Tinsel talk

December 11, 2013

Christmas tree, 1930s

Oh dear, another Christmas post! Click away if you are tired of it! I promise not to be dissapointed!

If you think about trees from bygone era's, you undoubtedly think about tinsel; the sparkling and decorative material that gives the effect of ice or icicles. It was in Nuremberg Germany were tinsel was invented and this was around 1610. It was made from extruded strands of genuine silver. But silver tarnishes quite quickly and the silver was replaced by other shiney substitutes. Tinsel was not only used as Christmas tree decoration but also on other decorations that needed a bit of a shimmer, like fireplace garlands or statues. Candlelight and fireplaces were the primary method used to lightning homes, so reflective surfaces were often used to maximize the light. Early tinsel was made from metal and was fragile and expensive to use. Until 1900, it was a status symbol to use the glittery decoration. Tinsel was also to represent a starry sky over a nativity scene.


In Britain, after queen Victoria died, the country went into mourning and the Christmas tree died with her in many homes for a while. Some families had still large tinsel strewn trees but many opted for a table top tree. The word for tinsel in Germany is 'das Lametta' which is a diminutive form of the Italian word Lama, which means 'blade'. The word tinsel is from the Old French word Estincele, which means 'sparkle'. France was the world leader in manufacturing cheap aluminium based tinsel until WWI, but production was curtailed during the first World War as a result of wartime demand for copper.

In WWII tinsel was also used to make unsilvered Christmas ornaments sparkle. The tinsel would be tucked inside the ornament. They are really collectible. Most of the time their caps have been replaced with metal ones; usually these ornaments have cardboard caps.


Our tree is decorated with Lametta but sadly not real old ones. And although I love the look of it in our tree, I do made the conclusion that the tinsel of nowadays doesn't have the charm of tinsel back in the 1930s. It doesn't hang as pretty as the German originals did also.


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4 Comments

  1. When I was a little girl we still used tinsel on our trees. I remember how much I loved to throw it on the tree. I also remember ho the stuff was really impossible to get rid of after Christmas. We used to joke that it lasted until the Easter grass came out and then the Easter grass lasted until the tinsel came back.

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  2. Even though my parents (best I can recall) never used tinsel (they were more for strands of beads), I've always really enjoyed it and used to use it before I got a cat. She's so great with 99% of all holiday decorations, but tinsel is just too tempting and she nearly knocks over the tree in her hunt to pilfer every piece.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Yes I read about alót of cats that have the urge to eat tinsel. Luckily mine does not have the slightest interest for it, cause it's pretty dangerous!

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  3. Dear Lindsay, was a wonderful and interesting read about tinsel. I love how tinsel drops down from the 30s Christmas trees, look beautiful and different from what I have known. I got very inspired by the pictures you've been posting here and our tree this year have something similar! And my baby absolutely loves it :-)

    I read all your posts as you know and I want to say that I love your Christmas tree. Stunning! Full of prettiness. The tree stand is amazing! And you know the new candle holders...they just lovely with the little candles. They're so beautiful when you lit them for the photograph, the Christmas tree at its splendour. And I can imagine the smell of pine tree is just lovely (reminds me of my childhood).

    I can't wait to see what you're cooking for Christmas.

    Thank you for sharing all with us.
    Happy Christmas season!

    Miss Beta

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