Icicles, tinsel, and Silver

Tonight I was searching through the basement looking for some cards and old ornaments.  I was trying to find items for our Festival of Tree projects.  I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I did come across and old box of icicles.  By old I’m guessing they are from the mid 90s.  I’m not quite sure why I have them since I have never used them on my tree.  I’m not really sure why they are used.  As I tossed them back into the bin (just in case, ya never know) I was curious about the origins of using icicles.  Where did this tradition begin?  Sleuthing time begins.

After a little searching I discovered that the tradition of hanging tinsel on your trees and holiday displays goes back about 400 years.  In early 17th century Germany actual strands of silver were used.  The silver proved to be too quick to tarnish and other metallic substances were soon substituted.  The purpose of the strands of silver or other metal was to reflect the candle light on the tree.  This glittering light was like the shiny night sky over Bethlehem.  Eventually commercial production of tinsel took over and all types of material were used , mainly aluminum.  Lead was another popular choice until being faded out in the 70s due to health risks.  In the 50s tinsel and icicles really gained popularity for use with the trendy aluminum Christmas trees of the day.  Lights were avoided since the trees were so flammable.  Today most icicles are made from some type of plastic material that is covered with a metallic finish.  The light weight of these modern icicles doesn’t hang as well as those heavier tinsel of time past.  Maybe that’s why I don’t like the modern version?

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