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Educational Helps - How Much is Enough?

Written by Laurie Detweiler

Christmas is just around the corner, and for many families that means bringing home a Christmas tree. Our church family has developed a tradition of a brunch the Saturday after Thanksgiving and then a caravan to a tree farm where we take a wagon into the woods to cut down a tree. Let me tell you, for a Floridian the first time we did that was quite an experience. I love Christmas trees. In fact my husband would tell you, picking out a tree is . . . well, something he sits back and lets happen; I want my tree just right. Then comes the fun of bringing the tree home and decorating it.


Have you ever wondered where the idea of decorating a tree came from?


No one knows for sure, but it appears that ornaments began in Germany in the 15th century. Trees were adorned with nuts, fruits, paper roses, wafers, sweets and lighted candles. Later decorations would include painted eggshells, cookies and candies. Many of us still make gingerbread cookies to decorate our trees. In the 200 years following, this custom of decorating trees spread throughout Germany and Europe. Decorated trees were brought to America by the Hessians—German mercenaries who fought in the Revolutionary War. Trees decorated with ornaments did not become widely popular in the United States until people saw the ornaments brought to America by families emigrating from England and Germany in the 1840’s.


What you and I think of as ornaments really became popular in 1880, when F. W. Woolworth of the five and dime stores stocked his stores with German-made ornaments. These were primarily hand cast lead and hand blown glass. By 1935 Japan and some European countries entered the market of producing Christmas tree ornaments. I hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me. I always like to look into the history of traditions.


Now that our children are older I can’t tell you how much fun it is when we get out the ornaments to look at those that they made when they were young. It brings back such memories and usually makes for great stories as we decorate the tree. One of the things I once did was have them make an ornament from the time period in history we were studying.