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What were the first things people decorated Christmas trees with?

The first Christmas tree ornaments were apples, pomegranates and paper roses, and by the sixteenth century candles were being used. But the earliest ornaments we might recognise were the glass baubles first produced in Laushca in Germany. This small town is the birthplace of Christmas decorating as we know it.

Starting in 1820, glassblowers in Laushca would compete to see who could produce the biggest glass balls at Christmas. They were known as kugels, and the glassblowers filled them with mercury silvering to produce that shiny shimmer that we associate with Christmas ornaments to this day.

They were initially stuck in the ground by the glass spikes that were a remnant of the glass-blowing process, or hung from the ceiling or set in wooden crowns.

Eventually the kugels made it on to trees. By 1848 and the first recorded reference to the ornaments they were noted in an order book as 'six dozen tree ornaments in different sizes'.

 early kugel christmas decorations

                                    Early kugels. Image credit: Pook & Pook

By 1900 kugels had fallen out of fashion, replaced by lighter ornaments that had been pressed into moulds that would give different shapes: on our social media feeds, we're showing an image a day of all the weird and wonderful forms these ornaments could take. But today, the early kugels are very highly prized in Germany, where they recognise the unique contribution they have made to Christmas tradition.

 aritchoke christmas bauble
Later kugel, in the shape of an artichoke.
Image credit: Poppy Queen