There are many reasons why people started to decorate their houses in the wintertime. Long ago, people believed that by decorating the greenery in the winter time, they would make them beautiful for the spirits, which they believed had fled to cover from the cold weather. Much later, people began to take green branches into their homes during the wintertime to give warmth and shelter to these spirits, they would release them again in the early spring.
In the sixth century missionaries from Rome were sent throughout Europe to convert the people. Allowances were made to make the step from pagan to Christian easier to take. Pagan rituals were incorporated into Christianity and the decorations stayed, but as a celebration to honor the Birthday of the Son of God. The pagan superstitions remained while new meanings and symbols developed.
Bring in the greenery!
Holly is a symbol of eternal life. Druids thought this plant stayed green year round because it was especially favored by the sun.
Mistletoe was held sacred by ancient peoples. Therefore it became a symbol for peace and joy.
Leave a candle burning in the window
A Christmas candle left burning in the window all night is believed to bring the household’s good luck in the coming year.
Hang the stockings at the chimney
Stockings are hung by the chimney at Christmas, in memory of the generosity of St. Nicholas. The legend is that out of sympathy he tossed three coins down the chimney of the home of three poor sisters.
Spider webs in the tree
Hang some cobwebs in your Christmas tree for good luck. According to a Ukrainian legend a poor woman had nothing to put on her children’s tree. When she woke on Christmas morning she found the branches covered with spider webs turned to silver by the rising sun.
Removing the decorations
As the druids would remove the branches in early spring and up until the 19th century, people would keep the decorations until Candlemas at 2 February. Since the reign of Victoria it is custom that Christmas decorations come down before the end of the 12th day, on January 6. Superstitions say that it is bad luck to leave it for another day or take it down before that date.
Christmas really starts when you are decorating your tree and it is really recommended to get into the right spirit. Whether you are bringing in a natural evergreen or took your artificial tree down from the attic, here are some guidelines for making the whole experience a little less chaotic.
Choosing the Christmas tree
If your Christmas tree is going to look really good or not could depend on the sort of tree you choose. There are actually some kinds of trees that are easier to decorate than others. Pine is the sort of evergreen tree that is most likely going to lose its needles quickly and turn into a pathetic stump. When it comes to holding Christmas ornaments, the best species of trees are firs and spruces. Their branches are sturdy and do not bend under the weight of a glass Christmas ornament. Of course, artificial trees are perfectly fine as well.
If you chose for decorating a real tree, make sure it is fresh. When buying the tree, test the freshness of the tree by bending the branches. A good and fresh tree will bend a bit and will easily support your Christmas ornaments. If the branches snap when you try to bend it, don’t buy the tree. This tree is not fresh, will probably not support your decorations and is also very likely to drop its needles very soon.
Preparing the decorations
Start with the Christmas mat or skirt. They can hide the stand, decorate and catch dropped needles all the same time. It is a very useful part of your Christmas decorations. You can’t slip a Christmas tree skirt over the tree’s head and lifting up a decorated tree is not the best advice either. So, this is the first step of decorating your tree, before the other decorations.
It is very likely that last year you just stripped everything off the tree and threw it in a box. Perhaps your Christmas tree lights are all knotted up. This is a bad start. The old saying is “as it begins, so it ends and so it begins again.” This counts for decorating a Christmas tree as well. Make a vow now to do it in a different way this year and clean up everything in an ordered manner so that you don’t need to squander time sorting through broken Christmas ornaments and piles of old tinsel.
So, this year we will still have to start with unsnarling the lights. Then make sure that all the bulbs are working before you try to wrap them around the tree. There is a possibility that if you try to change the bulbs while they are on the tree that a spark could set fire to the tree and turn it into an untimely bonfire.
Start decorating the tree
When draping the lights over the tree, make sure that the light bulbs are not rested against any branches. Hot bulbs could heat up the needles and catch fire, especially if you did not check the tree when you bought it and you came home with a dry tree. The absolutely safest trees are pre-lit artificial Christmas trees as some of them have automatic shut-down features if they get too hot.
Decorating Christmas trees is all about proportion. The largest sized Christmas ornaments should go at the bottom of the tree and the smallest one at the top. The result is just more pleasant to the eye.
Make your tree personal by adding heirlooms, Christmas cards and personalized Christmas ornaments, but remember less is always more. A good way to avoid of creating a jumble of your most favorite ornaments and other decorations is to choose a theme for your tree. A color theme is the simplest way to keep your Christmas tree in style, but a tree could also be decorated after traditions. E.g. a Country style theme with wooden ornaments or a German tree mostly decorated with food.
The last part of your Christmas tree is the tinsel. It is amazing how many people just throw handfuls of tinsel at the tree which will then look like clumps of spaghetti or major hairballs. Tinsel is supposed to give the tree a frozen look. Imagine how real icicles look when they would be hanging from your tree and hang little strings only at the edges of the branches.
History of Christmas Ornaments
Christmas tree ornaments are as much part of Christmas as Santa Claus, Christmas cards and Christmas gifts. We cannot imagine this holiday without them. But where did these traditions come from? Most of the Christmas traditions came from central Europe, and were brought to America by the early settlers. The Christmas ornaments traveled from Germany, through England to America and gradually changed from apples to glass blown figurines.
The original German Christmas trees were adorned with food; apples, onions, nuts and candies were placed on a tree.
In the 19th century, glass ornaments were first made in Germany. In general, only men did the glassblowing, women silvered the glass balls and the children painted and turned them into beautiful glass Christmas ornaments.
When Prince Albert, from Germany, married Queen Victoria of England, he brought the tradition of tree decorating to England. Soon it became popular and all of England was decorating trees at Christmas.
Some of these Englishmen immigrated to North America and took their Christmas traditions with them. Christmas started to become a widely spread holiday in North America and as with everything made in this new country, the ornaments got larger and brighter.
F.W. Woolworth was the first North American merchant to sell glass ornaments in 1880. Within a decade he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments per year.
Nearly all hand blown glass ornaments were produced in Germany, until in 1925 Japan started to produce large numbers of glass Christmas ornaments for export.
When the Second World War broke out and European factories stopped making the Christmas ornaments, US manufacturers began making them. Corning used a machine designed for making light bulbs to produce more than 300,000 glass ornament balls per day.
Now, the American people spend billions of dollars yearly on Christmas ornaments. Glass Christmas ornaments come in all shapes, sizes and colors.