Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Trimming the Victorian Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree has been a tradition in Germany for hundreds of years. But it when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband, introduced the Christmas tree to the Royal Family, that it suddenly became fashionable for every Victorian home to have one.

Originally trees were table-top size, but by the end of the century they stood from floor-to-ceiling.

Children helped to make the decorations, stringing popcorn and cranberry garland. They made paper chain flowers and set up nativity scenes.

The decorations were elaborate with tiny hand-dipped candles, gingerbread men, cookies, and marzipan candies. Paper cornucopias hung from the branches filled with fruit, nuts, and sweets. There were paper fans and angels, crocheted snowflakes, mittens, tin soldiers, whistles and wind-up toys.

Later in the century hand-blown glass balls, called kugels were imported from Germany along with Dresdens, cardboard painted in gold, silver and copper, to look like metal. They were usually done in the shapes of animals, birds, fish, ships, trains, and trolley cars.

On the top of the tree was a Christmas doll, or a Nuremberg angel with a skirt of spun glass, a crinkled gold skirt and a wax face.

When I wrote my holiday novella, Another Waltz, I tried to capture some of that Christmas magic and transport it onto the page. Here is an excerpt from Another Waltz.
Squinting, Madeline peered around the branches of the large Christmas tree, which filled the back corner of the ballroom.

Hoping to avoid the prying eyes of Lucille’s guests, Madeline had just stepped through the servants’ door and sidled along the back wall until she’d reached the wide boughs of the twelve foot Douglas Fir.

Red and gold ribbons, strings of popcorn and cranberries, all twined around the tree. Paper angels and cornucopias hung from the many branches. Silver and gold Dresdens in shapes of animals and trains filled the empty spaces, and hand-blown, glass ornaments from Germany had been clipped to the tree, each holding a candle, their tiny flames flickering like stars among the branches.

She focused her gaze on the blurry rainbow of beautiful gowns swirling across the floor. The gentlemen, austere in their dark tail coats with splotches of white waistcoats and shirts, partnered the perfect complement to the ladies’ finery. Garland of evergreens, ivy, dried flowers, and red bows festooned the large windows, doorways, and picture frames.

Stringed music floated from the raised platform at the north end of the ballroom to mingle with the laughter and conversation of more than seventy guests.

To Purchase Another Waltz


  1. Good Morning, All,
    Glad to be here today. I'm off to the fitness center then to vote. I'll be back later.

  2. Great post. Love the excerpt and cover too.

  3. What an interesting article on the introduction of the Christmas tree and its decorations.
    I read Another Waltz. It's a beautiful story and I really enjoyed it.

  4. Hi Lisa,
    Thanks for stopping by. Debby Taylor did the cover and I think it turned out beautiful.

  5. Thanks Sarah,
    I appreciate your reading the story. I had lots of fun researching Victorian Christmases. It made me want to start decorating the house in the middle of summer. :)

  6. Kathy, you painted a lovely picture with your words. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Caroline,
    Thanks for your kind words. :)

  8. HI Kathy! I have this book but I'm waiting until closer to Christmas to read it. I'm one of those that refuses to listen to Christmas music until Thanksgiving and I only read Christmas stories in December. LOL

    This is a great post about the origins of the Victorian Christmas Tree.

  9. Kathy--I love old photos or old paintings--these were wonderful. Yes, people during the Victorian age really went all out for everything. I have a post filed away somewhere I'll use another day titled, "The Victorian Era--The motto was Too much is not enough." This is about the era in the U.S.
    Your story, as all others, sound very good, and such a good tale to promote for Christmas! Well done.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!