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Victorian Christmas Ornaments: Paper, Glass, and Patriotic Themes for Antiques Collectors

Published by Alissa Sigworth

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The era of Victorian and Edwardian Christmas ornaments heralded a series of whimsical, elegant, and one-of-a-kind pieces for home decorations. Among them, Americana images and patriotic pieces were woven into the theme for many Victorian trees, complete with red, white, and blue images.

Many were crafted by hand, but blown glass and Dresden ornaments also appeared among European and U.S. collections, with German creations at the forefront of the field. Lighted ornaments and delicate decorations appear repeatedly, both in handcrafted and mass production pieces.

Paper Patriotic Victorian Ornaments

Paper flags and flag-themed ephemera were part of the Victorian tree, constructed with red, white, and blue materials, glue, and ribbon. Many Victorian households made ornaments by hand to decorate their trees, crafting them from a variety of household materials and artistic ideas.

Fabric scraps and paper images cut from advertisements and cards created a range of popular holiday figures, from St. Nicholas to simple angelic beings. Patriotism penetrated these themes as well, with “liberty-themed” figures among them. Miniature paper figures were often incorporated with glass ornaments and candleholders as additional decoration.

Other paper ornaments include old-fashioned candy and gift cones, rolled from colorful paper sheets or other paper materials and trimmed with miniature ornaments. Miniature paper boxes, like patriotic drums and flags, often decorated trees, bearing miniature gifts inside.


Glass Victorian Ornaments

Miniature glass balloons decorated many Victorian Christmas trees, featuring miniature baskets and old-fashioned paper figures like Santa Claus ensconced inside. Blown glass and Mercury-style ornaments were popular for decorating elegant trees, with fruit, Christmas figures, and familiar balls.

German glass, including the vintage “watch birds” for advent, was popular choices for decorating trees and the traditional Christmas parlor itself during the Victorian holiday season. Many glass and delicate ornaments became family heirlooms, although some imported pieces from crafters like Lauscha now appear mostly in collections due to their value.

Candles and Garlands

While electrical lights were but a twinkle in an inventor’s eye, candles decked the branches of old-fashioned Victorian trees. Elaborate holders clipped to the ends of the branches, bearing additional decorations from beads and paper ephemera to tassels and counterweights.

Bead garlands were also popular for elegant Victorian trees, but many hand-made garlands draped across branches of more primitive trees. Cranberries, simple beads, and natural ornaments decorated strands of string for trimming trees and decking the halls in days of old.

Collecting Victorian ornaments is a popular pastime for many Christmas and holiday enthusiasts. Reproduction and vintage-inspired versions of many of these Victorian ornaments can be found online, including the glass balloons and watch birds; other sites also offer tips and techniques for recreating the simple paper patterns behind Victorian handmade ornaments.

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