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Christmas Ornament History

For Christians and others who celebrate Christmas’s secular traditions, decorating their home and Christmas trees with ornaments is one of the most enjoyable ways to capture the magic and excitement of the Christmas holidays.

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of pagan tradition and ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice, which included the use of evergreen boughs and pagan tree worship. The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century.

The invention of the blowpipe by some unknown artisan brought about the craft of glass blowing, eventually evolving into the fine art of Christmas glass ornaments we know today. Items originally produced were not Christmas ornaments but practical items used mostly in the home. Christoph Muller and Hans Greiner set up Germany’s first glassworks in 1597 in Lauscha, then in the Duchy of Sachsen-Coburg, now in the German state of Thuringia (Thuringen). Lauscha, located in a river valley, had several elements needed for glass making: timber (for firing the glass ovens) and sand. Soon other glashutten (glassworks) were established in the town, producing drinking glasses, flasks, glass bowls, glass beads (Glasperlen), and even glass eyes (1835).

In 1847 Hans Greiner, a descendent of the Hans Greiner who had established Lauscha’s first glassworks, began producing glass ornaments (Glasschmuck) in the shape of fruits and nuts. These were made in a unique hand-blown process combined with molds. The inside of the ornament was made to look silvery, at first with mercury or lead, then later using a special compound of silver nitrate and sugar water. Greiner’s sons and grandsons, Ernst (b. 1847), Otto (b. 1877), Willi (b. 1903), and Kurt (b. 1932), carried on the Christmas ornament tradition. They were also responsible for another product: glass marbles.

Glass ornaments had become popular in 1846 when an illustration of Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was printed in a London paper. The Royal tree was decorated with glass ornaments from Prince Albert’s native land of Germany. Soon these unique glass Christmas ornaments were being exported to other parts of Europe.

Because of the Puritan influence, Christmas wasn’t widely celebrated in the United States until the 1800s. As a result, decorated trees did not become widely popular until people saw the ornaments brought to America by families emigrating from Germany and England in the 1840s. Some historians attribute the Hessians, German mercenaries fighting in the Revolutionary War, with introducing Americans to decorated trees. In the 1880s the American dime-store magnate F. W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha’s Glaskugeln during a visit to Germany. He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the U.S. By 1890, he was selling $25 million worth of ornaments at nickel and dime prices.

Germany faced virtually no competition until 1925. Then Japan began producing ornaments in large quantities for export to this country. Czechoslovakia also entered the field with many fancy ornaments. By 1935, more then 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to the United States.

The work of the German glass blowers and the distribution of the German ornaments remained almost unchanged from the middle of the 19th century through World War ll. When the Russian occupation of Germany began in 1953, many of the old world family molds that had been passed down for generations among all the families in Lauscha were destroyed. Families splintered when craftsmen fled their homeland to settle in Neustadt, a territory occupied by Americans, later establishing what is now the modern day Inge-glas workshop.

During the occupation, members of the Muller-Blech family stayed behind in Lauscha. Some of the old molds were found in garbage piles, other molds were bartered for. Since the border guards would have destroyed the molds if they had known the molds were going across the border, they were ingeniously smuggled. The molds were in two pieces, so, to ensure that the entire mold would get across the border, present day Inge-glas owner Klaus Muller-Blech’s grandmother would send them to him in a box of about a dozen or so, but only one half of each mold. She would put a note with the package, “Little Klaus, here are some molds for you to play with in the sand.” By sending the molds this way the border guards would think that the molds were of no importance. Later she would send the other half of the mold in a similar manner. For many years the old original recipe used to making the molds was lost. Recently the recipe to make the original molds used for making the old world Christmas glass ornaments was found, making Inge-glas the only company able to exactly reproduce the old molds.

The Muller-Blech family practiced the craft of ornament blowing in the same workshops in Lauscha Germany for thirteen generations. In the 1960’s Klaus Muller-Blech, a 14th generation descendant, and Birgit Eichhorn Jeremias-Sohn, descendant of the Eichhorn family, joined forces by marriage and combined their familys’ tradition and skills at the Inge-glas workshop. Today their collection includes more than 6000 antique blown glass ornaments molds dating from the 1850s. In addition, new ornaments are created each year to represent the traditions of today.

To find out if you own any original Inge-glas ornaments, look for the authentic star crown ornament holder. This star crown is the Inge-glas trademark. The Inge-glas ornaments are recognizable as one of the oldest generational German Christmas ornament makers and in the year 2000 Inge-glass established their own distribution site in the United States. Not until 1939 and the outbreak of World War II did an American company significantly enter the ornament business. Using a machine designed to make light bulbs, Corning engineers produced more than 2,000 ornament balls a minute. In 1973, Hallmark introduced six glass ball ornaments and 12 yarn figures as the first collection of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments, a new tradition of Christmas decorating was started and a new collectible industry was born. When the first line was introduced, they were unique in design, year-dated and available only for a limited time, innovations in the world of ornaments. Since 1973, Hallmark has introduced more than 3,000 different Keepsakes Ornaments and more than 100 ornament series, groups of ornaments that share a specific theme. The finished Keepsake Ornaments reflect the way styles, materials, formats and technology have expanded since the first ones appeared in Hallmark stores in 1973. Once a collection of decorated glass balls and yarn figures, ornaments are now made in a wide array of wood, acrylic, bone china, porcelain, and handcrafted formats.

Many unusual glass Christmas ornament traditions and stories have evolved from the German families. The German tradition of hanging a Christmas glass ornament pickle on the Christmas tree is the oddest German Christmas ornament story, some say even a myth. The pickle ornament is always the last ornament to be hung on the Christmas tree, with the parents hiding the pickle glass ornament in the Christmas tree among all the other ornaments. When the children are allowed to view the Christmas tree they would begin gleefully searching for the German Christmas glass ornament pickle. The children knew that whoever found the pickle ornament first would receive an extra little gift and would be the one to begin the unwrapping of the Christmas gifts.

It would be interesting to hear from any readers that have experienced this tradition, so if you did, please do share your story with us, thank you and Merry Christmas!

Quick and easy ways to create Christmas cheer

Posted On December 17, 2006

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Holiday decorating would be a snap if only we all had some combination of the following >
> Infinite free time
> The skills of a floral designer
> A couple of crates of family heirloom ornaments
> The budget and staff to help

Most of us are lacking some or all of the above. But that’s still no excuse for a home whose only nod to the Christmas Season, decor-wise, is one of those inflatables on the lawn. Adding a few festive touches can be simple and easy. Holiday decorating should not be a big, overwhelming chore, and simple doesn’t mean you can’t have a rich, elegant look.

Provided you make use of these tips >

* Gather clear glass vases, pitchers and hurricanes of different sizes and fill them with assorted round ornaments. Arrange them on a dining table, a mantel or windowsill.

* Set pillar candles inside small wreaths, real or fake, and use them as centerpieces or on a mantel.

* Dress up a grouping of framed pictures on a wall by tying small sprigs of greenery with narrow red ribbon and attaching them to the frames.

* Decorate a window with ornaments hung on ribbons.

* Pile candy canes into a clear glass vase or a silver bowl and add some sprigs of greenery.

* Make a “candlescape” using five holiday-hued pillar candles, all the same color, but in different sizes. Arrange on a platter or cake plate with sprigs of holly or other greenery. Or arrange white taper candles in holders of different height for a dramatic look.

* Instead of buying or making a wreath, dress up your front door by filling a small but deep basket with different types of greenery, pinecones and berries. Attach a wide piece of ribbon to the basket and secure it to the top of the door.

* Lack a Christmas tablecloth? Make a runner out of three pieces of wide ribbon spaced 3 inches apart. Anchor by placing candles on top.

* If you want to go on record this Christmas Season giving people permission to light those candles, then go to people’s houses, you will notice they have all these candles and none of them are lit. Yet candlelight creates such a beautiful ambience.

* Follow the advice of your Home Safety Council, though, which points out that home fires caused by candles peak during the holiday season. Keep candles out of reach of children and pets, and away from draperies, and never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.

* Finally, don’t forget to use your backyard as a decorating resource. Cut tall branches, both bare and evergreen, to arrange in a vase you can tie with a ribbon.

* Use a section of bare branch to make a “twig tree” decorated with miniature ornaments.

* Or gather pinecones or sprigs of holly to enhance your store-bought wreaths and garland.

Lahore, Pakistan gets ready for Christmas

Posted On December 17, 2006

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Preparations for Christmas have picked up in Lahore as the Christian community is busy making arrangements to celebrate the day with zeal and fervour.

There are nearly 400 churches in the city and almost all churches have been decorated with colourful lights and Christmas trees. Christians have started illuminating their homes and churches and Christmas shopping is in full swing. St Anthony’s Church on Empress Road, Naulakha Church, St Mary’s Church in the Cantonment area, Nabha Road Church and Cathedral Church of the Resurrection on The Mall have been specially decorated in connection with Christmas.

All education institutions run by Christians have started organising various programmes like tableaus and carols to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christian youth have started composing songs in connection with Christmas Eve.

“We start Christmas preparations from the first week of December by organising get-togethers and exchanging Christmas gifts and cards” said Saleem, a private company employee. Nabeela, a housewife, said that she had bought bangles and chocolates to give to her cousins on Christmas day.

Another important ritual of the Christmas celebrations is decorating Christmas trees to welcome the arrival of Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas.

Fifteen Christmas decorating ideas

Posted On December 15, 2006

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Decorating your home for the holidays does not need be stressful or expensive. Being one of the most popular times of the year to decorate, get your family involved and have fun making your home beautiful for the Christmas Season. Here are 15 Christmas decorating ideas >

1. Display your favorite Christmas collections. If you don’t have a collection, now is a great time to start! My dad and I collect nutcrackers and every year we have a wonderful time selecting just the right one. With a permanent marker, I write the year on the bottom of the nutcracker. Not only do we enjoy looking at the nutcrackers during the holidays, we also enjoying the fond memories of selecting them.

2. Make simple bows out of Christmas ribbons and attach them to your curtains with pins. This is a very charming look.

3. Decorate your house plants by hanging small Christmas ornaments on them.

4. Place a collection of Christmas books on your coffee table.

5. Fill a glass bowl with pine cones and Christmas balls and place on a shelf or table.

6. Wrap your staircase banister with indoor Christmas lights, garland, and bows.

7. To add scent throughout your home, tie 5 or 6 cinnamon sticks together in a bundle using Christmas ribbon. Make as many bundles as you wish and place around your home in baskets or bowls.

8. To decorate your table, tie Christmas ribbon to the stems of glasses and/or handles of cutlery

9. To dress up your chairs, tie Christmas bows around the chair so that the bow is on the back of the chair.

10. Using a small brush or qtip, paint the edges of pine cones with glittery gold craft paint. After the pine cones dry, place them in a decorative basket.

11. Add Christmas garland to door frames, window frames and mirrors. You can use tape to secure the garland to the surfaces.

12. Tie bows around door knobs using festive and colorful Christmas ribbon.

13. Attach garland and Christmas bows to your chandelier. You can also weave strings of red beads in the garland that will dangle down from your chandelier and reflect the light, which will add sparkle.

14. If you live in a milder climate, consider decorating with Amaryllis plants. These beautiful plants come in red and white, grow tall, and provide a very elegant look.

15. Don’t forget to decorate your fireplace mantel and hang your Christmas stockings. A few fireplace mantel decorating ideas are adding garland, different styles and sizes of Santas, teddy bears, and candles. You can also display your favorite nativity scene if you have a large enough mantel.

Be creative with your fireplace mantel because most mantels are the focal point during the holiday season. Another decorating idea for your mantel is to purchase a bunch of miniature rosemary trees shaped like Christmas trees, add mini ornaments to them and line them up across your mantel. These miniature rosemary trees are readily available during the holidays and come in festive containers.

Christmas decorating is a great time to create traditions and spend quality time with your family. Get out some snacks and drinks and create a little “decorating party” that you’re family will love and look forward to year after year.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Balmy Austrian winter melts Christmas tree

Unprecedented balmy temperatures at the start of Austria’s winter have melted away a towering Christmas tree of ice a week after it went on display.

“Warm rain penetrated the structure. To prevent the risk of parts of it falling on passers-by, we had to remove it. Now it’s dissolving into water,” Helmut Ellensohn, of Klagenfurt Marketing in the provincial city, said.

The tree, fashioned from 30 tonnes of imported Belgian ice by internationally known ice sculptor Gert Hoedl, was erected on December 6 to add some unusual Christmas cheer to Klagenfurt.

Ellensohn said then that while officials expected the tree might “drip, and the contours might blur,” it should hold up through Christmas Day on December 25. But temperatures persisting well over the freezing mark plus a bout of heavy rain, typifying what meteorologists say has been the warmest beginning to winter in the Alps for 1300 years, finished off the 5.4-metre tree.

Add a bit of Christmas cheer

Posted On December 14, 2006

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It’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, gold, twigs and a wealth of other things that come to hand. We do have some ideas!

CHRISTMAS is the time when our homes come alive and with just two weeks until Christmas Eve, why not embrace that festive feeling? The Romans kept lamps burning in their homes to ward off evil spirits and candles burning in their windows to call back the sun or to symbolise enlightenment for the New Year. In the Middle Ages, both in churches and homes, it was the custom to set up and light one large candle on Christmas Eve in remembrance of the Star of Bethlehem, which announced the coming of the Light of the world.

Today an abundance of electrical Christmas lights and countless decorations are available and people the world over go to great lengths to make this time of year, and their homes, feel special. Take a look at our 51 Sensational Seasonal Ideas – find what works for you – and be inspired!

1. Bring Christmas cheer to your dining table with a vibrant colour combination of red and white. Lift a plain white tablecloth by adding a floral centrepiece with a red theme, then place red charger plates beneath white crockery, use red napkin rings on white napkins, and top off with two or three arrangements of red candles and berries.

2. Stuff a striking, clear vase with cordless fairy lights. Switch on for instant glow.

3. Add a glittery touch to Christmas wreaths. Wind some of the latest LED lights around yours or buy one of the sparkly varieties available in shops.

4. Go for elegance with white lilies and cream church candles for a gorgeous centrepiece for your dining table. The popularity of candles never wanes as candlelight has an enchanting quality which single-handedly transforms a room.

5. Make a wave of candlelight all along the length of your dining table using candles in increasing sizes to form a crescendo of light. Don’t go too high, make sure your guests can still have a clear view of each other across the table.

6. Create a cosy feel with sweet-smelling cinnamon, orange, bergamot, and spice-scented tea lights arranged around the room.

7. Place three votive candles inbetween five topiary trees tied with simple silver, red, gold, or green ribbon.

8. Glittery silver tea light holders will create a sparkly look once filled and lit. Find these at Debenhams, along with charger plates and other silver accessories.

9. If you are entertaining, and if you have a front garden, one of the loveliest and cheapest effects is to create a pathway to your door with lanterns or even a simple line or two of tea lights.

10. The latest colour trend at Marks & Spencer is midnight blue, and has inspired their new Christmas collection of home decorations and accessories. Midnight blue Christmas trees, baubles and even a flamboyant feather wreath are among the selection. This deep blue creates drama and looks good combined with silver and white. The impression will be fresh and crisp as well as festive.

11. Layer midnight blue with black, amethyst and gold for a luxurious effect.

12. A touch of frost can be combined in various ways to create that Christmas feel. Frosted white glassware, sparkly silver table mats, coasters, or table runners give a modern, sophisticated look. Soften with the gentle glow of a large, white pillar candle. Complete your dinner table with white tableware.

13. Create a magical white scheme with a fairytale feel. Use silver or glass candlesticks, cut-glass goblets or frost-patterned glasses. Make sure the table sparkles as much as the conversation by dotting it with twinkling silver confetti, beads or crystals, better still use all three!

14. Shake up the frosty look by adding the most delicate lilac, rose, soft green or shimmering light blue accessories. If you fancy doing something really special, revamp your rooms with calming, frosty paint shades in one of these fresh shades.

15. Berry red or deep plum look great combined with gold. Add texture with silk, velvet, or satin table runners and matching napkins.

16. If you have a brown leather suite with cream cushions, pack these away for the season and replace with cushions and accessories of turquoise and/or silver. Debenhams have a good selection of both, in vases, ornaments and soft furnishings. You may like the look so much you decide to keep it!

17. Remember, you don’t need to use everything in your Christmas box, yuletide décor does not need to look cluttered. Your objective is to achieve harmony. Everything in your room should work together. Ideally, use the same theme throughout your home and garden.

18. Hang Swarovski crystals from strategic places to give that twinkling feeling. Drape a crystal drop curtain at the window or over the mantelpiece to bounce glittering light around the room.

19. Turn your favourite Christmas cards into a stylish feature by suspending them on different lengths of silver twine, and weighing down each string with a sparkling decoration to reflect sun or candlelight.

20. Be creative with baubles! Buy large oversized baubles and hang them outside for a bright welcoming touch.

21. Use a tall clear plain vase, or a bowl, to display your favourite baubles. Place in the centre of your table as a centrepiece, or on side or hallway tables.

22. Give your presents a unique touch this year. Cover them in layers of white tissue paper, tied with silver twine and a small Christmas decoration.

23. Alternatively, wrap gifts in colourful tissue paper layers, tie with brightly coloured ribbons, and finish with pretty crystal beads.

24. Go for the natural look and wrap gifts with plain brown paper and raffia, add a piece of sparkle with silver or gold string, and a glitzy matching gift tag.

25. Wow your guests with one or two key pieces for maximum impact on a low budget, rather than lots of little bits and pieces that will disappear into the background. Try two potted trees made with willow twigs and fairy lights in tall elegant pots, standing either side of a doorway to create drama.

26. If you have a fireplace your mantelpiece will become a focal point. Try to create colour, texture, and balance within a theme you have chosen. Don’t try to put everything on your mantel. Pick a theme and stick to it!

27. For a contemporary look use repetition and symmetry, odd numbers of objects work best. Use simple objects and repeat them several times.

28. For a natural look to your mantelpiece, gather some branches such as willow, or twigs. Stand branches up in narrow vases or lay them on the mantel, layering them so that the cut ends show as little as possible. Hang ornaments from them and complete with natural greenery such as pine and moss, pinecones, and grapevine balls and intertwine with ribbon.

29. Traditional mantelpieces look beautiful swagged or layered with natural greenery, traditional ribbons and bows in satin, velvet or taffeta, mini white lights or ivory votives and artificial, sugared fruit.

30. Place one or two mini evergreen trees in clay pots, spray-painted silver or gold, if you wish, near a doorway and add mini white lights. Alternatively, place two large topiary trees either side of your front door and adorn with fairy lights.

31. The Ancient Greeks regarded mistletoe as a charm against evil. Romance has since taken over its meaning. Hang above your entrance doorway or from strategic places around your home or use mistletoe in your arrangements so that it can be easily grabbed for that fleeting kiss.

32. Make a dinner table centrepiece by filling a simple glass bowl with water, add floating candles or tea lights. Alternatively, fill a shallow bowl with a little water, place a large candle in the centre, and sprinkle in a handful of delicate rose petals.

33. Place a tall candle on a silver, gold, or coloured platter. Surround with greenery or twigs and add embellishments in the form of sparkly decorations.

34. Hang droplet-style decorations to chandeliers.

35. Drape lights along your banister to light up the stairway.

36. Tie cutlery with festive ribbons for an elegant plain setting.

37. Create a special presentation box by grouping some gifts together. Wrap items with tissue paper and ribbons.

38. Check out some of the variations of fairy lights in the shops. Hang over and around your front entrance for a cheery feel.

39. Combine Christmas-themed china with your everyday crockery.

40. For a cosy Christmas bedroom, team plain bed linen with soft throws. Surround yourself with a selection of sumptuous, beautiful textures.

41. Get creative, make your own decorative arrangements, using pine cones, evergreen foliage, ribbon, and whatever else comes to mind.

42. Sew an elegant table runner. Visit a local fabric shop and choose a fabric that will go with your theme.

43. Follow a theme when decorating your Christmas tree, ivory and gold, pearlescent blue, pastels, all white, burgundy, deep red with gold, or white and silver, are a few possibilities. White lights will look best with these combinations.

44. For a burst of colour, decorate your tree with rich jewel tones of emerald green, sapphire blue, red, gold, purple and red, and combine with multi-coloured fairy lights.

45. Enjoy a festive real fire, gather scented kindling, such as pine cones, bunches of dried herbs and strips of dried orange peel.

46. Cut fine slices of orange, place on a baking tray in a low oven for 90 minutes. Remove and leave to dry out. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, nutmeg, star anise, and pine cones. Place in a bowl and enjoy the natural aromas.

47. Find a florist, there are some florists which stand out. Order a large, beautiful flower arrangement or centrepiece and transform your room in one fell swoop.

48. The hallway is the first room your guests will see so make it festive and homely using some of the tricks listed here. Also, display groups of beautifully wrapped presents, and hang up Christmas stockings.

49. Decorate glassware, invest in a set of markers to wrap around the stems of your Christmas party glasses. These glass charms offer a decorative way to remind your guests whose drink is whose.

50. Scent sheets of gift wrap with a couple of drops of essential oil to make fragrant drawer liners.

51. Go for gold, add touches of gold and gilded accessories for an opulent feel in your home. Use gold polished tableware when entertaining. Place your favourite photographs in elegant gold frames, and display eye-catching fresh flowers in a tall vase for a hint of glamour.

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