The Evolution Of Christmas Ornaments

Written by Roy Thomsitt

Things have come a long way since a Christmas ornament was likely to be just a ball hung by the window, or later on a Christmas tree.

Historians believe that this original Christmas decoration descended from a witch ball. The original purpose of a witch ball was to fend off evil spirits. However, being traditionally glass made, these balls were also very decorative, and people started to see their use for decorating the home. They were great decorations, so they started to move around the house a bit, and the original green colour was varied as time went on. Over the centuries, and gathering pace in the Victorian era, they were made in different colours and sizes, and even the material from which they were made started to be varied.

Also by Victorian times, it became fashionable to decorate the home for Christmas, so Christmas ornaments started to take a hold in Victorian homes. Less concerned about evil spirits, people looked at ornaments as a festive display, a symbol of celebration. Instead of warding off evil spirits, they started to accompany a surge in other spirits, most notably brandy and whisky.

From Victorian times onwards the range has increased steadily. The decorations have been hung in different places too: the mantle, windows, and front door being favourites, as well as the Christmas tree, but there is really no restriction where to hang Christmas ornaments these days. Inside, outside, it no longer seems to matter.

A lot of the increase in the use of Christmas decorations has come from the desire to impress friends, neighbours and family with the decorative display, as well, of course, for one's own enjoyment.

The Christmas ball that was supposed to have been derived from the witch ball, is still a clear favourite of the Christmas ornaments used to decorate the Christmas tree. Over the years Christmas tree balls have been designed in a great variety of colours and finish, with an increasing variety of sparkling balls.

Another favourite for Christmas decorations nowadays are the coloured fairy lights. Flashing coloured lights are often a feature of outside Christmas ornament displays, as well as for the tree and other places inside the house.

It also became quite normal in the 20th century to hang a new type of Christmas ornament on a tree; some sort of food, especially chocolate, that would be covered with a colourful, shiny paper wrapping to add a festive decorative effect. On top of the Christmas tree, a fairy has been a popular adornment over the years, but that has been changing in recent decades, and other Christmas ornaments often now take pride of place at the pinnacle.

As with so many things over the last hundred years, Christmas decorations have just got bigger and better, as well as with a greater variety. Now, in some localities, you will get local communities where house owners go to great lengths to decorate the outside of their homes with giant Christmas ornaments and lighting displays. Some such localities become well known simply for their Christmas display. Even here in the Philippines, some localities become well known in the Christmas season for their exuberant Christmas ornament displays.

For most of us, however, Christmas ornaments are about decorating our own little piece of territory to make Christmas a special occasion for the family, and it is unlikely that that will ever change.

Roy Thomsitt is owner and part author of

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