Christmas Ornaments Came to Be a Beloved Holiday Tradition
The First Christmas Ornament
Decorating Christmas trees with various ornaments is a long-standing tradition around the world, dating back to 16th-century Germany when evergreens were frequently decorated with berries, apples, and other fruit. Legend has it that Martin Luther, the religious reformer, was the first person to put lighted candles on a Christmas tree.
No one is really sure if the first ornament came about in the 16th century or mid-1800s, but most sources agree that German glassblower Hans Greiner created the first actual Christmas ornament—a glass apple.
While the idea of a Christmas tree and ornaments were brought to America by Hessian soldiers during the Revolutionary War, the colonists thought it was all a bit odd.
The tradition didn’t catch on in the United States until the late 1800s when Queen Victoria and her family were drawn next to their Christmas tree. After people saw the illustration, Christmas trees started popping up in every home in America.
In the 1880s, F.W. Woolworth visited Germany and saw ornaments in the shops. He was intrigued by the idea and decided to import them to sell in his own stores. Most ornaments continued to be made in Germany until after World War II and then Hallmark started making their keepsake ornaments in 1973, officially cementing ornaments as a holiday tradition.
Ornaments Are More Than Just Decoration
For James Barbato, author of The Magic Christmas Ornament, sees ornaments as much more than a decoration you hang on your tree each year. “They’re keepsakes,” he said. “Ornaments share cherished moments and memories in your life. They remind me of when I was a little boy and they remind me of my parents, and many times remind you about people that are no longer with us. But at Christmas time, ornaments allow you to reminisce and bring back those memories.”
Quite often, ornaments are handing down through generations. “We do have some family favorite ornaments that my kids love that I had when I was a little boy—ornaments from the 1950s that are over 60 years old, that I have on my tree right now. I’m so happy they’re there when I see them.” He continued, “They’re old-style ornaments that have hand-painted glitter on them—some have bells or wreaths or snowflake designs in glitter.”
Ornaments Are Historical
And then, of course, there are the one-of-a-kind ornaments. “We have an ornament from the year we first got married and one that my children made for me when they were in school. Those cannot be replaced because they capture a moment in time,” said James.
This is what he hopes the keepsake ornament that goes along with The Magic Christmas Ornament book will be for your family. “You give the ornament to your child or grandchild and you read the story that goes with it. They’ll remember that for their whole life. The ornament will become important to them,” he said. “Our granddaughter is six months old and I can’t wait to tell her stories and read her The Magic Christmas Ornament.”
Purchase The Magic Christmas Ornament Book Collection (book plus ornament) in hardcover here, or ebook here. A portion of all sales proceeds goes to Toys For Tots. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, or Pinterest, and sign up for their newsletter here.
Leave a Comment