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A world of Christmas tree decorations

Published on 19 December 2019

A world of Christmas tree decorations

Bringing the outdoors indoors during winter dates back an awful lot further than Queen Victoria…

That we know of, bringing evergreen indoors during winter dates back to the ancient Celts, Romans, Egyptians and Vikings. Branches of evergreens were fixed over doorways and windows to ward off evil spirits and, at some point, began to be decorated with strips of cloth.

Fast-forward to the Middle Ages and churches are decorating outdoor fir trees with apples to celebrate Adam and Eve Day. It’s then not a big step to the 1500s and Martin Luther (allegedly) bringing a tree indoors and adding candles to replicate the night sky. By 1605 the trees are being decorated with colourful paper roses, gingerbread and sweets. 

The year of 1610 saw the arrival of tinsel, originally made from actual silver and dreamt up to help reflect the light from the candles. Clearly only available to the very wealthy, cheaper alternatives made from tin and copper were soon created. During the First World War the demand for copper escalated so the hunt was on for a suitable replacement. Aluminium was a fire hazard and so tinsel was created from lead (!) – right up until the early 1970s when PVC completely took over.

Tales in Ukraine and Eastern Germany tell of tinsel being created by a kindly spider who took pity on a poor family who could afford no decorations for their tree. It is still popular in Ukraine, Poland and parts of Germany to have a spider or a web decoration on the tree.

Queen Victoria is credited with making Christmas trees fashionable in the UK in the mid 1840s, although Queen Charlotte was putting them up from 1800. The tree was traditionally brought in and decorated on Christmas Eve and left in place until Candlemas Day at the beginning of February, which is a long time to co-exist with a decorated tree.

By 1880 special glass tree ornaments were available in Woolworths and artificial trees were on sale. The earliest examples were made from dyed goose feathers and were in response to worries about deforestation in Germany. By 1930 trees were being made in Britain from, basically, toilet brushes dyed green. They proved hugely popular as they were obviously stronger and less flammable than the feather trees.

Although there are vents on the roofs of our secure heritage storage facilities, even Santa Claus would struggle to gain entry, which makes them perfect for storing your historical winter wonderland. To find out more about our heritage storage, contact Michael.watts@restore.co.uk or call our people on 0333 060 3230.

Whether your tree is real, artificial, or a trendy alternative, we wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

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