Tuesday 28th November 2023 - Cara Bentham
From yule logs to flashing lights, we're taking a look at christmas decs past and present.
It’s that enchanting time of year again when we deck our halls with festive decorations. Join us on a historical journey through the evolution of Christmas decorations, a story of tradition, innovation, and the timeless spirit of celebration.
In the Georgian era, the fireplace took centre stage. Families selected a Yule log or tree on Christmas Eve, enveloping it in hazel twigs before igniting it in the fireplace. Originating from Scandinavia, this tradition promised good luck for the upcoming year to those aiding in bringing it back to the fire. The Yule log burned for the entire twelve days of Christmas and a piece was preserved for continued luck in the following year. Fragrant greenery adorned homes, brought in only on Christmas Eve to avoid bad luck, with holly, fir branches, and mistletoe, along with kissing boughs infused with Christmas scents. The festivities concluded on January 6th, the Twelfth Night, with the removal and burning of the greenery to avert misfortune in the new year.
The Victorian era introduced the iconic Christmas tree, brought to England by Prince Albert. Originating from Germany, where decorating evergreen trees was a cherished tradition, Prince Albert's introduction of the Christmas tree in 1848 sparked a nationwide tradition. The rest of the house continued to feature evergreens, while the Victorians embraced non-natural ornaments like glass baubles, ribbons, and angels atop the tree. Father Christmas made his debut, leading to the commercialisation of Christmas with stockings hung over fireplaces and presents under the tree.
The Edwardians upheld traditions of greenery, adorning homes with holly, ivy, yew, laurel, and mistletoe. Festive dining tables boasted rich, evergreen centrepieces complemented by paper chains, ribbons, and candles. The Christmas tree, now firmly entrenched in British celebrations, took its place on Christmas Eve, adorned with paper and glass ornaments, toys, sweets, and ribbons. Notably, the Edwardian era marked the advent of modern Christmas illuminations as electricity became more commonplace. Homes were adorned with garlands of lamps, ushering in a new era of festive brilliance.
In the sombre backdrop of World War II, Christmas decorations transformed, reflecting the resilience and resourcefulness of communities. The scarcity of essential materials like aluminium and tin significantly impacted the availability of Christmas decorations. Decorations like baubles became rare commodities due to the prioritisation of these materials for essential purposes. Faced with a scarcity of store-bought decorations, families demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness by fashioning their festive adornments from non-essential materials like paper and pinecones. However, the challenge intensified in 1941 when the British authorities extended restrictions to include paper usage. The Ministry of Supply sternly dictated that retailers were prohibited from providing paper for anything other than wrapping food or goods slated for delivery. This decree presented a challenge in keeping presents secret and prompted innovative solutions, with newspaper becoming an unlikely but resourceful medium for crafting homemade decorations.
The aftermath of World War II saw a continuation of simplicity in Christmas decorations. Scarce resources encouraged a return to handmade ornaments, often crafted from paper and natural materials. Families found joy in creating decorations together, emphasising the spirit of togetherness over opulence. This era laid the foundation for a more personalised and sentimental approach to festive decor.
The mid-20th century witnessed a departure from traditional styles as modernism took centre stage. Aluminium trees, often adorned with vibrant, space-age-inspired decorations, became a symbol of the era's forward-thinking design. Tinsel, metallic baubles, and bold colours defined this period, reflecting the optimism and innovation of post-war society.
The 1970s brought a whimsical and eclectic spirit to Christmas decorations. Disco balls, mirrored ornaments, and bold, psychedelic colours adorned trees and homes. DIY crafts gained popularity, and families embraced a mix of homemade and store-bought decorations. This era celebrated individuality, reflecting the diverse cultural influences of the time.
The '80s epitomised excess, and Christmas decorations were no exception. Trees were adorned with an abundance of tinsel, oversized baubles, and flashy, multi-coloured lights. Pop culture icons like Santa Claus and Rudolph took centre stage in decorations, mirroring the vibrant and dynamic nature of the decade.
In contrast to the extravagance of the '80s, the late 20th century saw a return to simplicity and elegance. Scandinavian-inspired minimalist decor gained popularity, featuring natural materials, simple shapes, and a restrained colour palette. White lights, wooden ornaments, and understated wreaths became staples of a modern, sophisticated Christmas aesthetic.
From the delicate ornaments of the Victorian era to the bold extravagance of the '80s and the modern minimalism of today, Christmas decorations reflect each era's cultural, social, and design trends. As we deck the halls in our own ways, we continue this rich tradition of infusing our homes with the spirit of celebration and joy.