Before the trendy elves on the shelves and smart LED house lighting, the most traditional Christmas ornaments we grew up with have evolved from generation to generation and gained an important sentimental value for all holiday celebrations around the world. Yes, they are all still current and very much loved by kids and adults, but, have you ever wondered where these traditions come from? Well, we dug a bit in the past and found some very interesting facts you may not know!
Christmas Tree, Ornaments & Lights
Many Christmas traditions we know today have their origins in Germany including the very iconic Christmas tree. Originally, it's known that Egyptians and Romans were fascinated by trees that kept their green colour during the winter months, making them a very popular ornament for decorating doors and doorways and seen as symbols of everlasting life. Later on, the idea of adding lighting was also born in Germany, where originally real candles were lit in the trees, mimicking the sparkling sky stars.
Christmas Tree - Pottery Barn
Tree ornaments came later in history, mostly inspired by the Paradise Tree, another European iconic Christmas symbol that was decorated with edible real fruit, nuts, and pinecones and was seen as a symbol of status. Apples were mostly used as the main ornament, which serve as inspiration for the later red Christmas balls and red lights.
Christmas ornaments vary all around the world, some becoming a staple of countries such as the hand-crafted tree spiders in Ukraine to colorful hanging Danish paper hearts. Some ornaments are also passed from generation to generation and have great sentimental value for some families, and today, these ornaments are key to creating a specific style, color scheme, or even theme.
Ornaments - CB2
Back in time, Greeks and Romans used to have a very similar ornament called "Corona" used during festivals in the city and hung on the door as a symbol of victory, but the Christmas wreath connotation comes from later in Germany. The wreath was the result of the pruning of trees so they assembled a triangle or Christian trinity. The wreath had also a connotation of eternal life for its circular shape and it was also decorated with lights and ornaments. Today, wreaths are normally placed on front doors, above fireplace mantels, or even as table decor.
Wreath - Crate & Barrel
Modern Scandinavian Nisse
Believed to be a symbol of prosperity for Scandinavian families in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the Nisse is a short-beared man that wears a red cap, lives in the forest, and was believed to help with various shores in the farms in Nordic countries. Families were supposed to offer food as a gift on Christmas Night, and in exchange, the Nisee will bring Christmas gifts to everyone. Even though many consider the Nisse a nordic version of Santa, they are completely different characters with a long sentimental story that is passed from generation to generation. Today, this popular decor item is placed on tables, above mantels, or next to Christmas trees all over the world.
Nordic Nisse - Etsy
Nativity Scenes & Christmas Village
With its roots in the Italian Renaissance, the nativity was born as a Christian display of the birth of Jesus Christ. Originally played by people, families started to bring in displays made out of wood and stone as decor for their homes. As the tradition expanded in Europe, it began to look more like villages and less like biblical characters that today come in different styles, and sizes and became a staple of the holiday season.
Wooden House - Bouclair
While people don't exactly use them to crack nuts as they originally were created for, this iconic Christmas decor piece has its origins in Germany. Inspired by a kid's novel character and later influenced by Tchaikovsky's famous ballet which happens on Christmas eve, the Nutcracker got its final look as we know it today. What do you think about this revamped acrylic and marble look of the Nutcracker by CB2?
Shimmery Nutcracker - CB2
The story behind the Christmas stocking comes all the way back from Turkey, where St. Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus, used to love to give to the less fortunate. One night, he dropped some gold coins through the fireplace of a villager and the gold fell into a sock that was left hanging to dry. This then evolved into a Christmas tradition to stock gifts for the kids, and of course, the larger the sock the more gifts!
Knit Stocking - Pottery Barn
These are just some of our favorite Christmas home decor and the story behind them. We love how different cultures have different traditions and how these are incorporated into the overall look of the home during the holiday season to evolve over time from generation to generation. To explore ways to complement your Christmas vibe at home, read our past article on Easy Ways to Dial-up the Coziness in your Home This Winter.
If you are getting ready to relax during the holidays, we recommend reading our previous article on Finding Your Zen Before The Holiday Season, or if you are also thinking of hosting a nice winter bonfire, you're going to love our past entry on Versatile Indoor and Outdoor Furniture for Cozy Fires.
We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and your loved ones!
White Dahlia Design team