I have been reading about the history of the Christmas holiday over the past few weeks. Each week my daughter participates in a kindergarten co-op with a local homeschool group. Last week three other parents and I taught a lesson on the holiday including a mini history lesson on the history of Christmas ornaments. The kids then decorated an ornament or two to take home. I personally found the history of ornaments fascinating. I love Christmas but had not put much thought into the decorations on my trees.
The earliest known Christmas ornaments were apples. During the Medieval period, actors put on a paradise play on December 24. The only scenery was the apple tree from the Garden of Eden. Because apple trees were dormant in winter, fir trees hung with apples were used instead. Later unconsecrated communion wafers were added to the trees. Eventually the wafers turned into Christmas cookies, especially in Germany. Other foods such as nuts and marzipan were also added alongside the cookies. Early Christmas trees were often called “sugar trees” because of all the sweets.
The first commercial ornaments were created in Germany sometime around 1870. Early ornaments were made out of tin and wax and then embossed and painted cardboard. Only some of the designs featured Christmas symbols. Early ornaments included fish, birds, and other animals as well as recent inventions such as the steamship and motorcar. Glass ornaments also appeared in the 1870s in Germany. Early designs included glass apples, pears, pinecones, and icicles.
Cookie swap parties are all the rage this time of year, but why stop at baked treats? For a fun party idea for the holidays that young and young at heart alike can enjoy, expand on the typical cookie exchange and host an ornament decorating party. Your friends and family can still bring all sorts of baked treats to trade but can also go home with a handmade ornament or two. My kids and I have been decorating our school room Christmas trees with homemade ornaments over the past few weeks, so even the youngest (and least artistic) party-goers can have fun making crafts to deck the halls with.
I love shopping at the dollar store for crafts supplies, and I also purchase seasonal items on sale at various craft stores. With a toddler and a kindergartener (plus a mischievous kitten) running around my house, I look for non-breakable supplies. This year I picked up some foam Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and stars that my kids and I decorated with sequins, jewels, stickers, and glitter glue. You can also find foam ornament kits that make crafting homemade ornaments even easier!
You can also find all sorts of other ornament-making kits that are perfect for an ornament decorating party. My kids love coloring, so I picked up some wood ornaments that my daughter and son decorated with crayons and markers. My son also decorated a small white paper plate with dot markers at one of his museum classes. The teacher added a black rectangle and a piece of ribbon to make a paper version of a glass bauble. I had also brought red, white, and green paper plates to the Christmas kindergarten co-op that the kids decorated.
If you want to decorate your Christmas tree with some throwback ornaments, you can also include cookie decorating at your ornament and cookie swap party. Gingerbread cookies are perfect for decorating and hanging on the tree. You can also make rolled sugar cookies and butter cookies to decorate with colorful icing and sprinkles. Also try stringing together popcorn and cranberries to hang all over your tree.
No party would be complete without some festive accessories. I bought myself some cute Christmas earrings that I love pairing with my many Christmas outfits. My daughter and I are also totally into decorating our nails. I love the simplicity and durability of nail wraps from Glossique. Peppermint Twist looks fabulous on my nails and is perfect for a cookie swap and ornament decorating party. Plus I love that the wraps stay on my nails for over a week. I cannot say the same for polish! Use coupon code MERRY20 to save 20% off your Glossique purchase.
Have you ever thrown a cookie swap party during the holidays? Would you consider hosting an ornament decorating party?
Gulevich, Tanya, and Tanya Gulevich. 2003. Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. Omnigraphics.
Stevens, Patricia Bunning. 1979. Merry Christmas!: A history of the holiday. New York: Macmillan.
Ideas for Hosting an Ornament Decorating Party © 2016 Heather Johnson
Foam Christmas Tree Ornament © 2016 Heather Johnson
Foam Star Ornament © 2016 Heather Johnson
Wood Christmas Tree Ornament © 2016 Heather Johnson
Colored Wood Present Ornament © 2016 Heather Johnson
Paper Plate Bauble Ornament © 2016 Heather Johnson
Undecorated Gingerbread Cookies © 2016 Heather Johnson
Colorful Sugar Cookies © 2016 Heather Johnson
Peppermint Twist Glossique Nail Wraps © 2016 Heather Johnson