Tree Toppers: a bit of history and a look into the future
Ever since trees began to be decorated for Christmas in the late 19th century, there has been a special place reserved for a very special ornament. Usually that ornament was a star or an angel and the special place was the very top of the tree.
The star represented the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Wise Men to the manger. The angel, of course, stood in for the one that appeared to the shepherds. Occasionally, several angels would stand guard at the top of the tree and represent the heavenly host that announced the birth of the Christ Child.
Over the years the stars and angels have changed to reflect the tastes and design sense of the era in which they were purchased. Early angels, for instance, often had paper wings that looked like lace and occasionally would have puffs of cotton around them to reflect their heavenly (and cloud-filled) surroundings. More expensive versions would have a porcelain head. Hair styles were often a giveaway when it came to dating an angel tree topper.
Usually the traditionalists in a family won out and, once acquired, the tree topper would reappear annually on its “rightful” place on top of the tree – no matter how old it was – and the tree had to be trimmed to accommodate it.
In third place behind stars and angels was a blown glass topper that would bear a spire reminiscent of one found on a cathedral. These ranged in complexity from a simple design to one that appeared to be of spun glass. They could be mass produced or hand-crafted by Waterford artisans.
Today’s new generation of tree toppers takes advantage of computer technology and fiber optics and LED lighting. One angel even dances and moves her wings. The high-tech ones serve the same purpose and often echo the same symbolism, but… .
There are alternatives – how about a spray of brightly-colored tinsel or glass ornaments hot-glued to a dowel that can be attached to the top of the tree. Frame a family portrait with those LED lights and put that on top. Another possibility might be a large hand-painted star – it can be gold, bronze, silver or any other color – and attach LED lights along the edges.
One thing to consider, whatever you put on the top of your tree – is to think about attaching some strong monofilament fishing line to the tree top and to a nearby wall to minimize the danger of the tree falling over. The wall anchor could be as inconspicuous as a picture hook – just make sure it’s rated to hold the tree.