It's a big choice - angel or star? Big tree or small, real or fake, you need to choose which of the two traditional ornaments for the top of your tree. Many of us opt for the one from our own childhood without a lot of thought, but the messages they send, and their origins, are actually quite different.
The star on your tree refers, of course, to the star of Bethlehem which guided the three wise men to the manger where Jesus was born. In the bible the star was a powerful force for good, guiding and protecting those whose perilous journey was a righteous one. It's a comforting thought to have a symbol of that protection watching over your Christmas.
A star is an important non-religious symbol too, representing hope and high ideals. It's no accident that someone striving to do their very best is said to be reaching for the stars.
So at the close of the year when the nights are dark and you might be tired and stressed, by choosing a star you are making a bet on yourself, aspiring to do better, hoping for a bright year ahead.
If you’re looking for a new star for your tree, why not buy one of these sculptural beauties from Hull Street Studio? They’re made following the Polish tradition of creating ornaments from leftover paper and material.
The angel is more explicitly Christian than the star. Angels were present at the birth of Jesus, and the angel Gabriel visited both Mary and Joseph to explain the immaculate conception to them.
Angels generally represent communication between god and people, and angel's wings are powerful symbols of innocence and purity, a fine mood to set for Christmas celebrations.
Normally we’re all for minimalism, but we absolutely adore this Victorian angel tree topper from Silver Owl Studio. Of course it has three tiers! Of course it has dangly bits! Of course the angel has her own wind machine!
Some families even treat the angel as a kind of behavioural police, telling children that the angel is watching them to make sure they are behaving well enough to get presents. Between this, elves on shelves and Santa's ever-watchful eye, poor kids these must days must feel like they have no peace!
So there you have it: a star if you want to set your aspirations high, or an angel if you want a reminder of peace, happiness and good behaviour. Or if neither appeals you could make like the early German Christmas revellers, who put a figure of the Baby Jesus on the top of the tree.