As I've mentioned in last year's post, I have a love hate relationship with holiday decorating, or rather, Christmas Tree decorating. Last year's method of taking 2 days to put the tree up and not hanging all one million ornaments on the branches worked rather well. I also took the tree down in a timely fashion, the week after Christmas.
I made the decision to not put up the tree this year. It was a confident and guilt-free decision...until now.
We're having a German-themed Christmas Party at the Historic Society next weekend and I've spent the last 2 months researching the Christmas traditions of this country. I've read quite a bit on their decorations; Christmas Pyramids, Raucherman, Nutcrackers and especially the ornaments.
Glass making was big business in Lauscha, Germany, but it wasn't until the mid nineteenth century that the Christmas ornament was born. Louis Greiner-Schlotfeger began blowing thick-walled glass balls known as kugels, which he silvered with a Bohemian silver mirroring solution. Kugel making was a family endeavor in Lauscha. The man of the household created the ornaments while his wife silvered the insides. The ornaments were hung overnight to dry before being dipped in different colors. Family members painted trimmings and the younger children put the caps on top of the ornaments. It was estimated that a family working 6 days a week, 8-15 hours a day, could create 300 to 600 ornaments a week.
In 1880, F.W. Woolworth, the owner of the popular Woolworth Dime Store, reluctantly agreed to display a few imported German glass ornaments in his Lancaster, Pennsylvania, store. He sold out of his original $25 shipment in two days. By 1890, he was traveling to Germany to select ornaments for his stores.
Molds for ornaments were created around 1890, giving glass makers the opportunity to mass produce their goods. Over 5000 different molds were created from 1890 until 1940 with the pine cone being the most popular design. However, Santas, animals, flowers, nuts and fruits were other favorites.
World War II brought an end to glass blowing in Lauscha and East Germany turned most of Lauscha’s glassworks into state-owned (VEB) concerns after the War. However, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, most of these firms were reestablished as private companies. Today there are still about 20 small glass-blowing firms active in Lauscha.
The more I read about German made ornaments, the more I thought about all the glass blown ornaments my mom bought me from her days working at the Department Store. Were all those ornaments made in Germany? Up until this point, I didn't particularly care for glass blown ornaments. I always preferred wooden or acrylic ornaments. Ornaments that were hardy and could weather a fall without serious consequence. I always felt like if I sneezed on a glass blown ornament it would shatter in my hand. In fact I had at least 2 that fell and broke after hitting the carpet.
Tonight I went downstairs and rummaged through my boxes of glass ornaments. Most of them did have the "Made in Germany" stamp on top of the metal caps.
After learning the history of glass ornaments, I felt like I was seeing these Christmas decorations in a new light. It would be a shame to leave these German made creations hidden away in my basement. Maybe this year I'll buy a SMALL live tree and only bring up my absolute favorite ornaments.
The Christmas Elf
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