The history of Christmas decorations

One of the most exciting parts of Christmas for many people is the putting up of decorations. Both kids and adults delight in being able to get the Christmas tree out again, place all of the baubles and tinsel on it, before finishing it off with a star or angel on the top. There is also the Christmas bunting, nativity scene, Christmas card holders and outdoor decorations that may need to be put up, which can be a job for the entire family – it’s probably the only household chore that everyone delights in!


However, Christmas decorations aren’t a modern invention. Neither is the Christmas season itself – people have been celebrating Christmas for much longer than you might expect. If you are interested in learning more about why people choose to deck the halls every Christmas, read on!


Christmas is a Christian celebration held to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ and is held on December 25th in most cultures. The first ever Christmas is disputed though, as Roman pagans celebrated a holiday around the same date as the modern Christmas way back in the 3rd Century. The Christian’s brought the holiday into their own calendar when the Christian faith was being built upon and Roman Pagans and other religions were turning more towards Christianity, and the Christmas decorations were soon to follow.


The Christmas Treechristmas tree

It’s thought that the first Christmas tree appeared in the 16th century in Germany, and it’s often attributed to the German monk Martin Luther. The first Christmas trees were decorated with apples, which represented the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, as well as wafers that represented the Eucharist and the act of Jesus’ redemption of the human race.


Soon enough, Christmas trees were decorated with sweets that children could eat. The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree spread throughout Europe, eventually reaching North America, and today tinsel, fairy lights, baubles and tree toppers are used. While this has little link to Christianity anymore, it’s become a tradition in its own right.


The Nativity Scenenativity scene ornaments



The nativity scene depicts Jesus being born to Mary and Joseph, with Jesus being placed in a manger and surrounded by shepherds, magi and common farm animals. Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have designed the first nativity scene in 1223 in Italy, which was supposed to inspire non-believers to follow Christianity. This then caught on throughout the country and to other locations, and by the early 20th century every Christian family saw the nativity scene as a commonly-used Christmas decoration.


The nativity scene varies slightly from country to country, but the central figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds are generally the same.


The Christmas Stockingchristmas stockings


Unfortunately, there’s no written record of the first use of a Christmas stocking, but there are quite a few folk tales of it being used. For instance, one story explains how an old man had three daughters but no money, which meant that he couldn’t pay for them to get married. One night, when Saint Nicholas was passing through the village, he decided to try and help the old man without bruising his ego by offering charity. So, Saint Nicholas came down the chimney of the old man’s house and found that each girl had a stocking hooked to the end of their bed. He placed a bag of gold coins in each stocking before creeping out of the house. With the money, the old man’s daughters were able to marry and lead long and happy lives.


This story inspired children to hang up stockings in the hope that Saint Nicholas would help them in a similar way, and eventually special Christmas stockings were invented.


Do you have any of your own Christmas decoration traditions?


Janice Lincoln is a freelance writer who enjoys the chance to write about Christmas topics, and who is already stocking up on personalised Xmas cards and Charity Christmas Cards in anticipation of the seasonal shopping frenzy.

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  1. I’d never heard the Christmas stocking story before. That’s rather cute. I wonder if I could get a few gold coins from Santa if I put one at the foot of my bed this year? ^_^

    Mostly, my family just builds on the usual traditions. For example, we have a ton of homemade ornaments that simply have to go on the tree each year. We also have a couple different tree skirts that we switch out from year to year. And of course, there’s my step-dad’s nativity scene that’s been passed down through his family for quite a few generations. Whenever we get any Christmas cards, they always get displayed very prominently. It makes us all feel extra loved, knowing someone took the extra time to send us a card. There should be plenty this year, because I’m going to send them out this year.

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