How do you decorate your Christmas tree – tasteful and co-ordinated or colourful and kitsch with a bung it all on vibe? Take a look at how the Victorians did it – maybe get some inspiration.
The Victorians liked to pile on the decorations so they favoured a big tree with very sturdy branches. Like us they used large pots filled with sand to support the tree – or something like this,
in cast iron – or, if they were medium sized, they would nail them onto a wooden base plate.
They covered this with moss and used it to create a ‘landscape’ or something like the above from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine. The illustration showed a quantity of moss placed around the Christmas tree to form a border for the apples, oranges, gilded nuts, and bags of muslin and tarlatan containing sweetmeats. The books and larger toys which could not be conveniently suspended from the branches of the tree were laid at the base of the tree.
Children were kept amused by a little garden or farm made out of paper at the foot of the Christmas tree. They used mosses, minerals, shells and toy animals to make a realistic scene — with scraps of evergreen for trees and some looking-glass or silver paper for a lake or river.
In preparation, evenings before the tree arrived would be spent gilding and silvering nuts and ornaments, making little balloons with fluted sides, and cutting coloured papers. The children were encouraged to join in as much as possible – possibly to help keep them quiet by the fire on the dark winter evenings. The easiest to make were long paper chains that could be fastened at the top of the tree, and allowed to drop in irregular rows.
Often a variety of fruit was hung upon the branches, or red berries threaded upon cotton, and looped from branch to branch, formed an effective decoration; popcorn of white and red also looked pretty. Hard sweets tied in squares of colored tissue paper were also hung from the branches of the Christmas tree. The one thing that is not a great idea to copy is real candles that were lit to mimic a starry shy seen through the branches.
And no Victorian tree would have been considered complete without an angel on the top – call it a fairy if you like – the only tree topper for me. Enjoy decorating your tree, whichever way you do it!
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