Ornaments made the old fashioned way

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Dawson Brown creates his own Christmas ornament while he waits for his turn with Santa.

By Brooke Curley


SAFFORD – The line for Santa was long, but Jenny Howard came to the rescue with homemade ornaments and hot chocolate.

Santa Claus made an impromtu stop in Downtown Safford on Saturday afternoon to hear the desires of all the good little boys and girls. Waiting in line is no fun, however, so Howard devised a plan to keep the children’s attention while allowing the parents to slosh through the line.

Howard, the owner of Ginaveve’s Market Place and Gourmet Olive Oils & Balsamics on Main Street, decided to set up a craft table and teach children how to make homemade ornaments while waiting to see the jolly old elf. The table was full of sparkles, paint and glue.

“We wanted to do it the old fashion way because Christmas is all about kids,” Howard said. “It’s is more fun for them to express themselves, it’s also good so they can bide their time until Santa got here.”

The ornament table was set up for roughly  the entire time there was a line for Santa.

Brooke Curley Photo/ Gila Valley Central: This line to see Santa grew while parents held the line as their children decorated ornaments.

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: While parents held their spot in line to see Santa Claus, children were free to decorate Christmas tree ornaments.

Christmas Ornaments in the 1900’s

In the 1900s, popular decorations included strings of popcorn, homemade cards, pictures, cotton to look like snow, candy and eventually glass balls and figurines. Some people used candles, but they often caused devastating fires.

In the 1930s, common Christmas tree decorations included bells, balls and tinsel, topped with a beautiful golden haired angel. Commercial Christmas ornaments took off in America when F.W. Woolworth, of five-and-dime store fame, reluctantly began selling German glass ornaments, which sold out in two days. That convinced him, and he began his buying trips to Germany. Translucent plastic shapes, honeycomb paper angels and glow-in-the-dark icicles became popular items.

Not until WWII did an American company succeed in manufacturing Christmas ornaments. Using a machine designed to make lightbulbs, the Corning Glass company produced more than 2,000 Christmas ornaments each minute.

The mid-1960s saw another major change. The world was changing, and modernist ideas were everywhere. Silver aluminum artificial trees were so popular they were imported from America throughout the world. Colored lights placed below the tree made decorations unnecessary.

In the 1970s, America made a return to Victorian nostalgia, and the trees had a refreshing new look. Some American companies specialized in making antique replicas but others found the original makers in Europe to recreate wonderful glass ornaments and real silver tinsels.

Real Christmas trees were popular, however, several manufacturers starting creating artificial trees that looked real. Many homemakers preferred the convenience of a real-looking artificial Christmas tree. If your room was big enough, you could have a 14-foot artificial spruce right in your living room with no dropped needles. The new pine-scented sprays claimed to give your artificial Christmas tree that “real tree smell”.

In the 1990s, “theme trees” gained popularity. For example, popular Christmas ornaments helped complete the decorations for the “Starry Night Tree”, the “Twilight Tree”, and even pop-culture trees.

In the 2000s, personalized ornaments lead in popularity.

Today, you can find Christmas ornaments in nearly every size, color and shape imaginable. From handmade ornaments to limited edition and collector’s edition Christmas ornaments, thousands of styles exist to decorate your Christmas tree.