It's Time for You to Begin Hanging Christmas Traditions Like Ornaments on Your Life

Do you ever think about how the Christmas tree ornaments came about? Do your Christmas tree ornaments have meaning or do you decorate with the latest trend?

Some say the first ornaments came about in the early 1800’s. In those days, decorations were fruit, nuts, and evergreens, signifying the return of life in the spring. Not many of us hang fruit or nuts on the tree anymore. As time went on, other fruits were added, as well as bits of shiny metal. The reflection of light from the metal seemed to delight everyone.  Paper streamers were eventually added.

A 19th Century Santa

German families began to add gingerbread and cookies in festive shapes, like stars, hearts and angels. The idea caught on. Americans added the cranberry and popcorn strands. Small gifts would be added to the tree nestled in the crook of the bough. The UK added lace ornaments, and before long, the tree was almost invisible underneath the ornaments.

The point to these decorations was that they were made with loving hands and each held a special meaning. In the mid 1800’s the German entrepreneurs began making ornaments en masse strictly for Christmas decoration. They were made of glass in the city of Lauscha, long known for their glass making. That city became the hub of Christmas ornaments.

In the late 1800’s F.L. Woolworth began importing these ornaments… and so it began.

Something else that peaked my curiosity was Santa’s red suit. Why red? Back in the day, the characters were called ‘gift givers.’ Did you know it actually started out green? Yes, started in either Norway or Germany, the green was symbolic of green plants returning in the spring.

So why did it change to red? Well, occasionally the bishops would pass out gifts wearing their red robes. Not often, but it did happen.  St. Nicholas was a bishop.

You might think the change occurred when Clement Clarke Moore published his “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” The story describes a man dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. What you may not remember is that no color was ever mentioned. Puck magazine did an illustration with a red suit in the early 1900’s.

Now, this may surprise you. A soft drink company ‘borrowed’ Santa around 1916 to promote their mineral water, then, in 1920 to sell ginger ale. Their colors were red and white. In the 1930’s, a man named Haddon Sunblom introduced our Santa as a Coke drinking, red-suited, jolly Coke salesman.

Wherever these traditions started, they have evolved as the years go by. You may have heard different versions. For me, I tend to decorate my tree with ornaments of significance, whether a first Christmas, a baby’s birth, a trip to Hawaii, a first bicycle, anything that symbolizes the lives of my family as they grow and accomplish.

I still string popcorn and let the little ones make paper chains. Anything that will embed a memory for years to come. As far as Santa…well, I look at him as a kindly, jolly grandfather children can relate to and feel loved and wanted. Yes, I know the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. We can incorporate both stories into our children’s lives so they can learn the meaning of giving, of sharing, of loving.

What better way to unify a family than to sit together making Christmas decorations, listening to Christmas carols about Jesus, and making cookies to hang on the tree. Don’t discount your own traditions. It’s what makes the world a better place.

Patty Wiseman is author of An Unlikely Arrangement. Click here to read more about the novel or purchase a copy direct from Amazon. 

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