When you look at your Christmas tree what do you see? Globes, glass ornaments, tinsel? All of these are German Christmas “inventions,” some passed down since the 12th century. Even the indoor tree itself was a German innovation! This month, in honor of Oktoberfest, we’d like to share with you the legacy of German Christmas decorations and the effect they’ve had on what we often think of as our very American Christmas traditions.
Perhaps the biggest contribution to the tree was the glass globe ornament. What tree today isn’t decked with at least a few colored balls? Globes are standard issue today, and come in every color imaginable, painted with scenes, tie dyed, or branded with licensed characters. We love our uniquely shaped ornaments but the ball is always where we begin. The penchant for glass globes began when glassblowers in 16th century Germany perfected their art, yielding the clearest, most uniform and luminous colored glass the world had ever seen. When that first blower of the perfect globe saw how it reflected light and radiated warmth, no doubt he thought of using his creation to decorate his home for the advent. The globe took its place on the tree next to ribbons, candles, and feathers, and its beauty has since reminded us of snow, the globe of the Earth, and a sort of Christmas universality.
Germany’s next most famous German Christmas contribution is the formed glass ornament. By the 19th century glass could be blown into any shape, and Hans Greiner decided to make ornaments shaped like fruits and nuts in celebration of the season. These glass treasures soon caught the eye of British tourists, and Greiner began shipping loads of them across the channel. Then when F.W. Woolworth visited Germany in the 1880s, he brought the glass ornaments back to sell at his dime stores. An instant hit with Americans (we’ve always loved sparkly things!), the glass ornament has since become a treasured heirloom ornament for many families.
Another contributiom to the ornament box is painted ornaments of all kinds. While many cultures have painted ornaments for centuries, the style of painted globes and painted wooden ornaments with which most Americans are familiar is distinctly German. Scenes of snowy nights, angels dressed in winter garb, or little boys fetching tiny Christmas trees are common. The wooden versions of the painted ornaments perhaps made perfect gifts for children, as they were often child-themed and not fragile like the globes.
At Christmasornaments.com, we have a wide selection of German glass and German painted ornaments. These beautiful treasures are designed, crafted and painted by a small team of artisans who give the personal touch to each and every piece in Germany. The details are evident whether you select one of the hand-cut wood ornaments that are painted on the front and back, or the clear glass ball ornaments that are painted 360 degrees around the entire ball. Next time you look at your Christmas tree, remember the German artisans who helped make our American Christmas what it is today.