Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Ornaments

Merry Christmas!  It's Sarah from {Home-ology} modern vintage here again for another fun & informative blog post.

Are you ready for what the remaining month of December has in store?  Is your Christmas a crazy whirlwind of family, food, & gift giving or is it a simple day of family togetherness and quiet celebration?

No matter how you celebrate, there's no denying that the holiday season is in full swing, and homes all over the world are filled with the spirit of Christmas.  Halls are decked and evergreens are dripping with the collections of precious family ornaments - some purchased, some made by little hands - but each with a special memory attached.

There are a plethora traditions & rituals that go along with the celebration of Christmas; but one I find most intriguing is the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree.  Why do we use certain figures as ornaments?  My inquisitive mind had to know.

Many of these stories are well known, other not so much.  I thought I would share with you what I found.
A Christmas star.  Most Christians know that a star on the top of the tree represents the Star of Bethlehem whose bright light led the Wise Men to Jesus and that an angel on the top of the tree represents the angels who spread the news of Jesus' birth.
vintage christmas spider ornament via
But one of my favorites is the Christmas spider.  Originally I loved these ornaments just because I found the little insects an intriguing addition to my tree.  But as I began to collect them, I eventually learned their history.

The story of the Christmas spiders {and the silver tinsel that is used to represent them} is a sweet little tale of a family of spiders who couldn't resist climbing through the Christmas tree to view the beautiful decorations that had been placed upon it.  When they had finished admiring all the ornaments, they had unknowingly spun webs all around the tree.  The end is a sweet tale.  You can find the most widely known version of the story here.
Another popular ornament we often see is the Christmas pickle.  It's tradition is very much up for controversy as to its origination {either Germany or an American-made tale created to commercialize it's popularity as an ornament}.  Either way, it's a fun tradition to hide a pickle in deep inside the tree.  The child who finds it gets a special gift & good luck throughout the following year.  A little more info on its controversial story can be found here.
Last is the the gilded walnut.  The walnut symbolizes an old ritual that began with the Europeans where, after a treat of walnuts on Christmas, the children would take the empty shells and place a burning candle inside.  These "boats" were placed in a bowl of water.  The one whose boat made it to the end was blessed with long life & good luck.  A shell that sinks brings bad luck.

There are so many more ornament traditions, one could spend an entire day engrossed in the subject.  I did, however, find two articles listing many of them here and here, each giving a brief history.  It's an entertaining family discussion for this time of year and would be a fun read to share with little ones.  Learning the history behind the ornaments is a great way to give them an understanding of what Christmas is truly about.

Christmas ornaments as we know them today in America only became widespread in the late 1800's, during the Victorian era, when the popular F.W. Woolworth's five & dime began offering German glass ornaments to its customers.  Prior to then, trees were mainly decorated with nuts, fruits, and strings of popcorn & cranberries.

These Victorian era ornaments aren't so readily available in today's market.  However, one can easily create a beautiful vintage Christmas tree by filling it with the glass ornaments from the 1940's and beyond.  Ornaments dating from these time periods are plentiful and very, very affordable.  I found some wonderful examples during a recent trip to the Queen of Hearts' Alpharetta location.  But they are plentiful in any of her three locations this time of year.
 This is a lovely example of the appeal of a vintage decorated tree - so charming.  These are located in BELLA's booth.
And here's a simple collection of gold Shiny Brites.  These make a nice vintage statement when placed as a collection within a vessel.
Just for interest, I'm showing this rare hand blown, hand painted ornament dating to WWII.  I don't normally feature my own inventory, but it's such a nice example of a rare find that I felt it appropriate to include.  Metal was not available for commercial use during war time, so paper hangers were used in place of the metal caps.  This is an easy way to date ornaments from this time period. 
What would a vintage Christmas be without a blow mold?  This one is a table top model from the 1960's.  I love his worn patina. You will find this one in booth CDVA.
This is a very nice collection from dealer KAY.
And two 1950's beauties from dealer JBC.

There's something universally appealing about vintage Christmas ornaments - their patina, their history, the fact that they've been lovingly preserved and were a very special part of one family's traditions - it just evokes the holiday spirit in a way like no other.

I hope you and your family have the merriest of Christmases this year and blessings throughout the new year.



This is a guest post from Sarah Krouse at {Home-ology) modern vintage.  As well as being a dealer in our Alpharetta location, Sarah blogs over at  If you enjoyed reading her post and would love to see more, we encourage you to stop by her blog.  There you'll see many of her vintage finds in their raw stage, get a story of where they came from, and see transformations of the pieces she revives & repurposes prior to their display at the Queen.

1 comment:

  1. I am LOVING the Vintage Christmas stuff featured on here! Some of my favorite things!