Rosettes for Christmas

We all know of the basic old-fashioned ornaments that were used at Christmas time - strings of berries or popcorn, dried fruit and lighted candles. But did you know that rosettes were sometimes used as well?

Here's a little fun Christmas decoration history for you - and it includes rosettes!

A German Tradition

Christmas trees have been around in some form or another for centuries. But the modern version of the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations apparently originated in the area of Germany. People would go to the huge fir forests in Germany and cut off the tops of the trees for their Christmas celebrations.

Hessian soldiers in the Revolutionary War and nineteenth century German settlers in America brought this tradition with them. Especially in areas like Texas and Pennsylvania, German immigrants established traditions of a fir tree to be decorated for Christmas. They became so popular that they began to be sold commercially in the 1850s. President Franklin Pierce is credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to the White House in 1856.

Concerns about over-harvesting in both America and Germany resulted in the invention of artificial trees such as feather trees, and in tree farms (first established in 1901).

Queen Victoria, herself of German descent, popularized the Christmas tree in the 1840s, and the image of her family around the tree was widely published in both Europe and America.

A German engraving of a Christmas scene, c. 1869

Decorating the Tree

I found a sweet little story in an 1860 edition of Godey's Lady's Book entitled "The Christmas Tree." Long before Hallmark movies, ladies' magazines of the day carried heart-warming, feel-good stories about Christmas, and this tale is no exception. However, the fascinating part for me was the description of the family decorating their tree.

"The square of green baize being tacked down, a large stone jar was placed in the middle of it, and in this the tree stood nobly erect. Damp sand was put round the stem till the large green tree stood firmly in its place. A flounce of green chintz round the jar concealed its stony ugliness, and over the top, round the tree, was a soft cushion of moss. It was a large evergreen, reaching almost to the high ceiling, for all the family presents were to be placed upon it.

"The Christmas Tree," Harper's Weekly, 1870

"This finished, the process of dressing commenced. From a basket in the corner, Marion drew long strings of bright red holly-berries, threaded like beads upon fine cord. These were festooned in graceful garlands from the boughs of the tree, and while Marion was thus employed, Grace and the Doctor arranged the tiny tapers. This was a delicate task. Long pieces of fine wire were passed through the taper at the bottom, and these clasped over the stem of each branch, and twisted together underneath. Great care was taken that there should be a clear space above each wick, that nothing might catch fire.

"Strings of bright berries, small bouquets of paper flowers, strings of beads, tiny flags of gay ribbons, stars and shields of gilt paper, lace bags filled with colored candies, knots of bright ribbons, all homemade by Marion's and Grace's skilful fingers, made a brilliant show at a very trifling cost, the basket seeming possessed of unheard-of capacities, to judge from the multitude and variety of articles the sisters drew from it."

From other period descriptions of decorations, I suspect the "knots of bright ribbons" was another way of saying ribbon rosettes.

1876 Victorian Christmas Tree

As Advertised: Christmas Rosettes!

If you're looking for a more specific reference to Christmas rosettes, though, I love this one from a German newspaper in Allentown, PA, dated December 15, 1869:

"Christmas rosettes. Rosettes are the loveliest decoration for a Christmas tree and are being used more and more each year. Two to three dozen suffice to do a rather large tree. They can be used year after year. The price is thirty cents a dozen. Siemon, Bro & Co, Fort Wayne, Indiana and Hermann Albert, Allentown, PA."

And the tradition continued for many years, as evidenced by this advertisement from the Wilmington, DE "The Daily Gazette" in December 1876.

Well obviously I couldn't ignore this fun idea for decorating during the holidays! So a number of years ago, I started offering my customers the option of either choosing a pin back or an ornament loop for many of my cockades. If you don't see that option available on the cockade you want, just let me know and I'll be happy to offer it for you! I also offer cockades that can be tied onto a wreath.

Some of my ornaments have been vintage style, the "knot of ribbons" mentioned above. Others are more modern and include special photos or emblems. Either way, I think it's a beautiful fashion!

No comments:

Post a Comment