The history of our favourite festive ornaments
Whether you’re a kid or a kid-at-heart, transforming your house in anticipation for Christmas is a magical thing.
Some people may decorate their house a few days before Christmas, but every year we quickly realise that we’re too excited to be able to wait that long. In keeping with tradition, we start putting up our tree on the first of December. It might be a little bit early for some, but we find that it keeps the whole house looking gorgeously festive throughout our countdown to the big day.
We adore the highly decorative, ornate ornaments that we see in different homes at Christmas time. Every family has their own unique collection, and some rather special pieces that hold their own story.
With these wonderful, sentimental traditions in mind, in this blog, we’ll be exploring the history of our beloved Christmas ornaments. We want to delve a little deeper into the origins of our home decorations, and see how they evolved into what they are now. Then, in what we think is the perfect pairing to a cosy day of tree decorating, we’ve written up our recipe for a stunning, spicy gingerbread latte. What could be more festive than that?
For so many of us, pine trees are absolutely synonymous with Christmas. Up and down the country, families put up their tree, and hang gorgeous sparkling ornaments on their branches.
But where did the traditional Christmas tree actually come from?
We actually have 16th century Germany to thank for this wonderful festive style of decorating our homes. However, these early trees are worlds away from the Christmas trees that we know today. Way before festive ornaments became mass-produced and commercialised in the UK, in Germany, evergreen trees were being brought into the home over the festive period, where they were hung with apples and candles, and even pastries that were elaborately shaped into things like stars, hearts and angels.
Over time, this traditional decorative style was gradually taken up by the rest of Europe. Across the centuries, different styles of ornaments came into being, too. The range of tree decorations that were widely used expanded to include paper streamers, berries, tinsel, painted nutshells and specially made glass ornaments.
It was during the reign of Queen Victoria, however, that the English love of the Christmas tree really blossomed. This was because the Queen’s mother and husband Albert were both German, so she celebrated their beloved Christmas traditions along with them. And naturally, when the people saw how the Queen was decorating her home, they immediately followed suit. It was during this period that these trees and their beautiful decorations grew in popularity, and became a fashionable festive choice in homes across England and overseas in America, too.
What soon followed this rising trend was the introduction of German-made glass ornaments into our shops. One of the very first to do this was F.W. Woolworth (the founder of Woolworth’s). He imported German glass ornaments and sold them to the US public. By the end of the 1800s, his stores were selling a staggering $25 million’s worth of these hand-blown glass ornaments.
The commercialisation of these traditional ornaments continued into the 20th century, and although US and UK imports remained German-made until post World War II, mass-produced products from Japan and East Europe became stiff competition. Today, these intricate baubles are made all over the world, and come in an exceptional array of different styles and shapes. Every one of us has our own individual sense of what makes the perfect Xmas tree and, thanks to the market growth of these ornaments, there’s a Christmas decoration out there for everyone.
We can’t wait to get started on our tree decorating. And what’s the perfect addition to a day in getting the house ready for December? A piping-hot mug of gingerbread latte. This cosy, warming and indulgent drink is possibly the only drink that you could have which is as festive as the decorations themselves. To get you in the top-tier Christmas spirit, hang your ornaments with sips of this homemade spiced latte inbetween.
Gingerbread Latte recipe
- Water, 470 ml
- Granulated sugar, 200g
- Ground ginger, 2 ½ teaspoons
- Ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon
- Vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon
- Fresh double shot espresso, 120 ml
- Milk, 230 ml, steamed (with a little foam)
- Whipped cream (to decorate)
- Ground nutmeg (to decorate)
- First, make the gingerbread syrup. Combine the water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and allow the syrup to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. After this time, remove the syrup from the heat and put a lid on it. Set aside.
- Make the espresso using the Smarter Coffee machine. Meanwhile, heat up the milk in the microwave. If you have a milk frother, add some foam to the milk.
- To make the latte, first add the espresso to a large latte glass (or your favourite Christmas mug). Then add 60 ml of the gingerbread syrup and stir. Then pour in the steamed milk and give everything a good stir.
- Decorate your drink with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
This aromatic drink is beautifully decadent, and the absolute embodiment of all-things-festive. All these seasonal spices (plus plenty of whipped cream!) is just the thing to have on-hand while you’re decorating your tree. We don’t do Christmas by halves here.
Now that we’ve got your tree decorations sorted, it’s time to think about what you’re going to put underneath it. If you’re still searching for the perfect, unusual gift idea, look no further. We’ve just -re-launched our Smart Xmas range of gift sets. These make brilliant and thoughtful presents to surprise a keen home cook. Plus, because they’re so easy to install, you don’t have to feel awkward about giving your loved ones tricky technology - these devices are hassle-free and can be set up in minutes. So, get your Christmas shop sorted with a visit to our online store.
Written by Josephine Walbank