Christmas Tree baubles originally came from Bohemia (modern Czechoslovakia) and along the border areas with Germany at a place in Thuringia called Lauscha. In the 17th century, glass beads were made for chandeliers and for decorating dresses. Some of the early strings of chandelier beads also were used for decorating Christmas Trees, and a type of wooden chandelier with Nativity figures carved along its arms, called a Spinne, because the candlelight reflecting on the strings of tiny beads resembled a spiders web glistening in the frost.
Early Glass balls were made at Lauscha as end of day games. Glass blowing was thirsty work, and the blowers would drink a lot of ale. Mild though it was, by the end of the day, many were a little merry, and would have these glass blowing games to see who could blow the largest ball before the glass burst! These balls were gathered up by the wives, who would silver them, by swirling a silver nitrate solution around the insides, and take them to the Christmas markets at Coburg. There they were sold as Christmas balls to avert evil from the home over Christmas, hung or stuck onto sticks in the hallway of the house. This custom was a later version of the Holy Bough customs, a vague memory of keeping bad things from the house at the Holy Season.
Unfortunately, many people believed them to be witches balls, and the consequence of that is that these balls are found to day hanging in the windows of little antique shops - particularly in the UK, and the shop assistants will not sell them for they believe they will be selling their luck if they do!
Woolworths was the first retailer to sell glass ornaments and the story goes that F W Woolworth was not too sure about this new product line. However, Woolworth changed his mind by 1890 when he was selling £12 million worth of ornaments in his stores.
The shapes of glass baubles are symbolic: Fruit and vegetable shapes symbolize the harvest. Birds represent the biblical messengers that bring God's love and peace to the world. Birds were also symbolic of good luck and good fortune. Pickle shapes signify luck. The Fish shape is an early Christian symbol for Christ. Baubles with reflectors (ornaments with geometric concave indentations) during Victorian times, were often called witches eyes and were placed on the Christmas tree to fend off any evil spirits. Star shapes represent the Star of Bethlehem.
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