Balloons and umbrellas, animals and candies – Christmas decorations can be so different. Throughout their history, they have changed markedly. We tell you what Christmas trees were in fashion at different times.


Just a century ago, in Russia, no one heard about the New Year tree. And few people celebrated the New Year, since the main thing was Christmas. In honor of this holiday, the Christmas tree was decorated. This tradition was introduced to the Russians by the wife of the future Emperor Nicholas I, Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna, nee Princess of Prussia. She arranged a Christmas tree with gifts for her relatives in Moscow in 1817. For the royal family, they began to put up a Christmas tree every year, and after 20 years it became fashionable among the Russian aristocracy. About how the Christmas tree outfits changed, told service

In all the splendor

By the time the Christmas tree became fashionable in Russia in Germany, the holiday tree had been known for two centuries. It is believed that Martin Luther, a church reformer of the 16th century, was the first to decorate the Christmas tree. He was delighted with the brilliance of fir branches in the light of the stars – and he brought the tree home, lit candles on it. The tree decorated with lights began to symbolize eternal life, it shone on the night of the birth of Christ.

Since then, the main decoration of the Christmas tree has become glitter. It is decorated with shining candles or electric bulbs, shimmering tinsel with glass beads and balls. Two hundred years ago, the Christmas tree was lit by wax candles right on the branches – in candlesticks they were attached to the branches with clamps. For simultaneous ignition, the wicks were connected with a powder thread. For safety, a stick with a wet rag was kept ready nearby.

Electric garlands began to appear already at the end of the 19th century, but for a long time remained inaccessible to everyone, they began to be mass-produced only in the 1950s. Tinsel and rain were also not cheap pleasures – at first they were made of pure silver, only later – from thin copper wire, silver-plated or gilded brass. Such threads were called gimp.

Christmas tree

From Bethlehem to the Kremlin

The top of old Christmas trees was decorated with a six- or eight-pointed star. She was reminiscent of a star over Bethlehem on Christmas night. In the mid-1930s, it was replaced by a Soviet star with five rays.

Shortly before this, in the wake of the anti-religious struggle, the celebration of Christmas (as well as the “priestly” Christmas trees) was banned since 1929. After 6 years, the authorities decided that this was wrong and organized a “good Soviet Christmas tree” for children in all cities. It was not an Orthodox holiday, but its proletarian alternative – the New Year.

Quite quickly, the country launched the production of “non-religious” toys. The star of Bethlehem was transformed into a five-pointed star, from silver it became gold or red – like in the Moscow Kremlin.

edible tree

In past centuries, Christmas decorations were not only admired, but also enjoyed. Until the second half of the 20th century, the festive tree was decorated with sweets, fruits and nuts – they symbolized the sweetness of fruits from the Garden of Eden. The “tasty” Christmas tree described by the teacher A. M. Daragan in 1842 was decorated with sweets, pears, apples, gilded nuts, gingerbread – they were given to kind children. Under the Christmas tree on a large table with a white tablecloth lay various toys.

By the middle of the 19th century, in addition to fresh fruits, apples made of heavy thick glass appeared on the New Year’s beauty. This invention of German craftsmen provoked a crop failure in 1848; in Thuringia, the inhabitants had nothing to decorate Christmas trees with. Glassblowers from the city of Lauscha helped them, instead of natural apples they made toy ones.

Fitted outfits

In the very first decades of the history of the Christmas tree, figurines of Christmas characters began to be placed on it: angels, wise men, lambs made of glued cotton wool, cardboard, paper. The toys were in the form of animals and birds, gnomes and goblin. By the end of the 19th century, Santa Claus and the Snow Maiden appeared at the Christmas tree. At first, they did not stand out among other toys; they began to be considered symbols of the New Year only in Soviet times.

In the nineteenth century, the Christmas tree was decorated with homemade cardboard toys. They were so skillfully made according to schemes from various magazines and books that it was difficult to guess what they were made of. A favorite entertainment in December was preparing outfits for the Christmas tree.

Even in the house of the Romanovs, children and adults made cotton figurines, made garlands and lanterns from paper, cardboard boxes for sweets – bonbonnieres. For example, in the family of Leo Tolstoy they loved “skeleton dolls”: children enthusiastically sewed dresses for small wooden figurines without clothes.

Photo: Ekaterina Ivanova. UG.RU

New dress for the Christmas tree

At the end of 1935, small cooperative artels took government orders: they began to produce cardboard stars with a hammer and sickle, cotton Red Army soldiers and polar explorers. In the USSR, they made glass figurines in the national costumes of the peoples of the country, balls with portraits of Lenin, Stalin and members of the Politburo. After the war, snowflakes and stars were made from “substandard” wire, balls – from burnt out light bulbs or medical flasks.

Christmas fashion reflects the era as much as clothing. For example, on the 150th anniversary of Pushkin, they released a series of figurines with characters from Pushkin’s fairy tales; the flight of Yuri Gagarin was dedicated to the production of glass cosmonauts and rockets, and in the year of the Olympics-80, Olympic bears came out.

In the 90s, New Year decorations from all over the world appeared in Russia: from Asian plastic consumer goods to exclusive European brands. At present, Christmas trees are also decorated with domestic toys, which the previous generation could only dream of.