“Oh Christmas Tree … oh Christmas Tree”…


If you are a dedicated follower of fashion then is stands to reason your Christmas tree will represent something of a fashion statement – how many of you have already taken a photo of your tree and shared it on Social Media?  Yes I can see you nodding of-course you have and why not!

According to the Forrestry Commission 90% of British families put up a Christmas tree.

Many of you, will no doubt will have your own family traditions when it comes to putting up the tree – Christmas music in the background or “It’s a Wonderful Life” DVD on the TV with a glass of  Baileys or a Showball warming up nicely  on the fire place… or in my case the traditional argument about who tangled up the fairy lights from the previous year!! (Just for the record … it’s never me!)

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association say their members sell eight million real Christmas trees every year.

Did you know that Christmas trees became popular in the UK only after 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, who brought the tradition over from Germany. At the time it was very fashionable to emulate the royal family (before the Kardashians came along), so it quickly became commonplace for British homes to have their own fir tree at Christmas time. The rise of print media ensured that the tradition travelled round the country and across the Empire.

The way trees have been decorated has changed radically over the last hundred years with some standing the test of time and others itching to be revived.

In the 1900’s business boomed for Frank Woolworth in the USA when he began to import German glass ornaments. He introduced them to Britain in 1909 when his first international store opened in Liverpool. At first they could be afforded only by Edwardian high society but Woolworth quickly brought the price down, making them a best seller.

During the 1910’s – after the start of the First World War supply lines were cut, so glass ornaments were made locally with simpler designs. Multi-coloured beads were also popular.

The 1920’s saw elaborate paper decorations became the craze, with colourful paper chains and ornaments which unfolded into bells, fancy pom-pom balls or stars. Cotton-spun ornaments were also used. As the 20’s progressed, the trees grew larger and the angel and star tree toppers we still use today were introduced.

During the 1930’s, handmade items were still very popular, including threading popcorn onto a string, (have you tried this?  I eat most of it before it gets anywhere near the string!).

Bright coloured paper and ornaments were used, though colour co-ordination was not a concern as materials were expensive and difficult to come by. Electric lights were starting to be used but many still used candles to make their tree twinkle. As you might imagine, this occasionally ended in disaster (yep …. I think that’s a given!).

The 1940’s of course were dominated by wartime, many families spent nights of the festive period in air-raid shelters. As a result, very short Christmas trees were in demand because of the height of the shelters. Keep calm and carry on Christmas!

The 1950’s was to blame for tinsel. It was even used in preference to fairy lights due to it being much less of a fire hazard. However, it was not always a healthy choice as it was often made from lead, which did not tarnish like its silver predecessor.

Man-made fibres in the 1960’s revolutionised what was available. Mass produced plastic ornaments from Hong Kong became widely available, as did the first fake trees made of aluminium or nylon. There were two popular types of baubles; the icicle and the ball with a crushed in or indented look.

In the 70’s and 80’s, (like it’s fashion trends), decorating the tree changed from ‘anything goes’ to ‘more is better’, modern decorations were in full swing, with plastic shatterproof ornaments alongside traditional glass models, foil decorations, paper chains, crackers, lights, tinsel and garlands filling the (fake) trees. People also used old family ornaments, creating a rather chaotic mix.

The 1990’s  saw the idea of themed decorations and ‘designer’ trees became the norm, with real trees making a come-back. Department stores began to offer colour  sets and single colour light strings. The first easy to assemble pre-lit trees were also introduced.

Today, we continue to create themed designs for our trees. Natural colours and materials are popular as well as metallic tones – but nothing beats the home-made decorations you made as a child as my mum will attest …. my toilet roll Angel still takes pride of place at the back of the tree!

Just a little Christmas tree fact:  The most expensively decorated Christmas tree was on display in 2011 in Abu Dhabi it was 43 feet high and was covered in 181 items of jewellery valued at £6,975,880.


So it’s time to show off your Christmas tree – email a photo of your tree to the Gladrags team to take part in the Christmas tree virtual parade.  We will send an email out with all the entries and ask people to vote for their favourite.  The winning entry will win a festive hamper.  All photos to be submitted by Monday 19th December and don’t forget all our brands have a variety of Christmas trees and decorations on sale  … use your staff discount and go mad!

Written by Sally Hutchinson 

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