Victorian Christmas Ornaments


As mentioned elsewhere, I have been having a Solstice Feast since the 70s. One of the things I ask people to bring (or make here) is a home-made ornament. Some have broken, but the rest continue to accumulate. Clearly, I need to make a photo essay of them.  I consider them some of my most precious treasures, and was really thrilled that so many survived the fire in 1995.

One of the most mysterious is a paper mache purple winged creature that turned up one year in the 70s and we never found out who brought him. Over the years we’ve made many ornaments ourselves- painted and jeweled eggshells, paper, lace, embroidered, stuffed, carved, molded…. This is not mentioning the edible ornaments: cookies, popcorn, cranberries, wafers, candycanes, etc. One year we strung multicolored swedish fish, which were lovely when the light came through them!

This year we are doing a Victorian theme and so I looked up some of what Victorians put on their trees. (usually fresh on Christmas eve, which probably made use of candles much more safe) and not necessarily intended to be saved from year to year.

Sebnitz Ornaments These ornaments, are now collectors items, but we could make some in this style from old Christmas cards. Sebnitz ornaments were produced starting around the 1880’s in Germany. They were made from wire, cotton, and the perforated sheets leftover from making sequins, with additions of wax baby Jesuses, Dresdens, beads and celluloid paper.

Dresdens were cardboard that was printed embossed, and sometimes painted. Some were made in several pieces and assembled. Often tinsel, lace and other additions were added.

Kugels were the earliest blown glass ornaments. Kugel means ball, and they started as unsilvered glass- like fishing floats or Witchballs, but then were silvered on the inside like the garden globes still popular. Shapes were created by blowing the glass bubbles into molds- grapes were the most common molded shapes.

GewGaws were anything that shined- paper, bits of jewelry, tinsel, whatever they could find and make an ornament out of.

Cornucopias paper or lace cones, decorated with bits of trim or cut out pictures, filled with candy or nuts

Wax ornaments were molded in the shape of people, angels, animals. I think some were poured in molds and some formed as we make trinkets with fimo or oven baked dough.

Scraps were any decorations made from paper- sometimes saved in “scrap books”. Flags were popular, as well as birds, Santas, and other images.

They also hung treats, and wrapped and unwrapped gifts on the tree (if they were small and light enough). They used dried fruit, flowers, pine cones, and other natural objects. They used the skills they had in embroidery, lacemaking, knitting, carving, painting, and other crafts to make unique decorations. Part of the charm is the ephemeral nature of these items, and that the reason most survive is sentiment.


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