The Ladies' Tea Guild

Monday, December 8, 2008

Make your own Victorian Christmas Tree ornaments! (part 2)

Image from Grandma's graphics.
Over the years, the homemade ornaments became more elaborate, especially including edible items like small cakes, cookies, bags of sweetmeats, and garlands of dried or candied fruit, nuts, and popped corn (which resembled snow). Gilded walnut shells and apples were tied on with ribbon, and probably were the inspiration for later ball-shaped ornaments. Paper chains, tinsel garlands, paper cornucopias, and candles also made an appearance. Store-bought, more permanent decorations including glass balls, lead or other metal crosses and stars, and wax angels, were introduced beginning in 1870 and were largely made in Germany.

Aside from providing simple decoration to the tree and the room, the ornaments were often intended as Christmas gifts for the various members of the family and friends, especially children. Small non-edible gifts such as handkerchiefs, bracelets, brooches, neckties, and other lightweight items could be wrapped in plain paper, or left unwrapped, marked with a name, and tied among the other ornaments with a piece of ribbon, to be opened with the other gifts.

To make your own ornaments for your very own Victorian Christmas tree, you need look no farther than your local craft store, if nothing in your desk drawers and closets inspires you. Tie a ribbon to some old costume jewelry – small brooches and earrings work well – and just hang it from a branch. Cut snowflakes, trees, stars or hearts from white or colored paper, or aluminum foil. Tie twigs or pieces of straw into star or asterisk shapes. Draw, color and cut out small angels, doves or dolls out of paper and hang them from ribbons; use stencils or scrapbooking supplies to form shapes if you don’t draw well. Get small wooden beads or balls from the craft store and cover them with glued-on craft moss, ribbon, glitter, or strips of colorful paper torn from magazines or wrapping paper. Then make tiny loops from baby ribbon, attach them to the ornaments and hang them up!

For more information, search on the Internet or in your local library's reference section, or take a look at these web pages: "A Victorian Christmas" or "The Victorian Christmas Tree", by Joanne Haug,

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Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)