Where did Christmas ornaments come from?

The ornaments we know and love first developed in Germany as a fine craft and then became a part of mass production as the industrial revolution expanded its reach. But the history of Christmas and mid-winter holiday decoration and design is a thread that takes us back to antiquity and even prehistory in many cultures.

The Romans and Egyptians decorated homes and trees with suns, deity symbols, and greenery. These decorations, and their accompanying celebrations (some carried over the line into debauchery) are but two examples of the deeply rooted human tradition of celebrating the change in the season and the promise of new life to come. In Europe, the tradition of ornamentation is first recognized in Germany with the decoration of evergreen branches with fruits and nuts. This tradition is first recorded in the 1600’s, but likely goes back much earlier.

Hand blown glass ornaments, initially called baubles, were designed and crafted by Hans Greiner in Lauscha, Germany in 1847. The ornaments came out of a glassworks founded by his grandfather and Christoph Müller in 1597. Greiner’s earliest ornament designs mimicked the natural world, initially taking the form fruit and nuts. Over time, these natural forms were abstracted, becoming spherical and taking on more of the qualities of the egg and orb shaped ornaments we see on classic Christmas trees today.