It’s easy to forget that the first Christmas tree adornments were relatively simple. Celebrants in 16th century Germany, the birthplace of the decorated evergreen, relied on apples, baked goods, candles and tin ornaments.
Apparently, they were unable to track millennial influencers on Instagram or Etsy to tell them otherwise.
These simple, homespun ornaments are still around — but the baked goods and apples are often made of glass, the candles aren’t lighted (we hope), and the tin decorations are molded and painted to approximate anything from caviar containers to mermen.
Looking for something a little (or very) different this Christmas? You’re in luck: Your options include shiny red grenades, chain saws, body parts, and glass spheres painted with the words “well hung.”
Are you a unicorn aficionado? There are hundreds from which to choose, including a unicorn in lederhosen. And if you have yielded to the charms of “official” collections, you should know that the official 2019 White House Christmas ornament is a tiny brass replica of a helicopter, intended to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower’s official use of them as presidential transportation.
The Christmas industrial complex seems to have something for every sensibility (or peccadillo), which may account for the astronomical sums we spend on ornaments and lights every year. The U.S. Census — which surprisingly keeps track of such things — reports that last year, we imported $1.9 billion in Christmas ornaments and $500 million in lights from China.
We don’t buy them only for our homes. Ornaments, especially the secular kind, have become a passport to holiday parties (in the form of a hostess gift) and a popular choice for gift exchanges. Interior designer Deborah Rhein, who owns D.L. Rhein, a home design and gift store in Palms, stocks a range of baubles, ranging from a box of doughnuts to a glass replica of RBG (better known as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
“The concept is gift giving at the holidays,” she says. “And ornaments have become super inventive and creative.”
“Look,” she says, gleefully, pointing to a display of ornaments, many made of glass, in the store. “Here’s Gandhi. Here is Willie Nelson and Freddie Mercury.”
Rhein, who designed ornaments for several years, loves “the idea that there is something special here for everyone.” Like a La Croix can. Or a bottle of vodka. Or a menorah.
“I love the idea of cross-cultural,” she adds. “It doesn’t leave anyone out.”
Today’s impossibly wide range of holiday decor allows for more than hostess gifts — it can fulfill the desires of people who can’t wait to read various trend reports that emanate from wholesale buyers, large department stores and social media influencers. (Depending on which report you read, big themes this year include modern stained glass, eco- friendly decorations, rose gold and iridescent color themes, balloon garlands and succulents arranged in the shape of a tree.)
In the meantime, fashionistas can hang a glass Anna Wintour ornament on their tree. Plant lovers can adorn an evergreen with tiny terrariums or enormous sunflowers. Sugar fiends can embrace their habit with candy canes, lollipops, gumdrops and macarons (glass and otherwise). Because ornaments aren’t just about being good to the ones you love; they’re also about being good to yourself.