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Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Ornaments - The History Behind the Christmas Tradition

A Roman calendar from 336 A.D. contains the first note of Jesus' birth being on the 25th of December. Year-end pagan festivals done to celebrate the harvest were likely the main influence of the date of Christmas. Included in the celebrations were specially prepared meals, homes being decorated, singing, and the giving of gifts. Christian celebrations began to slowly adopt pagan rituals. The majority of Christmas traditions, like the Christmas tree and ornaments, originated in central Europe. The first German Christmas trees were decorated with food such as apples, onions, pears, nuts, candies and fruit.

Lauscha, Germany was the first to make glass ornaments in the 1800's. The entire family got involved in this cottage industry. Historically, making an ornament was a family affair where men would do the glassblowing, the women the silvering and their children would help by painting and finishing them. Edible decorations were eventually replaced by pretty glass ornaments.

Prince Albert, husband to Queen Victoria and a German, brought the tradition along with him to England in Victorian times. It was only a short time after that all of England was participating in on it.

When Europeans immigrated to North America in the 1840's, their Christmas traditions came with them. Before that time, the celebration of Christmas was not widespread in North America. With new wealth and prosperity society started to ask for ornaments of a larger size and with more vibrant colors.

The first American retailer to sell glass ornaments was FW Woolworth. Stories suggest that he was tepid and unsure about his new holiday product line. Woolworth's opinion changed after he sold over $25 million worth of ornaments in his stores by 1890.

Lauscha, Germany was where almost all hand blown glass ornaments were made until 1925. The United States was importing a staggering 250 million Christmas Ornaments by 1935. The Lauscha region became a part of East Germany after World War II. Artisan glass blowers fled to West Germany which left the industry in ruins.

The industry went into decline after the majority of glass glowers fled to West Germany. During this time many traditional glass ornaments were thrown away.

What to look for in Antique Ornaments:
Hang on to any vintage ornaments you might still have.

How to tell the difference between vintage and new:
Modern ornaments are larger than the earlier ornaments. Usually these are hand painted with soft colors. It's not uncommon to find vintage ornaments with faded paint and distressed areas.

Hand crafted versus mechanically made:
You'll need to remove the stem to check the base. Due to the fact that the glass blower cannot make a clean break, hand blown ornaments will have a base that is uneven. A smooth even base is one of the attributes of machine made, modern ornaments.

Where can you locate antique ornaments?
If you're looking for good buys for vintage ornaments then check out flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores or even by using EBAY on the internet.

An ornament can cost anywhere from $2 to $200 dollars based on what type it is and where you buy it.


  • The harvest is symbolized by fruit and vegetables.

  • Birds symbolize God's messengers, who spread his love and peace to the world. Birds also represent good luck and fortune.

  • Ornaments shaped like pickles bestow luck.

  • Christ is symbolized in the fish shaped ornaments.

  • Reflective ornaments, those with geometric concave indentions, were often called witches eyes during Victorian times and were placed on trees to ward off evil spirits.

  • A star shape is a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem.

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