When I spent my first Christmas in Germany-more precisely in Münich, I was really astonished by the wide offers of the Christmas ornaments but at the same time I felt that they are too goudy, kitschy-mushy. At first glance of the Christmas departments they seemed to me a glittering cavalcade of colour and tinsel, but I established the fact that the decorations weren’t lack of sparkling ideas at all. At Ludwig Beck (it is like the Macy in USA) I discovered a corner with ornaments inspired by the Victorian era. It was up to me a nostalgic travel back to the mid of 19th century…..when for the Victorians, Christmas was full with joy, a time of year when people’s enthusiasm for decorating reached colossal proportions. It was an age in which the world was rapidly changing and Christmas decorations reflected that. The resulting blend of old and new magicly came alive when the tree was lit, whether by candlelight at the beginning of the era of electric lights at its close. After their marriage in 1840 queen Victoria and prince Albert adopted many German traditions in their holiday observances at Windsor castle. The public followed the royal couple’s lead, and soon Christmas trees and other decorations enjoyed widespread popularity, both in Britain and the United States. Over the next sixty years Christmas celebrations evolved and grew exponentially. At the beginning of Victoria’s reign in 1837, most decorations were natural variety: sprigs of holly and garlands of evergreens transformed homes for the holidays, trees wer adorned with fruits, nuts, and other delicacies, by the late nineteeth century, a more diverse array of ornaments has made their way onto boughs. Glass balls from the glassbowing center of Lauscha, Germany, were introduced as tree trimmings, tiny dolls, furniture, and musical instruments made of tin and wax became sought after items. Nevertheless, the splendor of the Christmas tree was largely dependent upon the ingenuity of the homemaker and her family. Such amateurs took full advantage of newly available materials, combining them in the eclectic style of the day. Many of the decorations utilized what we were called, with endearing understatement, scraps-exquisitely detailed renderings made by the then innovative process of chromolithography. Scraps were finished with coating of gelatin and gum, giving them a luminous gloss that made them seem vibrantly alive. Postcards with illustrations die-cut and ready to use were sold in stores. Scraps depicted a wide range of subjects, including fruits, animals, children, ladies, angels, and saint Nickolas. Decorating scrapbook pages with these figures became a popular hobby in Britain in the 1850s and caught on in the USA within a decade. Another type of paper ornaments, which came to be known as a Dresden after the German city where it originated, made its debut in the late nineteenth century and was quickly incorporated into homemade decorations. Thin sheets of silver or gold-coloured cardboard were machine embossed with images of birds and other animals, musical instruments, or holiday motifs and were then die-cut and handpainted in shiny colors by cottage workers. Today scraps in Dresdens, and ornaments that feature them, are highly collectible.
The Victorian era and some of its ornamental excesses-came to an end with the queen’s death in 1901. Yet something about the period’s unrestained enthusiasm remains appealing. But more than a century later, a Victorian style Christmas still seems the quintessential expression of the holiday!