Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Christmas Tree Decorations

Did you know that Woolworths was responsible for popularising commercially made Christmas Tree decorations back in the 1880s and that the Addis Brush Company produced artificial Christmas Trees in the 1930s using the same machinery that made their toilet brushes! The Addis 'Silver Pine' tree was patented in 1950. The Christmas tree was designed to have a revolving light source under it and coloured gels allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree.

Artificial Christmas Trees originated in Germany and were metal wire trees were covered with goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers. The feathers were often died green to imitate pine needles.

In the past Christmas Trees were adorned with small toys, cakes, sugared almonds and candles. After 1865 branches of trees were occasionally adorned with glass trinkets and silver wire ornaments following a German tradition. The use of imported German glass ornaments was a custom in wealthier houses and these soon became a status symbol. By 1880 Woolworth's started to sell commercially produced Christmas tree ornaments.

Victorians spent hours making small decorations from twists of coloured and decorated paper shaped into horned cornucopias ready to be filled with stuffed dates or sweetmeats. Silk and feathers were used to make pouches and draw purses to hold sugared fruits and almonds. With silk thread they used macramé and lace skills to make tassels or lace snowflake style doilies, which they soaked in a dense sugar solution that enabled the doilies to be shaped and dried into decorative forms. Cotton wool was used to make little snowmen or wispy angels.

Prince Albert is credited with popularizing Christmas tree decoration in Britain but as early as 1800 Queen Charlotte had a candle lit tree surrounded with presents as the spotlight of her Christmas celebrations. In 1854 a big Christmas tree was set down on the site of the 1851 Great Exhibition. As the custom for using decorated trees grew, demand increased annually and by the 1880s in the London area among wealthy families the demand was so great that nurseries had to ensure that they had a ready supply of trees.

Famous spots for public Christmas trees include London’s Trafalgar Square, which annually displays a large Norwegian fir spruce tree so large it is usually about 60 years old and requires more than 500 lights. Since 1945 these trees have been a gift of the city of Oslo in Norway as a thank you to the British people for their help in World War II.

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