Christmas Fact 19

German Advent Calendar: Fact of the Day

19. Dezember – Der Adventskalender

German Christmas Ornaments


A decorative glass globe (Christbaumkugel) on a Christmas tree. PHOTO: Julian Nietzsche, Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered how we came to have glass ornaments and tinsel on the Christmas tree? Both are German inventions. Blown glass tree ornaments (formgeblasener Christbaumschmuck) were first created in 1847 in the German town of Lauscha. Tinsel (das Lametta) goes back to the early 1600s.

In the 1880s, the American businessman F.W. Woolworth discovered Lauscha’s glass creations during a visit to Germany. He made a fortune by importing the German glass ornaments to the United States. Woolworth sold his imported tree ornaments at a low price, but still made money.

On the other end of the price scale, the largest exporter and dealer for hand-made Christmas ornaments today is the Swiss concern in Basel named for Johann Wanner. Wanner (“Couturier of the Christmas tree”) has had many high-profile clients, including the late Michael Jackson and the royal house of Monaco. Wanner also provided decorations for the National Christmas Tree at the White House during the Clinton years. The Basel shop is open year-round, but expands with an extra location during the Christmas season. (Johann Wanner, Spalenberg 14, Basel, Switzerland)

German tinsel

Today Christmas tinsel is banned in many German communities.

Tinsel (das Lametta)
Christmas tree tinsel was probably invented in Germany in the early 1600s. The precise details about where and by whom are vague, but the original tinsel was made out of real silver with machines that pressed the silver into thin strips. Later other materials were used, including aluminum and plastic foil. Many environmentally conscious communities in Germany began banning tinsel in the 1980s. More…

More Christmas ornaments…

WEB > Museum für Glaskunst Lauscha – Christbaum – The remodeled museum for “glass art” opened in 2014.

WEB > Käthe Wollfahrt – Traditional German Christmas ornaments from this well known German Christmas store (site in English, German, and several other languages)
WEB > Käthe Wollfahrt of America – Traditional Christmas ornaments (English)

Also see this German Way page: The German Christmas Pickle Ornament – Fact or fiction?


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